John D Hirsch MD

Experienced Reefer
Manhattan Reefs
Amino acid supplements. Thoughts from a non-believer. Let?s start with some basic biochemistry. There are roughly 20 amino acids, half are nonessential and half are essential. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by animal cells and must be derived from outside sources such as algae or those that consume algae. Non-Essential amino acids are abundant and can be produced by animal cells from existing nutrients. Amino acids are grouped together into chains of 2-50 and are called peptides. Multiple peptides are group together to form proteins. Proteins are either structural or functional but also serve as an energy source. After removing the nitrogen group producing ammonia, the rest of the carbon chain is metabolized like sugars and produces the same relative energy per gram as sugars. Most proteins when analyzed have all 20 amino acids present in varying percentages. The rate limiting components in protein formation are not the abundant non-essential amino acids but the essential amino acids which may represent lesser amounts of the total but are also much less abundant in nature.
Food recognition is the first phase of consuming nutrients. It can be visual but just as likely it is based on smell, taste, or electrical disturbances. Famously Pavlov described the response in dogs that salivate when shown food. That response is both visual and olfactory. Salivation is the first stage of hunting and digestion as it contains both lubricants and digestive enzymes. For sessile marine organisms, that first response is polyp extension. Repeated polyp extension with providing real nutrition is both stressful and unhealthy.
Most amino acid supplements have two of the least expensive most abundant non-essential amino acids in concentrations that will stimulate the ?hunting response? of sessile organisms but do not provide any reasonable nutrition. They are aspartic acid and glutamic acid or their derivatives. Read the label. Most amino acid supplements are 99% water meaning the amino acids in total represent 1% or less of the solution. That means that in a 12 oz bottle you have roughly 3.5 grams total of amino acids. You can purchase on Amazon Prime, 300 grams of USP aspartic acid for $20 and 100 grams of USP glutamic acid for $10 delivered.
So what happens when you add amino acid supplements. Everybody in your tank thinks food is present. Sessile organisms expend energy to extend their polyps. The amino acids maybe absorbed by the organisms but without a complete complement of amino acids more than likely these excess non-essential amino acids are shunted to energy production where they are metabolized.
Finally, the assumption that only simple amino acids can be absorbed is wrong. During digestion and absorption, many small to medium size peptides are transported across cell membranes, as are whole proteins.
Amino acid supplements make no sense unless they contain most if not all amino acids and in concentrations that provide real nutrition. It does not matter if you have a nutrient rich or nutrient poor reef system. As I have said before if you feel you must add amino acids make them appetizer and not the meal.


Advanced Reefer
Manhattan Reefs
I appreciate the insight. I have been searching the net regarding aminos recently and have come across some interesting articles. I can see how what you are saying could be true. It certainly sounds logical. At the same time I think I am part of the majority here who would like to provide our corals with a complete balance of necessary nutrients and elements. It seems to me as thought Aminos themselves are very helpful to corals, however the obscurity of the contents of these supplements that are on the market, and the transparency of the contents of these supplements that is the problem.

Here is a link to an interesting article I found. I got distracted while making this post and had to edit it.
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Rockaway Beach
I have MeCoral amino. Mark says it's aspartic acid and glutamic acid with a little vinegar for preservative. Corals definitely show extra PE from this stuff, but in my tank, it increased my nitrates a bit much.

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