Treating Algae with Amoxicillin

Discussion in 'Algae' started by Palios, 16 Mar 2010.

  1. Palios

    Palios Newly Registered

    Messages:
    9
    This is my first post on the forum having been a member for a while now. These pages have been a great help in my planted tank initiation but ive now found a subject i cant seem to find much information on - treating algae with amoxicillin.

    Firstly a bit of background on the problem:

    After a few months working in a LFS i was given the privilage of seting up a planted display tank. But i didnt exactly decide to do things the easyway, opting for a scaped design with plants: HC, C.crypts, Hairgrass, and M.micranthemoides.
    I had to use the 'package' that comes with the tank - Interpet PF2 internal filter (yes i know, its a bit on the small side!) and two T8 lights on a 110l aquarium, all with this being my first ever planted tank.
    Safe to say things got off to a slow start! but with the addition of two T5's and a CO2 kit things got going.

    The problem is the staghorn algae that decided it likes the HC. This was caused along with a few other little 'hiccups' along the way by a few things - including some over zealous filter cleaning = ammonia spikes which were aided by the fast growing messy group of bentosi tetra (now rehomed), inconsisted CO2 levels (when it was put on there!) thanks to a dodgy old valve, some diffuser experimentation, and my general inexperience!
    The tank has now matured nicely (and ive learnt i little from my mistakes along the way!) but the staghorn algae is a permantent fixture, as manual removal - destroying the carpet is not an option.

    Ive read of the use of products like Excel in conjunction with manual removal being used as a remedy...but i cant seem to find much info on the use of amoxicillin to kill algae. I have seen it for sale on american websites for this purpose. As i (think) i understand it the amoxicillin inhibits one of the metabolic pathways involved with photosynthesis within the algae, stopping energy production and ultimately resulting in death.
    As far as im aware in the UK antibiotics have to be prescribed/administered by the trained/qualified people.
    Does anyone know
    - if im correct and does this mean there are any legality issues with its use?
    - what kinds of algae it will treat?
    - if it will affect higher plants?
    - if it will have any implications on the health of the stock (inc.shrimp) or filter function etc?
     
  2. Ajm200

    Ajm200 Member

    Messages:
    395
    Location:
    London
    You'll need a prescription for antibiotics and I can't see many vets giving you one to treat algae.
    Easycarbo, excel and AE Design liquid carbon all help to clear algae. Have a search on here. There are several good threads about treating algae with this stuff.

    I'm just starting out but someone much more knowledgable will be able to help
     
  3. Ajm200

    Ajm200 Member

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    395
    Location:
    London
  4. Palios

    Palios Newly Registered

    Messages:
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    the bentosi went several months ago. With algae eaters being in there from the start.
    the stocking is now approx
    15 ember tetra
    2 siamese flying fox (small)
    some ottos
    several species of shrimp
    3 corys (small)
    and a killifish hybrid (parentage unsure) to try to keep the cherry shrimp popn in check!
    If you can find a fish that eats staghorn algae unless it is forced almost into starvation (and then wont choose plants first) id love to know about it!

    As this is a shop display tank i dont have the time to do extensive maintenance/manual leaf removal, and have read many of pages about Excel and similar products, and staghorn algae and its treatment. Its not really an option. The causes of the algae have been monitored and controlled as much as can be. I am aware that alot of maintenance will have to be done whilst 'treating' but this will be over a much shorter time period than if done as described above

    As for obtaining amoxicillin and its loegality if someone had some already would it ok to use it as a 'water treatment' as some products are marketed as?
    would it be covered under the small animal exemptions scheme like some medicines?
    As you would be not knowingly causing the inhabitants distress or harm is it ok to personally administer it?

    as for the effects lets speak theoretically say in a tank no animal life -
    has anyone heard of its uses and efficacy? (as above)
     
  5. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,953
    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    Hi,
    I'm afraid that the antibiotic will only work against bacteria. The only bacterial form attracted to our tanks is Cyanobacteria (AKA BGA) so this is the only for that it will be effective against. Antibiotics should not work against CO2 related algae as these are real plants not bacterial approximations. It's not a surprise that you started having a problem when you increased the lighting energy as this will either trigger a bloom or will exacerbate any existing problems. I would seriously consider returning to the previous lighting energy input while you sort out the algae. Light should only be increased when one can guarantee that CO2 will be stable because these two parameters are inextricably linked.

    There may also be issues with the filter bacteria using the antibiotic so really, you need to treat the root cause of your algae and that is poor flow, poor CO2 and possibly poor nutrition. Then you will find that you'll have no need for antibiotics which could only be a short term fix anyway.

