Understanding the Active Ingredients in Antibacterial Aquarium Medications

My poor clownfish has a bacterial infection behind its right eye.Understanding what a medication contains can often be as or more important than understanding what it treats. I’ve compiled just a few of the most common active ingredients found in many of the most popular aquarium medications. This list is not all-inclusive but may hopefully help to unravel the why’s and how’s of some medications.

Remember, some of these active ingredients have more than one use and the medications they are in may be marketed for different uses. Antibacterial medications may be included in anti-parasitic medications and some anti-parasitic ingredients may also be useful in fungal infections but the uses I’ve listed are the most common or most effective in the aquarium trade. Always remember to properly diagnose conditions and diseases before medicating and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for any medications.

Part 1: Antibacterial ingredients in aquarium medications

These ingredients of common bacterial fish medications are used to treat different types of bacterial infections. Some are broad spectrum, general medications while others are geared towards Gram-negative or Gram-positive bacteria only.  The Gram designation refers to a testing system named for the scientist who developed it, Hans Christian Gram.  Known as Gram Staining, bacteria samples are treated with a purple dye under microscope, the bacteria who accept the dye, and turn purple are Gram-Positive.  Bacteria that do not accept the stain are Gram-Negative, and appear pink.  These two groups are the largest two types of infectious bacteria.  If you try a Gram-Negative medication, and it is ineffective, then you may need to switch to a Gram Positive medication. Some antibiotics may also kill off the beneficial bacteria in the aquarium, as most nitrifying bacteria are Gram-Negative, and will affect the biological stability of the system.

Amoxicillin/ Ampicillin/ Penicillin:

The “-cillins” have been well-known for decades as popular treatments for human infections, but some aquarium medications are also made with these active ingredients. All three derivatives are used to treat bacterial infections. Amoxicillin is the most broad-spectrum of the three and treats Gram-positive and Gram-negative infections. Ampicillin treats some Gram-negative infections but is most effective on Gram-positive bacteria. Penicillin is used for Gram-positive bacteria. Aquarists who are allergic to Penicillin or any other -cillin derivatives should use extreme caution if using these medications in their aquarium.
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The Best Holiday Gifts for Aquarium Owners, Tropical Fish Hobbyists & Fish Geeks

Today I’ll highlight some fish-keeping items that I’d be pleased to give or receive as holiday gifts. For the most part, I’ve focused on Reverse Osmosis Systems and Ultraviolet Sterilizers, both of which lessen our workload while enhancing fish and invertebrate survival.  I was first introduced to these tools while working in zoos and public aquariums, and am happy to see that reasonably-priced models are now available for home use.

tPG01062Reverse Osmosis Systems

I first began working with reverse osmosis (RO) systems about 15 years ago, while trying to correct water quality problems that plagued the amphibian collection at the Bronx Zoo.  Those I used were effective, but also huge, complicated, and difficult to maintain…I hated them!  Today’s home units are much more user-friendly; instruction manuals are posted online (please see links to individual products below), and customer support is readily available.
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Natural Solutions to Common Freshwater Aquarium Infestations – Food for Thought

Trumpet SnailIf you’ve been an aquarium keeper for any significant length of time, you know that unexpected things can appear in your aquarium seemingly overnight. You may not know where they’ve come from, but suddenly you’re faced with overwhelming numbers of “alien” invaders in your tank, creeping, crawling and swimming all over.  Your immediate instinct may be to search for a quick chemical solution to eradicate the unsightly pests, but isn’t it safer for your fish and the aquarium habitat as a whole to solve the problem naturally? We discussed eliminating the causes of some of these critters as natural remedies in other articles, but this time we’ll take another approach…the possibility of finding and adding natural predators to the pest species you’re struggling with. It’s important to keep in mind that though these creatures have been effective in the tanks of other hobbyists, you can never predict the behavior of an individual fish and you may not get the results you’re looking for. Also remember that these fish have to be compatible with the habitat you’ve created and with the other fish in your tank…if you introduce any neew fish or invert to your tank, observe them closely to make sure all of your fish are getting along.

Snails

Whether you have live plants in your tank or not snails can appear in your tank and quickly boom in population. While they have their benefits as algae eaters and detritivores, they can become a nuisance if the numbers aren’t kept in check. Generally, for common snails we recommend botia loaches including Skunk Loaches, Clown Loaches and YoYo Loaches. These fish like to indulge on young snails and snail eggs, so they can get you ahead of the problem. However, they can be pugnacious and even a little aggressive in some cases, so they may not be a good idea in a tank with very small or docile fish.  True Siamese Flying Fox fish are another great solution, if you can find them in the trade.  If you’re plagued with Malaysian Trumpet Snails, your options may be more limited. These snails have much tougher shells than the common little snails that sneak in on live plants, and they can only be ripped out of the shell by specialized eaters with very strong mouthparts.   While the loaches may be able to handle very small Trumpet snails, larger versions will be too tough.  Some cichlids, including several Julidochromis species develop a taste and talent for eating snails, and C. rhodesii is also a known specialized feeder for trumpet snails. Read More »

How Diet, Lighting and Other Factors Can Influence The Appearance of Aquarium Fish

Red TerrorDedicated aquarists pour their hearts and souls into creating thier own versions of breathtaking aquatic displays. Countless hours are dedicated to precise placement of wood, rock and other ornaments, painstaking pruning of live plants, and,  of course, to testing and maintaining the water quality to provide the healthiest environment possible for the stars of the show: the fish! The ultimate goal is to have brilliant, beautiful, healthy fish to observe, and just about every other aspect of the tank contributes to the appearance of the livestock you keep. While the conditions that favor each species vary, you can provide the necessary factors to tweek the colors they show and make your fish look their best.

Understanding Fish Coloration

The inner layer of each fish’s skin contains color cells called chromatophores. Some chromatophores produce melanin, providing brown or black pigmentation. Some are capable of storing carotenoids which provide brilliant red, orange, and yellow pigments that come largely from foods the animals eat. Then there are iridophores, that contain crystalline deposits that reflect and bend light and giving the illusion of silvery, white, or metallic blue and green pigmentation. Read More »

Winter is Coming – Cold Weather Pond Prep

Pond in winterSay what you will about the changing of seasons, getting to watch the leaves turn from green to shades of red and yellow, and partaking in what are arguably the best holidays of the year (Halloween, Thanksgiving, and that one where we all go shopping), but going into winter is a pain in the pond! Well, this blogger is here to help you overcome your winter-time woes with some helpful reminders of how to get your outdoor pond ready for the winter.

Now, obviously we don’t all live in the same climate; so this blog will likely only be helpful for folks who actually get to experience a winter and all the glorious tribulations it has to offer: freezing weather, snow showers, etc. Those of you lucky enough to only need a light jacket through winter months can move right along with your “lows in the 60’s” weather! If, on the other hand, you actually own a snow shovel, then let’s work on getting that pond ready for the winter with 4 easy-to-follow steps:

Ice is bad, m’kay?

One of the worst things you can let your pond do is completely freeze over when the temperatures drop. If there is no opening in the ice, then there is no gas exchange going on. Your fish might be hibernating, but they still need oxygen to breathe and your pond still needs to release carbon dioxide. Does the whole pond need to be ice free? Of course not! A little hole in the ice would be satisfactory. This can be accomplished two ways: by using an air pump or a de-icer.

Air pumps pump air into the pond, creating bubbles to disrupt the surface of the water and preventing ice from forming. Air pumps are also a nice investment because they are useful in the summer for extra oxygenation when the temperatures rise. Read More »