The Fish Products You Really Need

There have been numerous appointments when our veterinary team has been given a long history of illness, along with 10-20 various OTC fish tank products. Some assert this, and some claim that; none of this help to solve the situation. Which "magical" over-the-counter fish treatments and pond additives do you need?

Dechlorinator/Water Conditioner

This product makes tap water fish-safe. Use one that treats both chlorine and chloramine. If your filter is working properly, no ammonia binders are required. And those that promote slime jackets aren't truly doing so. It should be used every time you add city water to your system.

Algae Control Using Barley

Because this is a preventative treatment, don't expect it to act on any existing algae. This, in conjunction with UV light, will help keep your algae levels under control. It is a product that is completely safe for fish. If you still have algae problems, ensure sure your nitrate levels are in check.

That's all.

Beneficial microorganisms are not required in fish products.

Most of these things are barely alive when you buy them. It was once considered that primarily Nitrosomas and Nitrobacter spp.

Your nitrogen cycle was controlled by bacteria. Newer research has discovered thousands of possible microorganisms that participate in your nitrogen cycle, and each system has its distinct signature. What works in your pond may not function in your indoor tank or the system of your neighbor.

When starting a new system, your fish will bring their bacteria. Yes, it will take time, which is why you should start with a low bioload to avoid crashing your machine. If the bacteria you're adding are alive, they'll work for a few days and maybe some will stick around and fill your filters. When we were getting our systems up and running, our office tested 5 different products. How many made a significant difference? ZERO.

Sure, these things will not harm your fish, so if you don't trust me, add them anyhow. However, you should save money for more water changes!

Fish items containing tea tree oil

These have been shown to not affect your fish's "infections." They make a lot of bubbles and smell nice, but they aren't effective therapy... for anything.

Algaecide in liquid form

Algae equals fish + water. There's no getting around it. Algae do not affect fish if there is adequate oxygen available; algae irritates people. However, many of these products are unappealing to some fish. When used on naive fish, you may notice lethargy or a decrease in appetite. Make sure you know the total capacity of your pond before adding them! We recommend a barley + UV light + rake (i.e. human work) method that is completely safe for fish.

Coagulants for particulate matter

The liquid-based solutions that aid in the separation of small particles do so by causing them to adhere together and form larger, heavier particles. These have also been linked to respiratory problems in fish. At this moment, the specific cause is unknown, however, there are other, safer techniques to remove microscopic particulates in your pond or tank, such as floss or fine mesh. For optimum dosing, as with liquid algicide, make sure you know the exact capacity of your pond.

Clarifiers classified as "enzyme"

Some of our clients enjoy these things, but they are not required. If your pond/tank has a lot of waste, vacuum it out! Alternatively, have a pond technician install a bottom drain to help suck trash out of your filters. No fish enjoys swimming in their feces.


Many owners will regularly add very modest levels of salt to their ponds and tanks. Why? It can aid with parasite burdens, algae, and osmoregulation, but concentrations must be more than 0.15%. And measuring with teaspoons is absurd. Sorry, but for appropriate dosing, you must weigh your salt. If you're using an electronic probe, calibrate it every 3-6 months.

Continuously low salt levels have been demonstrated to breed salt-resistant parasites, necessitating greater dosages for effective therapy. You can quit adding salt if you don't know why.

Antibiotics, antiparasitics, and "general cure"

If your fish is unwell, the treatment your veterinarian recommends has been approved by the FDA and is effective. The FDA does not inspect over-the-counter products. Most antibiotics will also destroy your biological filtering system. It is more effective to administer drugs via injection or medicated feed, but you will need to consult with a veterinarian.

Non-prescription drugs expose your fish to the risk of getting resistant bacterial illnesses. If these enter your system, they are extremely difficult to treat. Antibiotic drugs should only be used when prescribed by a veterinarian.

Antiparasitic medications are less controlled, although not all medications are effective against all parasites. Your veterinarian will identify the parasite and suggest a treatment plan specific to your pond. For effective parasite treatment the first time, not the fourth, fifth, or sixth, our office uses USDA-approved aquaculture-strength medications.

Antifungal medications

Because all fungal diseases are related to other stressors, they belong to their group. If your fish has fungus, treat the underlying cause rather than the fungus itself.

Use the money you save by not purchasing these items to perform additional water changes and replace your fish food every 6 months. And if you have a fish tank, stop buying filters just because the package says so!

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