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Ich is a parasite that can infect any fish in your reef tank. In order to keep them alive, happy and thriving, you have to take care of the issue quickly. But, if there are invertebrates like snails crabs, shrimp and crayfish, you can’t use the usual copper-based commercial remedies. This will kill the invertebrates.
You’ve heard of how garlic can work against Ich while keeping invertebrates safe at the same time. The best and most effective way is to add fresh garlic juice to the water as a topical treatment. But, there are some warnings that come with doing this.
Does Garlic Really Work to Treat Marine Ich?
There are quite a few hobbyists who attest to the effectiveness of garlic. But, there are some who say otherwise. So there are some precautions to be aware of before you try using garlic.
There Are No Studies
It’s well known that garlic is an excellent anti-parasitic agent with amazing healing properties. So, many people may conclude that it should also be okay for fish. And although some fish keepers report great success with using it, there’s no way to know in any certain terms. It’s a matter of trial and error.
There are several problems with feeding garlic to fish. First, there’s never been a gold-standard study for garlic’s affect on Marine Ich. There have been other animal studies with garlic against parasites, one study on freshwater Ich and another done in regards to bacterial infections.
In analyzing all the data available, the results are promising, combined with the fact that there are a plethora of aquarists who say it’s more than fine. But there’s nothing conclusive available about how it works on reef tanks.
There Is No Official Dosage
Due to the lack of studies, there is no official recommended dosage or standardized method for administering garlic to fish in a reef tank. So, if you choose this method you will be flying bind, even if you go by the advice of experienced aquarists.
But, keep in mind that their findings are rather unscientific. They don’t know whether it was the garlic that cured the fish, if it was the fish’s fabulous immune system or if it was something else entirely.
About the Effect Allicin Has on Fish
The main active constituent in garlic is allicin. This phytochemical is very acidic and can alter the water’s pH balance in an alarming way. For some species of fish, this can make the environment stressful and unbearable. Also keep in mind that garlic is stinky and we also don’t know if it attracts or repels fish in general.
Plus, there’s not enough information available on a fish’s gastric juices to understand how allicin affect it. Presuming allicin does work on its gut in a positive way, administering garlic is iffy at best. This is because of the sensitivity garnered by a fish’s delicate liver and blood circulation.
But, there are numerous success stories given by hobbyists who gave it to their fish as part of their diet. There are a couple of theories why this could happen. It may be that the garlic passed through the tissues and cells or that digestion of allicin may occur before the fish actually ingests it. But no one knows for sure, these are only theories.
How to Treat Ich in a Reef Tank with Garlic?
If you’re dead set on trying garlic to cure your fish of Marine Ich, you can try a few different methods to see what works. You can add it to the tank if it’s a fish-only environment and all fish have Ich. For those who also house invertebrates with their fish, set up a quarantine tank first.
Start with very miniscule amounts and closely observe the fish. Monitor whether they actually ingest it or not and if you notice any improvements. Always check the water parameters when doing this and make notes about how much garlic you give your fish each time.
Chopped or Minced Cloves
You can use a garlic press or finely chop a single clove of garlic. You can mix this with the fish’s regular food. But note that this may hurt the fish’s digestive system in fatal ways. What’s more, it can and will alter the water parameters in a matter of hours, especially if you put in too much.
Take a cup of water from the tank and mix it with a few drops of fresh-pressed garlic juice. Adding it to the water in this way will give the fish a more topical application. This means it may only pass through tissues and cells rather than the digestive system.
The main issue with this type of administration is that the garlic juice will dilute with the water and contribute to the biochemical soup already accumulating in the water. So, it’s best to try this a couple times to see if there’s any effect. If not, try something else.
If you only have a few fish that have Ich but don’t think it’s necessary to set up a quarantine tank, you can try mixing a piece or two of minced garlic with a drop of olive or vegetable oil.
Don’t use too much oil but a dab is okay. Put it right into the water right above the affected fish. If the fish doesn’t eat it within a couple of days, remove it as soon as possible while being mindful about water parameters.
Why Do So Many Commercial Products Advertise Garlic as a Treatment for Ich?
If you peruse the aquarium section at the pet store, you’ll notice a host of products and medicines that contain garlic. Manufacturers will feature this as a bonus benefit to healing and a booster to fish immunity. But there is no science behind it. In other words, this is a marketing ploy.
The only reason why they put it in their products to treat Ich is because there’s a consumer demand for it. So, when in doubt, use a commercial product with copper in it. Create a quarantine tank if you have to and administer it to your fish there. It will be much safer and with more trusted results than garlic.
When giving your saltwater fish garlic as a treatment for Ich, use your best judgment. Always start with small amounts and only administer it a few times to see if it has any effect. Don’t inundate your tank with garlic in the hopes it will accost the parasite. You may regret the end result.
Always check the water parameters throughout the whole process. When in doubt, set up a quarantine tank and administer copper-based medicines instead. Please remember, even though it may work, you won’t know if it was the fish’s immunity that caused them to get better or the garlic itself.
In the case of another infestation of Ich after using garlic, resort to more traditional methods and leave the garlic alone. This is because of how acidic allicin can be to a tank’s water parameters and the fact that it’s a non-native food for fish to consume.