Update Regarding Labyrinth Fish and Melafix

Discussion in 'Betta Fish' started by sirdarksol, Jul 5, 2010.

  1. sirdarksol

    sirdarksolFishlore LegendMember

    This is a thread I've been working on for a long time and thinking about for even longer. https://www.fishlore.com/aquariumfishforum/threads/discussion-about-melafix-and-bettas.45927/. Here's a link to a thread I started over a year ago. I mean for this thread to be a bit more comprehensive, and it will be stickied.
    I will be using the term "bettas" here, because they're the ones we primarily see with this, and because it's easier than writing "bettas/labyrinth fish" every time it comes up. However, I have had confirmation from other members that other labyrinth fish are affected, as well, so take this entire thread to also include gourami and other such fish.
    Lastly, a big thanks to Lucy for filling me in on discussions on Fishgeek and aquaria.info

    There has been a discussion that has been occurring on Fishlore for nearly four years now. It is regarding whether or not Melafix is harmful to bettas and other labyrinth fish.

    It started with the now famous/infamous "Melafix Alert" thread. I call it famous because, for the past year, and as of this writing, it has been the first thing to pop up in a Google search of "betta Melafix." I call it infamous because many other communities of aquarists know the thread well, and feel that it is misinformation.
    Despite the inaccuracies of the previous "Melafix will kill your bettas" belief, I feel I must defend it. At the time, we didn't know what was going on. We knew that there was a very strong link between Melafix and these deaths. Beyond that, we were clueless.
    The usual way to learn about something is to experiment. Unfortunately, when it comes to experimenting on our pets, most of us aren't terribly inclined to do so. Further, there's little money in extensive experimentation regarding anything in the pet trade, so professional labs aren't likely to do so, either.
    Therefore, the response was "don't use Melafix with bettas." The same thing happens with human medicine. When it was discovered that Celebrex and Vioxx were causing chronic heart problems, they were pulled off the market. Eventually, they found the cause (long-term use of either product), and at least one of them went back on the market with a new counterindication; long-term usage.
    It is my opinion that this attitude has saved more bettas than have died from illnesses/injuries that could have been treated with Melafix. Thus, as a stopgap solution, it was successful.

    However, we have more complete information now.

    The active ingredient in Melafix is melaleuca oil, or tea tree oil. The stuff has been used for a very, very long time as an antiseptic. It seems to speed the healing of wounds, fights fungal infections, etc... At some point, someone thought about using it on various pets, and found that it had similar properties.
    However, as with most medicines, it has side effects. It is toxic if taken internally (by humans), and is a strong irritant (a fact that may actually cause a boost in the healing of wounds, as the body pays more attention to the irritated spot). If undiluted, it can cause strong reactions on the skin.

    The labyrinth organ seems to be extremely sensitive to melaleuca oil. At the concentration of properly-used Melafix and Bettafix, there seems to be little impact on the fish. If you increase the concentration beyond that, though, there is a risk that a betta will be negatively affected by the oil. There are several theories about what happens, but the one that I've read, seen, suggests that the melaleuca acts much the same way as a strong irritant does if it gets in a human's lungs.

    In lurking on numerous aquarium forums, I have noticed a pattern: The bettas that died were often in situations where an overdose was much more likely. Either they were in a smaller tank (sometimes even a bowl), or the owner admitted to messing up the dosage.
    Those who have used the product successfully have either been very careful about dosing or have been using Bettafix (which is 1/10 the concentration, and you use 10x as much; the end result being the same, but you've got to put much, much more in to significantly overdose).

    And so we come to the crux of the issue;
    Melafix is potentially harmful. I have no doubt about that. I have seen far too many accounts of such problems to dismiss them all as coincidence.
    Melafix is also potentially helpful. I have no doubt about that, either.
    In these two matters, it is no different from any other medicine.

    And, like any other medicine, everyone has to choose what they are comfortable using. Some people don't like using anything beyond water changes, Vitachem, and garlic juice. Others feel that modern medicine has the answer to everything. Still others sit somewhere in between. All are valid opinions.

