In a special installment, Reef Builders contributor Matt Pedersen (MP) and guest contributor, fish breeder Junkai Ong (FuEl), offer two viewpoints on Dr. G’s line of medicated frozen fish foods.
Medicated feeds like Dr. G’s can prevent medications from entering the water column when the food is consumed quickly by the target animals (the fish). Provided this feed isn’t eaten by the invertebrate life in the tank, the invertebrate life (which precludes the use of “broadcast” applications of medication in the water column) are no longer at great risk. Dr. G’s medicated foods have caught the attention of many aquarists, so for the past few months we’ve been taking a closer look.
Dr. G’s caught our attention last fall, primarily for their being touted as “reef safe” methods with which to combat fish disease in a reef tank. Medicated foods have been around for a long time, and are often called into question for a very good reason – how can you truly control the dosage? This dosage ambiguity causes many serious aquarists to question the wisdom of their application and to dismiss the value of medicated foods. However, despite this potential shortfall, there are upsides to using medicated foods like Dr. G’s Anti-Parasitic Rx.
MP: While dosage is never exact, in talking with the creators of Dr. G’s it does sound as if they ran a lot of trials to come up with feeding regimes and time windows that ensured that the average fish would consume enough of the feed to ingest sufficient medication. No doubt dosage is still variable, but perhaps this is not a completely random treatment regime. On the upside, when delivering medication via feed, less actual medication may be required, as we’re not treating the entire system volume, but delivering a dose directly to the patient. More importantly, in the age of invertebrate dominated reef aquaria, the concept of a “reef safe” medication is a perennial hot-topic given that, even with our best care, fish still can and do succumb to illness.
The Dr. G’s Medicated Rx Frozen Food product line offers three distinct formulations. Dr. G’s Anti-Parasite formulation uses Chloroquin Phosphate as the active ingredient and lists Amyloodinium (Marine Velvet), Cryptocaryon (Marine Ich), Brooklynella (Clownfish Disease), and Uronema as ailments it is intended to treat. Dr. G’s Anti-Bacterial Rx frozen fish feed utilizes Metronidazole and Kanamycin in the defense against bacterial issues. Dr. G’s De-Wormer Rx delivers Praziquantel straight to some of the areas potentially housing worm parasites.
MP: I’ve personally had the opportunity to utilize the Anti-Parasite formulation on 3 separate occasions. In talking with the creator of these foods, I learned that their dosage schedules were designed with utilizing the minimum effective dosage in mind. The goal of using a minimum effective dosage is simply to not over-medicate. On the initial packaging of the product I received last fall, the dosage rate called for feeding as much as a fish could eat in one minute, every other day, for 3 weeks, to treat or prevent parasitic infections.
In all honesty, at this dosage rate I saw no impact on parasitic infections. When following up last fall with Dr. Carlos Gonzalez, MD, creator of this line of feeds, I was told that you could feed these foods as frequently as twice daily (4 times more than the package instructions), so in the latest round of Cryptocaryon problems this spring I split the difference and had been feeding once daily. Once again, I saw no cure.
In reviewing the online instructions for these feeds when compiling this article, I saw that the online instructions are different than what I have on the packaging. This leads me to assume that I have been effectively under-medicating with this feed in my attempts. They currently read on the website – “Dosage: Depending on your tank size, break off a 1/2 inch square piece to start. Feeding should be completed in 3-5 minutes, adjust size accordingly. Do not over feed. To “Treat” Parasitic infections, use as regular food twice a day for up to 3 weeks. To “Prevent” Parasitic infections, use regular food every day for up to 3 weeks. Repeat when new fish are added to your system.” In an attempt to address this discrepancy, I reached out to Dr. Carlos Gonzalez, MD, once again, to figure out why there’s a difference in dosing.