    Cheers,
     
  6. Palios

    Palios Newly Registered

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    9
  7. Palios

    Palios Newly Registered

    Messages:
    9
    i understand this and the lighting levels, nutrition and CO2 have all been controlled and monitored for months, and as i explained i cant change the filter/increase the flow as im limited to using the 'kit'.
    The algae is almost not growing, and has been like this for quite some time, it is just embedded deep in the HC. Staghorn algae although CO2 related is not a 'plant'. Surely it is a colonial algae (a collection of single algae cells that co-exist). Although higher plants also photosynthise i beleive that they are not affectected thanks to the protection of the leaf tissues
    A search on google scholar will show that the amoxicillin does have algicidal properties and has been shown to inhibit a part of the metabolic pathways involved in photosynthesis in certain species of algae - i am unsure if they are unicellular, colonial, etc algae
     
  8. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,953
    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    I really don't think so mate. If you want to fight staghorn your best bet would be to use something like Excel/Easycarbo. Photosystem disruption occurs in species of Cyanobacteria, so yes google scholar will show efficacy of this drug against many species of algae but those species will all be versions of Cyanobacteria which are not really algae - they are more or less best described as photosynthesising bacteria and we just call them algae. Amoxycillin is basically penicillin.

    I'm fairly certain that staghorn is a member of the Red Algae (Rhodophyta) group (even though it's dull grey in appearance.) Red algae, although primarily a multicellular marine algae (which includes seaweeds by the way) does include some freshwater forms, among them is the freshwater genera Compsopogon. I recall that staghorn is C. coeruleus but I have not seen any data which indicated that Rhodophyta are susceptible to antibiotics but I suppose this might be possible. In any case they are definitely photosynthetic, definitely autotrophic and definitely a 'plant' which contains and uses chlorophyll-a along with some other accessory photosynthetic pigments such as phycoethrin and phycocyanin.

    Most red algae distinguish themselves by storing their sugars as glycogen, AKA "Floridean" starch. Glycogen is a long chain of glucose sugars with lots of side branches. This Floridean starch is very different from the starch that brown or green algae store. Green algae have a grainy starch that reacts with iodine to create a black colour. Brown algae have an oily starch that doesn't produce any colour when put to the iodine test. Red algae produces a pinkish brown colour in response to iodine-exposure.

    So the standard way of combating staghorn will be to use the aforementioned Excel or direct application of Hydrogen peroxide, copper solution or bleach. Remove the infected leaves as much as possible and add Siamese Algae Eaters (SAEs).

    Cheers,
     
  9. Palios

    Palios Newly Registered

    Messages:
    9
    I have siamese algae eaters, i know them as siamese flying foxes!

    "Amoxycillin is basically penicillin" surely thats like sayin "nitrite is basically nitrate" is it not?
    Yes they are both antibiotics but they (as well as other antibiotics) have varying effects on different forms of algae.

    I have a preety sound knowledge of 'plant' biology, in particular algae, as marine algae production was quite a large area in my aquaculture and fisheries management degree, and although there will be a difference in how long it takes the algae to metabolise and exhaust their differing energy reserves this is really beside the point. The antibiotics have been shown to reduce ammonia uptake and reduce the rate at which photosystem II is able to operate. Ive just never had any experience of the freshwater 'pest' algae that reside in aquariums!

    The versions of algae tested against for afficacy are mainly but not soley tested on cyanobacteria. i know these arent true algae, im not asking about treating this.

    i just had a quick look and found 2 research papers testing on different algae.
    eg.1
    8 different antibiotics tested for their algicidal properties against a type of marine cyanobacteria and freshwater Selenestrum capricornutum (Chlorophyta)
    eg.2.
    In recent years integrated fish-seaweed mariculture has become more common.
    This is because of 2main reasons: Firstly the algae uses up nutrients in the wastewaste from the farm - of great benefit meaning intensive farming reduces its environmental impact, and secondly with minimal adjustment to existing sytems this by-product which is obtained can be sold and gives you more money
    In a paper from 2005 Porphyra yezoensis (Rhodophyta) or nori as its commonly known Is shown to be affected by amoxicillin, erythromycin (2 var.), and oxytetracycline. This was done because they are commonly used antibiotics in the culture of marine fishes, and are invaluable in ensuring the health of these fish and because most marine fish farms are located on the coast and run 'flow-through' systems the impact on fiters/other organisms didnt have to be considered. But now with this multi-species culture the impacts upon the algae had to be considered.
    For hobbyists it is the other way round, we would need to know what kind of concentrations and exposure times would be needed to have the desired effect and
    - are there any legality issues with its use?
    - what kinds of algae it will treat?
    - if it will affect higher plants?
    - if it will have any implications on the health of the stock (inc.shrimp)
    - How badly it will affect the filter
     
  10. Palios

    Palios Newly Registered

    Messages:
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    Im greatfull for the advice on the tank, but its not really what im after, i didnt ask for help in treating hair algae theres already plenty of great info about that on here.
    id like to find out about treating algae (in particular staghorn) with antibiotics!
     