    In my opinion, when dealing with labyrinth fish, Melafix has joined salt on the roster of treatments. It's there, it's an option, but only for emergencies.
    I also likely won't use a full dosage, and will pre-mix the Melafix with some tank water, in order to keep the fish from swimming into a cloud of the stuff.
    However, everyone else is free to have their own opinions. The important thing is that people have as complete of information as possible, so they can make an informed decision.
    To that end, I'll be stickying this post. It is my hope that, given time, we can replace the old Melafix warning with this one on Google's number one spot.
  2. JRDroid

    JRDroidWell Known MemberMember

    I think it would be a good idea to put an update at the top of the OP in the old thread with a link to this, so that until this moves up the google ladder, people are still getting the most up to date info.
  3. sjrose77

    sjrose77New MemberMember

    Thank you for this information I have some melafix I was going to use after Maricyn treatment but now I will think twice.
  4. youngstermatt

    youngstermattValued MemberMember

    thank you sooo much, I was using melafix on my "favorite" betta and I noticed that although the fin was healing, the fish just asn't acting itself. I'll stop using it ASAP, thank you soooooo much (again) you may have saved my betta's life, I don't know how I can thank you enough!:;thx:;thx:;thx:;thx:;thx:;thx
  5. VRValicento

    VRValicentoValued MemberMember

    So what is the proper dosage? Everyone says not to follow the directions, so what is the right amount to give my betta? I also have 2 mystery snails in the tank, is it dangerous to them?

  6. OP

    sirdarksolFishlore LegendMember

    I don't think anybody has said not to follow the directions.
    My opinion on Melafix and labyrinth fish is that it is a last resort for me. If I use it, I will be using it at half strength and be extremely careful about dosing.
    However, as I say above, I haven't heard of anyone losing a betta to Melafix if they have been careful not to overdose.
  7. VRValicento

    VRValicentoValued MemberMember

    Thank you. I'll keep that in mind when I get it.
  8. mosaicguppy

    mosaicguppyWell Known MemberMember

    I've had experience with both pimafix and melafix and they don't do harm unless overdosed
  9. OP

    sirdarksolFishlore LegendMember

    I have added a link to this thread. This thread is immediately under the ALERT!!! thread, so it will probably end up in the top spot eventually.
  10. jaymie

    jaymieNew MemberMember

    Thank you for the post. I am a Betta Breeder and have used Melafix in the past with no harm being done to the fish. I guess I am one of the lucky ones.
  11. Danni

    DanniWell Known MemberMember

    Use caution is all- but there are better solutions than Melafix for problems that Betta's can handle. :)
  12. Brolly2244

    Brolly2244Valued MemberMember

    Thanks a lot... I got Bettafix today, I started to treat my fish with it I added 2 spoons and a half, (half dose) for ten gallon tank.. But I think I will put so much less that tomorrow with my daily water change, since I am doing 10% to 15% for improving water conditions so it can help to healing Brolly's fin..
    Thanks :D
  13. twister.mama

    twister.mamaNew MemberMember

    Wow, this makes so much sense why I lost two of my most favoritest Bettas last year. :( One was acting sick (lethargic, not eating, etc); and several months later, another one developed a weird red sore. I had treated both fish with Maracyn and Maracyn II, like I've had to do with my other tank before; but after a full week, it didn't help. So I used Melafix and Pimafix, according to the instructions on the bottle (being very careful to NOT overdose). Both fish spiraled downhill quickly after that and died within a few days. RIP, Skye and Raspberry. :'( I was blaming both of the Maracyn drugs on their deaths, since they were actual "medicine" whereas tea tree oil is "natural." Man, I feel totally horrible now!!! :'( I will NEVER use Melafix or Pimafix on a Betta EVER again (my non-Betta fish in my other tank actually healed from an injury quickly from it, without any infection, so they're ok with Melafix). I tried using tea tree oil once on some ear piercings I had that weren't healing after like 5 months; and that stuff tingled and burned! :( Maybe some Bettas are "ok" enough to handle Melafix; but many Bettas, especially ones purchased from pet stores, aren't exactly the healthiest, most genetically-sound fish in the world. Just like people; some people are riddled with health issues and die young in their 50's; and some people will be 105 and only need to take 2 pills per day. All I know is I am NOT taking any more chances with my Bettas and Melafix!!! Thank you sooo much for posting this!!! :)
  14. sophieydg

    sophieydgWell Known MemberMember

    I treated my betta with melafix and he is fine :) however, I didn't remove the carbon and was doing daily water changes.