Probiotics and Fish...any thoughts?

  • #1
A new poster here on FL actually reminded me of something that I have been wanting to bring up.

How do you guys feel about the use of Probiotics for fish?
I use them on my family and now there is a product out there by Dr Tims Aquatics called Eco Balance which is a natural probiotic.

Info can be found here:

It is said to help get reduce the amount of bad bacteria and keep your tank clean and balanced.
This is not to replace water changes- you add it every week to your water when you do your changes.

Has anyone used this and seen a difference in their fish? Will you see a difference in already healthy fish?
If you wouldn't use it then why since Probiotics seem to be great for humans.

I have to say that I do trust this company- I have used a product by them similar to Biospira when I blew my filter after medicating and I also grabbed a product similar to Stress Coat by way better- I have seen fin results with this product.
Dr Tims also advocates fishless cycling which is a plus for me using their Biospira like product.

So let me know your thoughts and if you think I should pick it up to test it out.
  • #2
Hmmm..... I don't need any products to help keep the tank clean and balanced. IMO all that stuff is a waste of money - they just want you to spend money on something that does half as good a job as manual (and free) tank maintenance does.

I'm not saying that the benefits of probiotics aren't real. I'm just saying that a well maintained aquarium doesn't need a bunch of different additives. I wouldn't use it or anything like it because I don't want to upset the balance. IMO feeding a high quality staple food is good enough.
  • #3
I, like Jaysee, am a firm believer in 99% of the time the only thing that needs to go into a tank are water, food, and fish.

  • #4
And water conditioner.
  • #5
Not for me.
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
How do you get away with no conditioner? Well water?

Thanks for the responses by the way- I was thinking along the same lines.
  • #7
From what I have read about probiotics in humans, they are only needed when something has destroyed benificial bacteria in the colon. Broad spectrum antibiotics would be the main cause. Another is regularly dring tap water, which contains chlorine. Since water is absorbed in the colon ( where benificial bacteria is colonized) it will kill that bacteria. My opinion is that if you have to medicate your tank with antibiotics, it would definitely be benificial. I don't think it would be necessary otherwise.

  • #8
How do you get away with no conditioner? Well water?


I am on city water. I don't really think I am getting away with anything. My opinion is chlorine is not an issue, and since I don't have chloramine in my water, I don't use anything.

  • #9
Hope you don’t mind if I join the conversation! First, let me be clear that if you, as Jaysee said, do enough “manual (and free) tank maintenance” you don’t need to buy anything but some water conditions. But that’s a big ‘if’ as proven by the large number of posts on forums such as with titles something like “fish was perfectly healthy now dead” or “fish dying everything was fins” etc etc. Second, Eco-Balance is not a waste maintenance – water quality product (that would be my Waste-Away product). Third, the fact is fish like humans can get sick for unfortunately reasons the typical hobbyist (and most scientists) don’t know. Was the fish stressed, was another fish added, did some bad bacteria get in the system via the feed and so forth? (Maybe this is poll – how many people who have kept fish for say 1 year have never had a fish die from a disease?)

So what are your choices – basically you can wait until the fish gets sick and then try the shotgun treatment approach. If you think it's bacterial you add some antibiotics and hope (not much of a choice for people with reef tanks). Few people have the resources and expertise to accurately diagnose the disease and you have to trust that the antibiotic you’re buying will work and is of the correct purity (this has been a problem in our hobby). For many people the other choice is just to flush the dying or dead fish and start over or get out of the hobby altogether.

Probiotics are another choice. Go to Google Scholar and type is probiotics and fish, you get a ton of scientific papers on the subject. Basically (I will be brief but this is a very complex subject) probiotics are live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. There are two general types: ones you add to feed and ones you add to the water. The bacteria in Eco-Balance are the second type.

So how does it work? Some bacteria have been shown to produce Bacteriocins. Bacteriocins are proteinaceous toxins produced by bacteria to inhibit the growth of similar or closely related bacterial strain(s). They are typically considered to be narrow spectrum antibiotics, though this has been debated. Bacteriocins are of interest in medicine because they are made by non-pathogenic bacteria that normally colonize the human body. Loss of these harmless bacteria following antibiotic use may allow opportunistic pathogenic bacteria to invade the human body (Wikipedia).

The trick (not really a trick but a ton of lab work) is to find bacterial that will produce bacteriocins that target aquarium diseases. But that’s what we microbiologists do. You can see an example of our work here

The picture shows that coral pathogen Vibrio shiloi is not able to grow in an area around the bacterium we have isolated – this is the probiotic effect. Without trying to sound like a commercial – we have spent a lot of time and effort isolating and testing for bacteria that produce bacteriocins against bacteria that product the common aquarium diseases in freshwater, saltwater and reef aquaria.

