by Richard Back
Do you remember years ago garlic was the new "it" item in our hobby? Many of us dipping/soaking our food in it to entice finicky, hard to feed fish or better yet, to treat our fish of ich? I don't know where that came from or what science was actually behind it but since everyone was doing it and many companies were releasing products after products, many of us, including myself just figured and accepted that it was the right and good thing for our fish.
Images from Google.
But were we right? or were we duped?
There has been a lot of back and forth arguments on line that had people divided.
I have decided to reach out to couple of experts in the field to find out more about this.
Larry Dupont, owner and founder of LRS food, whose food is used worldwide in public aquariums, aquaculture facilities and breeding programs. (Yellow Tang, Blue Hippo Tangs and Gramma Dejongi to name a few)
Paul "The Research" Poeschl, Aquarist at Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay.
Austin Lefevre, owner and founder of Aqua Box, Austin specializes in supplying fully quarantined livestock to the industry and to the hobbyists alike. He was also MACNA 2016 speaker on fish quarantine (Bullet Proof Reef Keeping), as well as Michigan Coral Expo (2016, 2017) and Manhattan Reef Swap (2016) .
Lance Ichinotsubo, one of the pioneer in quarantine in our hobby and author of The Marine Fish Health & Feeding Handbook.
This is what they had to say about garlic in our aquarium.
Larry: In all my travels and discussions I've had with professional aquarists, curators and marine breeders I've found no one who added garlic to their foods as part of any QT protocol. I also could find no evidence that garlic, or the active ingredient allicin has ANY effect on crypto in a marine system. There is more information surfacing discussing how marine fish organs cannot process the terrestrial enzymes in garlic and that in high doses over time it could be harmful. It seems that this fact is becoming more widely understood by experienced hobbyists, but browsing the FB groups all day you can still find dozens of posts about people recommending garlic as a proper way to cure crypto. People start feeding garlic, see the "white spots" disappear and believe they cured their fish when in actuality that is the natural progression of the parasite's lifecycle. In addition I still see posts that "I only add garlic as an appetite stimulant." Well to counter that argument I offer that in December 2015 we deleted garlic from ALL our blends and we never said a word publicly. I wanted to error on the side of caution for the health of the fish and see if anyone noticed the deletion. Throughout 2016 consumers continued to post that LRS was a "go-to" food for finicky eaters and no one even noticed garlic was gone. In my honest opinion, if you are using quality seafood, which is fresh with a natural smell why would you need to make it smell like a pizza to get your fish to eat it? When we started making foods for aquaculture projects garlic was NEVER requested as an ingredient by the researchers which further confirmed my decision to leave it out of our foods. If people want to add garlic to their fish foods there are plenty of additives which permit them to do so right before feeding time. However, I'll continue to stick with what science says about the subject and not add it if it shows no benefit in a laboratory setting.
Paul: The garlic myth comes from the basics of the life cycle, and a fishes natural immune system ability to fight infection. As someone who originally was duped by people so confident in the method, I was a fan of garlic in the beginning of my hobbyist days... When I started getting more experience through keeping fish in stores and having more encounters with Cryptocaryon, I quickly and expensively found out that it was nothing but a myth. Fish treated with garlic would sometimes get better, sometimes not... Same results without garlic at similar ratios... What made a huge difference was when I started actually looking into the science behind Cryptocaryon, and began quarantining fish properly. This carried over to the public aquarium side as well, since everyone tends to quarantine with proper quarantine methods on this side of the industry. As far as garlic toxicity and issues with the heart and liver goes, it is a cautionary approach. Garlic is known to affect several animal species with health issues. Many terrestrial greens have also been shown to give marine fish in particular, issues with the heart and liver. So my logic is garlic has so little value as a "drug" and so much risk as a terrestrial plant why use it?
Austin: Our industry is littered with anecdote, which is necessary since there's not much funding for real science in reef aquaria. However, more often than not we see utter drivel being passed around as fact. Using garlic to cure Cryptocaryon irritans is one of them. There is zero science to support this claim. Some have said garlic entices fishes to feed, however after working with tens of thousands of fishes over the years I have not found this to be true. With that said jump starting the metabolism of any newly imported fish is crucial, so if all else fails it could be a viable option. Although it will still do nothing to directly combat Cryptocaryon irritans.
Lance: Though current evidence of it's effectiveness is mostly anecdotal, especially in the treatment of ongoing or severe marine ich (Cryptocaryon irritans), some hobbyists have reported success with garlic. It is also thought that it may help kill internal worms such as nematodes. Kelly Jedlicki (click on the name to see her credentials), a puffer and shark enthusiast, reported success feeding oil caps to newly acquired fish" "On many occasions, worms have been expelled in a garlic-oil blob or slick."
In conclusion, it looks like general consensus by the experts are against using garlic in our reef tanks.
It's your choice whether you go ahead and use the garlic or not but we will advise against it for treating for parasites as myths surrounding garlic curing crytocaryons are FALSE however we found something interesting in talking with Lance that garlic may be possible anti-nematode medication. I hope more studies will be done on this matter to shine more information for us hobbyists further enhancing our knowledge about what we keep in our slice of ocean and how to take even better care of it.
We will get a group of dedicated writers that will share ideas, product reviews and thoughts.