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Thread: Melafix and Pimafix -- How They Don't Work

  1. #1
    Brittle Starfish

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    Melafix and Pimafix -- How They Don't Work

    It was the end of my third day at InterZoo 2006 in Nuremberg, GERMANY. Part of my objective for going there was to obtain information regarding fish medications.

    I had the opportunity to speak with people in the (large and impressive) Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Inc. (API) booth. I had a long conversation with their Research Project Manager, including new medication packaging, fish medications in general, and some interesting specifics about Melafix and Pimafix.

    API makes and packages Melafix and Pimafix. They come in 'industrial strength' and 'regular strength' concentrations. I've used both in my evaluations.

    I asked why there was inconsistent results between users and indeed, even in my own applications of these products. These chemicals are 'natural' organic compounds derived from plants.

    I was told that it was quite simple. . .These products (Melafix and Pimafix) only kill some kinds of bacteria. I asked if he meant gram negative or positive and the answer was, "No." What he meant was that, irrespective of gram stain results, the bacteria that is thwarted by these products is a finite group (which is mostly unknown).

    They know, for instance, that Melafix wipes out mycobacterium and a few others. What about the other bacteria?

    They don't know. One aquarist's fish could have a type of bacteria that Melafix will kill, and another aquarist will have bacteria it won't touch. So one aquarist may say, "It works!" and the other says "It doesn't work." Both can be right.

    There is a small downside to their use, which shouldn't be cause for general concern, but nonetheless the aquarist should be on the lookout for this situation:

    Both Melafix and Pimafix are organic compounds. The bacteria in the tank water (not necessarily the ones on the fish) these products don't kill, sometimes use the Melafix and Pimafix as food! This means that when you add these medications to a tank (especially a tank that has not been maintained well or one that hasn't had regular water changes) there is a small chance that a bacterial bloom will ensue and take up dissolved oxygen. This could mean that you could see, under such circumstances, your fish significantly increase their respiratory rate.

    I was told an interesting tidbit. . .The above affect seems to be happening quite often in Italy and API hasn't been able to figure out why, yet.

    The fish may seem to be desperately trying to get oxygen and, in effect, they are. This will of course be adding a significant stress factor to an already stressed, sick fish. If the aquarist has any doubt or concern about this, perform an oxygen test before and during the treatment for monitoring purposes.

    API has not done much work at trying to figure out all the bacteria that these two compounds are effective against. They don't seem to want to go much further with it. Since aquarists don't know the exact bacteria that is infecting their fish, it might be a moot point whether it was of value knowing what bacteria it was good for, anyway. It IS selling to aquarists!

    However, in the professional arena (public and private aquariums, for instance) where scrapings and identification of infections are performed, not knowing whether Melafix and/or Pimafix will treat the bacteria isn't worth the risk. You'll find they don't use these medications.

    The concern with an aquarist using these products is that it might not work. When that happens, the bacteria causing the problem can continue to multiply and adversely affect the fish. Most fish should be able to survive a 'mis-treatment' if they are well fed with the proper nutrition.

    In such a case where Melafix and/or Pimafix can't kill that particular bacteria, the fish suffers longer by not having been given a successful treatment. Usually, the fish should not expire by this lost time IF the fish is given the correct antibiotic treatment immediately after a failed Melafix/Pimafix treatment.

    But if the infection has progressed significantly and/or it has become systemic and/or the fish has stopped eating, I'd still suggest a known likely effects of an antibiotic over the chance that Melafix or Pimafix might work. Under these circumstances, the wrong choice of medication could mean the fish will expire because it couldn't hold out any longer for the effective medication.

    Is Melafix and Pimafix reef safe? Yes -- up to a point. I was told that in its proper final reef-tank concentrations, some corals may retract during the treatment period. This doesn't mean the corals are dead. It usually means they have become irritated by this chemical's presence. So far, I have been assured by API that when this occurs, the coral will survive the treatment and come out again after the treatment, without harm. API knew/knows of no other reef concerns. But, like the bacteria issue, API hasn't tested the product on a wide spectrum of corals, invertebrates, and marine life.

    The bottom line is that no aquarist should leap to the conclusion that Melafix and/or Pimafix will or won't cure the fish. No one should promote its use NOR dissuade someone from using them. All anyone can say is that it did or didn't work for them AND they should direct the inquirer to this post so that the aquarist can make up their own mind whether to try it or not.

    This post provides current facts of Melafix and Pimafix's sometimes successful use, from the manufacturer's knowledge and experience, so that the aquarist can make an informed decision. Let's try to be level headed. Inquiring aquarists want to know!

    Even an aquarist who has had success with the product might find that the next time their fish is infected, the product won't work. This would mean that this next infection was of the bacteria that Melafix and Pimafix can't kill or failed to kill during the last treatment. Regarding this possibility, keep in mind that if it was successfully used once, the bacteria it kills are gone and only 'the other ones' are hanging around. So it would make sense that the next time, there might be a lesser chance of it working.

    I asked if there might be strains resistant to the products and so far none have been reported to API. If it is the type of bacteria that it kills, it will kill it. If it not the kind of bacteria it kills, it will leave it alone (or rarely, provide food for the bacteria to live on and further multiply).

    I hope this helps those who wonder if Melafix and/or Pimafix will work!

    Now to a second feature. . .It seems that in higher concentrations, Melafix is useful to clear up and/or stop tissue degeneration of many corals. Julian Sprung will soon be addressing how to use this in a dip/bath method in his upcoming book.

    BOTTOM LINE
    Don't use it. If your marine fish is suffering from a bacterial or fungal infection, use an antibiotic. The antibiotic has a MUCH greater chance to cure than either of these products and there are no side effects. Using these on marine fishes is waisting precious time best used to actually cure the fish. These product are good for freshwater fishes.
    That's the scoop! You got it here on Reef Frontiers!
    LEE

  2. #2
    copod
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    Thanks Lee, great/informative thread post. I primarily have used Melafix only as part of a two stage dip in conjunction with Lugol's Sollution (Iodine) for both pest iradication and a topical for frags just cut.

    Cheers, Todd

  3. #3
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    Lee,

    Could you please explain in layman's term what this means "Melafix wipes out mycobacterium" ?
    What is a mycobacterium?
    Does it equate to a specific parasite that we are familiar with?
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  4. #4
    Brittle Starfish

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    The Mycobacterium sp. are a type of bacteria. They are mostly associated with lesions. To humans, the most notable of these creates tuberculosis. They are not commonly found in ornamental marine fishes we keep in our aquarium. Melafix has been known to kill these types of bacteria.

    They have an interesting life and characteristics (at least to me, a microbiologist)! If you want more indepth info, just Google it. You can see what they look like in micrographs of this bacterium.
    LEE

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