Does this mean by using our product you’ll fish will never get sick – no. Just like eating probiotic yogurt does not mean you’ll never get sick; it is tool to help you help your fish or corals. I ask people to keep an open mind. We are one of the very few companies that actually does research and why would we do 'me too' products? Remember many people initially said my research on nitrifying bacteria was bunk, too. Someone has to be first to bring new ideas with real data to this hobby - guess that's me (OK, I yield the soapbox!).
  • #10
I've never even heard of probiotics for fish/aquaria.
Originally posted by Dr.Tim:
we have spent a lot of time and effort isolating and testing for bacteria that produce bacteriocins against bacteria that produce the common aquarium diseases in freshwater, saltwater and reef aquaria.
found a fix for columnaris?
I mean:
Ich/external parasites: heat or salt
bacterial/fungal: water changes if caught early is often enough
internal parasites: ok, some chemicals added, but there is time
Columnaris: chemicals, hope, and prayer, and even then they sometimes die.

Oh, and I'm slightly confuddled as to what vibrio is, and what those pics portray. what's the white lumpy thing(bacteria or bacterium?), and is it's change in pattern important?
  • #11
This is a lot of literature on probiotics in aquaculture but I think we are the first with a product in the hobby sector. Probiotics are not disease treatments per se. They do not generally replace antibiotics once the fish is sick. So no we don't, at this time, have a 'fix' for columnaris.

As to what the picture shows" the white steak down the center of each dish is a smear of a single bacterium (bacteria is plural) that we have isolated. The lighter streaks that go from side to side are a pure culture of Vibrio shiloi which is a pathogen of corals that we purchased. On the left you can see that the Vibrio is able to grow all the way to the edges of the isolated bacterium showing that the bacterium on the left has no effect on the Vibrio. Contrast that with the of the petrI dish on the right. Here you can see that the streaks of Vibrio do not extend to the isolated bacterium (the bacterium on the right is different than the bacterium on the left). This shows that the bacterium on the right is able to inhibit the growth of Vibrio shiloi.

This is one example of the hundreds of isolates that we tested for several freshwater and saltwater pathogens.
  • #12
So does it help in fish waste production. Does it regulate the colon in the fish like in humans. I suffer from IBS and am a firm believer in probiotics for our colons. I know it works. How does it affect the fish digestive system. What was the motivation behind the product?
  • #13
Good morning,

I use Immune Plus and have for many years. Link below:

I take immaculate care of my tanks and fish so does this product work? I can't say for certain but my fish have been disease free for 10 years. The only issue I've had was ICH on new fish when I set up a new tank last year.

I may be wasting my $ but for me, peace of mind plays a big role in this hobby, so I'll continue to use it.

In the past 10 years I've used Amquel +, Nova Aqua + and Immune Plus and nothing else.

  • #14
Hope you don’t mind if I join the conversation! First, let me be clear that if you, as Jaysee said, do enough “manual (and free) tank maintenance” you don’t need to buy anything but some water conditions. But that’s a big ‘if’ as proven by the large number of posts on forums such as with titles something like “fish was perfectly healthy now dead” or “fish dying everything was fins” etc etc.

It's really not a big "if". IME, here and on other forums, a lot of the people who post such threads don't know a great deal about their tanks - and I don't mean that in a bad way. Maintenance is lacking, filtration is weak, water changes are too small, feed too much, incompatible stocking.....the list goes on of the things I would do differently. That doesn't mean my way is the best.... but I don't experience fish losses like those that post those threads. Thinking your fish are fine doesn't mean that they are.

On the other side of the coin, though, you have people whose fish has died for no apparent reason, and they are generally at a loss as to why, as are most of us. IMO, death happens. There doesn't need to be a "why" since everything dies. Would the fish have lived longer if given probiotics? Who knows, because as you said no one really has the means to properly identify the cause of death.

Are the fish healthier because of the probiotics? Probably, but how much healthier? 5%? 10%? More? As you said, they'll still get sick. I'm not arguing the validity of probiotics - It probably does good things for the fish.
  • #15
Jaysee - I agree with most of what you wrote. Some people can keep fish in spite of themselves and others can keep computer fish alive! But people don't want to 'know' a great deal about their tank -they just want a nice fish tank. Just like people don't know a lot about dog and cat biology and health they just want a pet. Or another analogy is that few people know how their camera works and don't care - they just want to take pictures easily and get them on facebook or youtube fast!

Maybe think of probiotics as a mix; they are kinda of like insurance but more proactive and they are part of the routine maintenance - why do you clean your house.

If you have a lot of nice fish, koi, a saltwater or reef tank you may feel that the investment is worth it. My goal is to provide products based on real science and if you need them you can use them and, at least, you have an alternative to doing nothing or dumping a bunch antibiotics in the water.

psalm18.2 - Generally, for bacteria to work, in this case for bad bacteria to gain a foothold in the aquarium, they have to attach to a surface. That surface can be on gravel, organics in the tank or the gut lining of the fish. There are only so many sites that are available (this is one reason water districts want to keep water turbidity very low - the more stuff in the water the more places for the bacteria to attach).

Another way probiotics work is that the friendly bacteria in the probiotics take all the attachment sites so the bad bacteria don't have a place to attach and do their damage - the process is called competitive exclusion. The idea is to be a little proactive about managing the environment using natural solution and not chemicals just like nature.

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