John D Hirsch MD

Experienced Reefer
Manhattan Reefs
It has been awhile since my last post. I have been busy. I retired to southwest Florida and sold my interest in Doctor Eco Systems. I will still be a champion for all natural healthy foods for the aquarium industry and for those who thought this was shameful advertising, I will continue to encourage readers to add fish eggs/roe as they are both a necessary and sufficient part of any healthy diet. I stand by my statement that ?Eggs Trump any supplements? It has been an interesting ride, so here are some thoughts.
Since inception just over 6 months ago, there have been more than 15,000 view. I hope that many are return views on a variety of topics, were thought provoking, and occasionally educational.
Only the controversial posts seem to generate views over 1000 and any responses, both positive or negative.
A successful closed reef ecosystem requires attention to the nutritional needs of all organisms in the food pyramid from the single cell bacteria that populate the GI tracts to zooplankton, to our fish, inverts, and corals. We are far behind other pet food industries in quality, transparency, and regulations regarding a variety of issues such as labeling and questionable advertising claims of remarkable and mostly unfounded successes. We need to move beyond testimonials.
Food products and food supplements are a significant part of the expenses of what must be considered an expensive hobby. Cost remains a huge barrier to entry and maintenance expenses are another major loss of hobbyist. Like salt and water, food is considered a staple, meaning it is a regular expense. For the sake of discussion, a 100 gal aquarium with a 10% weekly water changes, costs around $125/year for salt using $45/200 gal. RODI water priced @50 cents/gal is for both evaporation and water changes. Assuming 40 gal per month for water changes(10%/week) and 10 gals per month for evaporation is $300 per year. So water plus salt is $425/year or about $35/month That?s not hard to quantify. But what do you spend a month on food and supplements?
Supplements are part of our lexicon and like politics, many are entrenched in their beliefs. For those who responded to the posts and when you waded through the ?bullshit?, my impression was a need for more science and less opinions. For this hobby, the current science is mostly referential or frankly nonexistent. Referential refers to the assumption that what works for one species and many of those are terrestrial, will have the same benefit on a marine species. Maybe or maybe not. Currently governmental regulations in the fish industry are a work in progress. ?Organic? is a legal term and has not yet been defined for marine sources foods. Anecdotes are not science; we all know that. The best we may be able to do is develop consensuses on what works the majority of the time, or optimal feeding regimes. There are likely many optimal but just as many suboptimal. An FDA approved product for human use or animal feed may or may not have the same results in a marine environment. In addition, the goals of animal production for a food source can be very different than for pets. We, as responsible hobbyist, need to share both our successes and our failures, and collectively work towards improving the success rate of all hobbyists.
So back to the cost of foods, for some, budgets limit choices for foods, for others lifestyles do the same. Still, others have tried home production and have found that growing is not hard, maintaining is another story. Some blend their own foods buying individual components, others prefer the convenience of prepared foods. Most prepared foods contain preservatives and I have yet to find one that is not FDA approved. That too is a subject for another post. I know what I spend a month. Do you? And would you be willing to share your feeding regime? Is it more or less than you spend on salt and water? As you consider that, also ask yourself do you follow the directions on the label or ?wing it?. Do you add supplements daily or less often? Following the directions will be the topic of another post at a later date. Finally, have you observed the long term benefits of your feedings? Short term results maybe misleading as I get great polyp extension with this product but that may be helpful or harmful. Just because an animal eats something, does not necessarily mean it is healthy. Humans have proven that time and time again. How many of us are over feeders and fight nuisance algae regularly?
Individual success is hard to quantify. I know what it is when I see it. There are just too many variables. Successful aquarists consistently maintain their ecosystem monitoring waste disposal, temperature, water quality, and creating a stress less environment as much as possible. It is frequently those fluctuations that stress animals and leave them vulnerable to diseases. Left out was successful aquarist food choices. Food choices vary from pellets and flakes, freeze dried, refrigerated, frozen, and live. Supplement choices are too numerous to list.
Disease prevention or health is much cheaper than treating diseases particularly when the treatment options available today are more like shotguns in the night as diagnosis is frequently difficult, treatment options limited, and side effects like the damage to healthy bacteria in a closed system are frequently overlooked. Nutrition is critical to health. I think quarantine tanks are very useful but if you can catch an ill fish, it is frequently too late. And more importantly, why is that animal sick? Thoughts on antibiotics will consume another post.
Aquarium foods and supplements generates a lot of recurring revenue in this hobby. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers dependent on that revenue. I will continue to write posts challenging the industry in which far too many products provide little or no information about the contents or the science behind them. I would like to know what you feed on a regular basis. Of the 15,000 view are there 1000 or more who would share their feeding habits. It would not be fair if I ask you and did not share mine. My personal 180 mixed reef had a Black Tang, a mated pair of Crosshatch Triggers, a trio of 8 line wrasses, several varieties of flasher wrasses and was loaded with NPS, LPS, and SPS corals. Let me start by saying I am a big fan of both Rod?s and Larry?s but in the name of competition they are adding questionable supplements to great natural wild caught products. I get it, but don?t necessarily agree. I know I got Larry hot under the collar but in fairness I use products regularly from both Rod and Larry. Variety is important. Their products are excellent but different and I thought important to point out the differences. Competition is healthy and you as the consumers have choices. I feed only their frozen herbivore blends supplement with eggs, strips of Nori and regular additions of both live zooplankton, live phytoplankton, my egg brew, and nothing else. No vitamins, minerals, or other supplements. I feed at least twice a day. Feeding should be fun. My fish follow me around the tank at feeding time and will take hand fed food. I particularly enjoy feeding at dusk with a glass of red wine. Food is expensive. I am north of $50/month but worth every penny as my tank is happy and healthy. A consensus would be a great start to improving the hobby, provide usefully information from many successful hobbyists, and maybe reduce those barriers to entry. That feedback can transform the industry to provide better foods and supplements that ensure the success of each and every reef ecosystem.

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