According to Dr. Gonzalez, following the results I reported last year, they actually went back to the drawing board in an attempt to improve the formulation. As Dr. G. related, “present formulations have an increased dosage and feeding frequency making it much more effective than the old formulation. Thousands have been sold to Florida & Georgia with excellent results.” To be clear, the team at Dr. G’s was “shocked” by what Dr. G. refers to as my very “unique” experience with this product. Were it just the manufacturer being “surprised” I might write that off as marketing and spin, but when another aquarist who I highly respect expressed surprise by my experiences, I certainly kept an open mind. More on that in a minute.
Based on what I learned, it’s fair to say that the formulation I tried does not represent the current, more potent treatment now included and recommended. While the efficacy of the original formulation and dosage regime is debatable, I can categorically state that the original anti-parasitic formulation was 100% reef safe in my personal experience. I have used it both in my Caribbean reef display as well as another clownfish aquarium with a large Red Bubble Tip Anemone. None of my corals or invertebrate life has suffered. However, I have also seen my RBTA, Aiptasia, Serpent Stars, and other invertebrates consuming this food and suffering no consequences. I have to qualifiy that since the food has been reformulated, my observations may or may not be valid with the newer formulation.
So when it comes to the original Anti-Parasite formulation, the best results I saw was with my Vanuatu Sunburst Skunk Clown Pair, who seemed to have an ongoing low-level Cryptocaryon infection for many months. After 3 weeks of daily feedings, it did seem as if this problem dissipated. Possibly a cure? Maybe. Or maybe it can help with a fish that already had a strong natural immune response and the medication helped boost it? Either way, Dr. Carlos Gonzalez told me he firmly believes that, ” what happened is that they ‘slowly’ recovered due to under dosing, but they did get cured. In our experience with hundreds of sick fish, we have not seen the fish making it on their own, even with improved nutrition and vitamins / aminos boost. If your fish recovered was due to the medication doing its work.”
Junkai Ong, a fellow fish breeder (quite tallented I should add) obtained his samples of Dr. G’s through a friend, and had far better successes with the Anti-Parasitic formulation (he confirmed that he indeed was working with the original formulation, and not the newer one). Of course, Junkai didn’t exactly follow the original dosage recommendations.
FuEl: I fed to satiation, until the fish did’nt want to eat anymore, about 2-3 times a day. Quite variable amongst the fishes as even within clownfish I have certain individuals that would gobble this down while others would just take a few bites. The wild-caught clowns seemed less fussy. Then you have the factor of gut size, for example a grouper could eat way more than a clownfish of the same size in a single feeding.
In treating fishes with[active infections of] Cryptocaryon, I use Anti-Parasitic Rx in conjunction with the Anti-Bacterial formulation, as a precautionary measure against any opportunistic bacterial infections which might set in. So far, this method has worked well for me and it is especially important for breeding stock to minimize disturbance to their breeding cycle. You don’t have to go & stress your fishes by either catching them for treatment or by medicating your system with copper which will affect breeding fishes.
MP: I’ve tried the Anti-Bacterial formulation as well. Here again, I have been feeding this food to the Lightning Maroon for several weeks (under the guidance of a veterinarian), in a full blown reef, in response to symptoms with known bacterial causes, although the causes for the initial problems are as of yet undetermined and at this point, may be more likely due to aggression than husbandry. Still, I can 100% say I have seen no adverse affect when using this food in a reef tank, and I have seen tons of it consumed repeatedly by Aiptasia with no outward ill effects.
FuEl: I had some bacteria issue affecting my broodstock clownfish, possibly due to the temperature spikes in the warmer months where my water temperatures did hit the occasional 30 degrees celcius.
MP: Once again, I find that I was using an older formulation with a different dosing regime. Given the reformulation of this product, it does make me question the original efficacy of what I had been using.
Once again, I find I have been feeding at half of the currently prescribed rate, and that alone could easily explain why I have not seen more decisive, direct cures when using this food. Still, the severity of ongoing bacterial issues has been diminished, but the daily feedings have not prevented recurrences. It is difficult to prove cause and effect in these cases.