  11. LondonDragon

    LondonDragon Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    10,301
    Location:
    London
    I have seen a few guys in the Portuguese forums treating algae with "hydrogen peroxide" H2O2 3%, this kills most algae (BBA, BGA, Cladophora, Diatoms, Brown Algae, Hair, Thread, Fuzz, Oedogonium, Rhizoclonium e Staghorn) varieties in 10-15 minutes.

    Must be spot dosed and the excess removed, steps:

    - Using a syringe apply the H2O2 3%
    - Leave it for 10-15 minutes (creates a reaction and turns algae white)
    - Using an air pump tubing syphon the excess
    - Perform a 25% water change (or do it before the weekly water change)

    The only link with photos I have is in Portuguese, I can post it if you guys want to see the process.
    I have some at home just haven't tried it yet, but something I might experiment with.
     
  12. plantbrain

    plantbrain Expert

    Messages:
    1,949
    The only practical applied evidence is EM treatment for Oscillotoria, aka BGA.
    They use neomycin for Red BGA in marine tanks.

    Otherwise, there's little use.

    This is not a herbicide/algicide mentality here, it's about providing good conditions for macro algae and/or higher plants, then they define and dominate the system, then such band aid approaches are not required.

    Antibiotics and algicides are not plant nutrients/offer no help.
    That is the focus here. The root issue for poor plant growth and poor horticulture.

    Some might argue that algicides are still useful tools to get you over the hump, but I've resolved 100's of algae issues in many tanks over decades. Honestly, I've never found them that useful if at all, and generally distract the desperate from the real root issue/s, plant health/care. I would not say this if I had evidence otherwise, I'm not here to lie or send some poor hobbyists off the wrong path or promote a myth due to ignorance/lack of experience.

    I've been down this path many times.

    Reworded, do you think that the aquariums that look nice, and are algae free are that way because they use such chemicals? No one worth their salt uses such stuff. In other words, chemical solutions to neglectful horticulture practices are a poor substitute.

    EM works to get rid of BGA, but so does a 3 day blackout, neither harms plants and kills what is there, but both methods do not address the root issue, poor filter cleaning etc, poor current, lac of cleaning etc and low/absent NO3. When those are addressed, there's no BGA issue.

    There are no short cuts to good horticulture.

    Maybe there's some algicidal properties for 1001 chemicals, so what? Are they NEEDED? Do they offer any real help?
    Not that I can see. Just a quick fix and a way to make money for ongoing chemical dependency each time the issue comes back. Excel, Easy carbo might be one exception, but it also gives some CO2, so that helps the plants directly.

    But it and many things have algae killing properties, does not mean they are good or selective for the plants.
    Copper is selective as well and has been used for decades, so is H2O2, and most salts, dips etc can be used, simply cutting off the mangy old algae crusted leaves , sections etc and allow new healthy growth to fill in.
    Drugs are rarely the answer for us. There are much better methods that get hobbyists much farther along towards their goal. It's not about algae killing as much as it is about growing plants(This is a mind set and once you see the truth in it, then this is no longer an issue).

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  13. plantbrain

    plantbrain Expert

    Messages:
    1,949
    The Aquatic Plant Digest and theKrib has a decade's worth of algae killing chemical nonsense on it in English.
    H2O2 has a long history for spot treating.
    Excel, easy carbo can be used the same way.

    If you have non living materials, an extra large water change + toothbrushing or squirting the chemical directly on the area works very well when exposed to air. For larger areas, a spray bottle works well.
    Wait a couple of minutes and refill the tank etc.

    For plant's themselves, they look like crap after being covered with BBA or GSA etc, for softer species,m you can clean up and replant by hand, but if the root issue is not addressed, the algae simply come back and the labor is ALL WASTED.

    Even if I do not clean the plants, I can trim my way out of any algae issue if the plants grow well, the new growth is clean and nice, and I hack off the bottom and toss them.

    Easy really.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  14. Palios

    Palios Newly Registered

    Messages:
    9
    I am well aware that the root causes have to be addressed im explaining it to people about disease treatments almonst every day. And i have already explained that i am doing everything i reasonably can about this with the constraints of the system i have to use. The Staghorn formed in the HC about 6months ago and there has been minimal growth for prob the last 3/4 months. Its just sitting there in the middle of the carpet taunting me!
    And unfortunately im not quite so skilled at trimming/removing the damaged parts, as most of the time i attempt this it usually ends up with me making a bit of a mess releasing a load of rubbish (even with airline syphoning) and encouraging the algae!
    Thats helpfull info on the spot treatment though and would be great if i had the tank at home with enough time to do it! And with regard to a blackout on the tank...i dont think the boss would be all too pleased about this!

    i know it goes against the ethos of the hobby but the 'quick fix' is what im looking for!
     
  15. plantbrain

    plantbrain Expert

    Messages:
    1,949
    Get in there and cut it out, then allow the HC to grow back, no pansy about it, get it done.
    the min growth the last few months are due to CO2 or nutrients.

    Nutrients: easy to rule out, water change + dosing thereafter.
    CO2: carefully and methodically adjust up and wait and see.
    This might take 2-3 months. That's okay though.

    I know and feel for you about making a mess, particularly with HC.
    I've spent way too much time with that.

    Here's how much I had:
    redoneleopard.jpg

    It's really only a couple of things, make sure nutrients do not run out, and good CO2.
    It does not need high light either. If you have lots of other species competing with it, that's bad.
    It's a wimpy competitor for CO2.

    Trimming it is a PITA, but there's no sub for that, no pill, no silver bullet or cure.
    I've got a nice rug there, I've done this, I've seen other tanks over time give up or those that do not, only last a few months, maybe 1-2 years tops, after they get tired of trimming it back.

    Same for Riccia. These are really weedy plants that demand more work/labor.

    I switched to this plant instead for the same tank:

    sideview1.jpg

    Same tank, less light, much easier to care for, plecos also do not pull this plant up, this plant also is in very high demand and I get 800$ a month is sales alone! 100-200$ in RCS. Tank pays for itself and is less hassle/easier to trim.

    So you can go about it a number of ways, some plants are weedy and troublesome, require more horticulture, more prone to algae issues. Others much less so. I still have Tonina and so called hard plants, there's a bunch of HC growig on the upper wood in this 180 Gal tank also, but out of the water, looks nice, easy to care for there.
    So it's not an issue of nutrients or light, it's all about the CO2 AND DISTURBANCE.

    Everyone tries quick pill popping quick fixes. Few keep doing it though and no one that's a decent scaper really uses them. Excel helps many for this purpose.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  16. Palios

    Palios Newly Registered

    Messages:
    9
    The water changes and liquid ferts are all in order (i think) but the substrate is on its second display tank and is probably pretty lean on nutes.
    If it were possible i would have already at the very least pulled up the HC and replanted the healthy stuff, but time constraints and the fact people seem to quite like the effect it gives and gets people interested in more high tech set ups (they dont tend to notice the algae!) means thats not going to happen!
    Excel and CO2 adjustment it is!

    Thanks
     
  17. plantbrain

    plantbrain Expert

    Messages:
    1,949
    I measured the ADA AS, it declines mostly in N, NH4 specifically.
    So adding KNO3 later to adjust, or provide non limiting NO3 all along takes care of any issues there.

    Point of fact, the HC is growing great in my 180, it can only get water column ferts since it's up on the wood..
    It's not picky about location or type of ferts.

    Many use low light and Excel with HC, I think this is wise move.

    Low light is the path also.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  18. plantbrain

    plantbrain Expert

    Messages:
    1,949
    You can see another tank of mine:

    viewtopic.php?f=35&t=10424

    No snake oils needed here.
    I took my time with CO2, and slowly adjusted it up and reduced the light.

    Took maybe 3 months, but the tank is very easy to care for.
    Looks much better in person, fish display and shrimps are fun to watch

    Point is, with nice top of the line tanks, if you look at how they are cared for, few use such items/snake oils and if they do...... they sell them, not because there's some "secret" only they are privy to.
    Penac? That stuff is whacked.
    Fruit cake stuff.

    This(antibiotics) at least some a little basis, but not that much.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  19. Brenmuk

    Brenmuk Member

    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Peterborough
    I used erythromycin (a macrolide antibiotic with a similar antimicrobial sprectrum to penicillin) way back in the 90's to kill a severe infestation of BGA. I got the dosage instructions from the Krib.
    It worked very well in killing the BGA - it was all gone within a day or two. Unfortunately it also took out the filter bacteria and very soon the tank water went cloudy and white (i'm assuming from all the dead bacteria etc). Despite loads of water changes and filter maintenance the tank never seemed to recover - we eventually stripped the tank down and started again.
    After this I would never bother with antibiotics again to treat algae a) because you are not addressing the root cause of the algae issue & b)because the negative effects on the filter bacteria IME make them less than useless.
     
  20. Palios

    Palios Newly Registered

    Messages:
    9
    with hindsight, possibly quite a bad idea treating with antibiotics!
    A little information can definately be a dangerous thing! Good thing places like this exist.
    Great info esp.from Tom, most appreciated
     

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