If the problems are initially caused by mechanical damage, the active and ongoing application of this feed could explain reduced severity of recurrences, and explain why they keep coming back. Knowing now that I may have been feeding too little, I may up the feeding regime and hopefully see a more conclusive result the next time there is a problem. On the upside, just like the original anti-parasite formulation, I have observed zero problems using this anti-bacterial formulation in a full blown SPS & LSP reef tank.
All of these experiences illustrate the potentially downsides of medication delivery through food; dosage can be difficult to control. Junkai offered some additional insights on what he believes can make or break a treatment with these medicated foods. The 2012 Anti-Bacterial packaging now reflects a dosing schedule like the 2012 Anti-Parasite formulation:
FuEL: There are probably no hard rules with regards to feeding medication as there are a lot of variables involved. Some I can think of are:
1) The uniformity of medication within the grated food.
2) Leaching of medication into the tank water, if the fishes take too long to consume it.
3) Size of the fish and how much each fish needs to eat to get the same effect. I would assume a fish with a higher bodyweight would need to consume more of the food in order for it to work.
4) Less than optimal water quality in the tank might affect the efficacy of the food.
MP: What I haven’t yet applied is the De-Worming Rx formulation, although based on my experiences with the first two products, I am reasonably certain that the “reef-safe” claims of the manufacturer are probably reliable.
FuEl: In my experience, the Deworm-RX needs to be fed daily over a week or so for results to be seen.
MP: So where does that leave us? I think I’d recommend these products as a line of first defense. There does seem to be some value in them, particularly in having something you can offer to a full reef tank. I suspect that if a mild problem were noticed quickly, having these feeds on hand could be a great way to try to stomp it out before it gets worse. However, I have yet to see a definitive, outright cure with either of the feeds I’ve used, which were the original formulations that both Junkai and I tried – the 2012 formulations are said to be more effective (which makes complete sense since they reflect a dosing regime far more in line with what Junkai used, and found success with).
Other than deworming, I’m not sure I would advocate for the use of these foods as a quarantine or prophylactic treatment, if only for the risk of potentially reducing their efficacy when needed should a problem arise later. Still, “cleaning fish up” is common practice in the freshwater trade, and certainly is popular in the marine side of things as well. This may be one way to accomplish that task, but as mentioned before, there are considerable variables on dosage when trying to feed in this manner.
On the flipside, offering these foods to fish in quarantine, prior to their introduction to the community at large, will ensure that the fish have seen and tasted the food before, and are willing to accept it in the reef should the necessity arise later.
FuEl: I have no issues with fishes consuming Anti-Bacteria & De-worm-Rx but fishes are more finicky about the Anti-Parasitic Rx as quinine is rather distasteful. However I have found that if you give the fish nothing else, they will eventually have no choice but to consume it due to hunger. It’s very important to pinch the food to an appropriate bite-sized morsel before feeding.
MP: I too cut up the food with a sharp knife before it thaws to get the particle size smaller for fish like my Clownfish and Butterflyfish. Being stored frozen, these feeds should have a pretty good shelf life as well. Knowing that sooner or later, every aquarist will run into problems with disease, if nothing else it may buy you some time to more appropriately react should a problem arise. That’s where I see the value and need for the Dr. G Medicated Foods – easy to store, easy to use, and presumably a level of efficacy that if nothing else, may handle a mild problem or at least buy you the time to more appropriately deal with a problem outside of the reef environment. Dr. G’s medicated feeds give you the piece of mind that you are prepared to start intervention immediately, and directly in your reef, the next time a fish shows signs of illness.
Some other last tidbits on Dr. G’s line of feeds – all food ingredients are sourced from the US, Canada or Scandinavia. Given the possible upside to having medicated feeds at your disposal, I’ve continued to ask where aquarists can get their foods; your biggest problem with trying these frozen feeds may simply be actually getting your hands on them in the first place.
FTC regulations require that we inform you that Matt Pedersen was given this product for review (in this case, despite several attempts to actually purchase the food outright), while Junkai Ong purchased this product for his own use. Our opinion of a product is never affected by how we acquire them.