Seachem Prime May not be what is claims

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TwoTankAmin

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The main reason I joined this site years ago was because of the existence of this sub-forum. It has basically died as the folks who use this forum the most wandered away from the site. That was a real shame.

However, I am one who believe in science and not anecdote. I read peer reviewed papers for much of what I know about the chemistry and biology of keeping fish.

When it comes to Sechem I have had a few issues relating to some of their claims as being scientific but having zero poroof or actually knowing betters. The first time I realized this was an issue was with Stability. This is supposed to "cycle a tank." Now the nitrifying bacteria which we all work to cultivate in our tanks are know not to dorm spores. The reproduce by dividing and they are able to go dormant as a way to survive bad times. The one thing these nitrifyers do not do is to form spores. But read the bottle of Stability and it says it contains spores. On their site the make a lot of claims re cycling and bacteria which are not true. And if the want to sue me for saying this I know they will have it thrown out before it can go to trial since this is a scientific fact.

Today I stumbled onto an unusual article about Prime and the claims that it detoxifies ammonia. It is not a scientific paper in the traditional sence but it does rely on science and it is written by a chemist who did the sort of tests suggested by SeaChem or by common sense. You can judge for yourself if you have the patience to read through it all. One important factoid you see towards the end of the article is that another person replicated some of the experiments the author did and got the same results.

The paper is titled: 5.5.3.2.1. Prime, Safe and Ammonia and you can read it here https://aquariumscience.org/index.php/5-5-3-2-1-prime-safe-and-ammonia/
You will have to decide for yourself whether the article as accurate or not.

Synopsis​


The simple conclusion of this article is simply that no less than NINE tests done by three qualified scientists conclusively show that Seachem Prime does NO “detoxification” of ammonia, not even on a temporary basis. Seachem has ZERO tests which prove Prime detoxifies ammonia. That is correct, ZERO tests.

This article is very long and very boring and only for the real nerds like the author.

Basically, this paper claims to show why Prime actually does not detoxify ammonia. It is pretty convincing. If you read the paper you will see they used both the SeaChem Ammonia Alert and the Seneye systems to do their testing. The author also concludes it is like this is also true for the SeaChem claims that Prime detoxifies nitrite and nitrate

The one thing they did not do and which I would have is i would have used the API Ammonia test kit which reads total ammonia and I would have used the pH, Temperature and salinity of the water to convert the test result into its two components- NH3 ammonia and NH4 ammonium. I also do not agree with the ammonia levels abnd how they can affect fish. My research has shown that the level of Ammonia NH3 of 0.05 ppm is where it starts to do harm. The higher above that level it gets, the more damage it will do.

So, if you are truly curious and do not mind having your eyes spin now and then from the specific science, most of the article is fairly easy to understand. Bear in mind it is not the same thing as a peer reviewed paper published in a scientific journal. But then Seachem offers none of these to support its claims.

One note, if you get into reading the article. I did a search on Google Scholar for imidium. I found it, but not in any way that would support Seachem's cleaims. Most of the papers that mention it do not provide any evidence of it in relation to ammonia in any way I could find. A lot of the papers were from the 1970s-90s and unrelated to anything to do with keeping fish.

I should mention that I have lovely water from our private well. I have never used dechlor in any of my tanks. However, I have used it to detox chlorine after bleach dipping plants. I rinse first then dechlor and then they go into tanks with fish. So I know dechor works on chlorine. I have both Prime and Amquel but I use them only on the road for dechloring as I do not need that function for my tanks.

Finally, I was able to locate the Mars Fishcare (API) patent for ammonia detoxifier here https://patents.google.com/patent/US5082573A/en but that was it. I could not find a Seachem patent or any other one. I need to search Google patents a bit more to be sure there are none.
 
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TwoTankAmin

TwoTankAmin

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You may have and not realize it? If you have a the API ammonia kit and a decent pH kit and thermometer, you can make most of the calculations. (If you add salt to your water you will also need to know the salinity.) The key is in being able to break down the Total Ammonia reading on the API (or other kit) kit into its NH3 and NH4 components. You can do that here http://www.hamzasreef.com/Contents/Calculators/FreeAmmonia.php

Then it is simple:
1. Choose NH (NH3 + NH4)*
2. Enter in the total ammonia reading from your test, choose ppm.
3. For a fresh water tank, enter 0 for the salinity.
4. Enter your tank’s current pH.
5. Enter your tank temperature and choose F or C, whichever applies.
6. Click Calculate.

The number you want to know is the one for NH3.

[* If your kit measures ammonia as nitrogen aka –N, choose NH-N (NH3-N + NH4-N) in step 1. above.]

Of course any ammonia test kit you consider to be reasonably reliable will work. it doesn't have to be an API.

My problem with all of this is I only once had an ammonia issue in any of my tanks. I cycled my first tank with fish. I was able to return a few fish and lucked my way through the rest of the cycle. Everything since has been fishless. I have never used dechlor in my tanks, only when at fish events where I had to use local water to some extent. So I have never had to use Prime or any other product added to the water to reduce chlorine or ammonia levels.

But. I ran a few quick numbers using the calculator above.
API Ammonia TA reading in pH 80 water with no salt and at 77F (25C) of 2.5 ppm would have an NH# content of .0137 ppm. One the Ammonia Alert from SeaChem that would be in the Zone they label as Alert.

If I bump the TA up to 4.0 the NH3 goes up to .2191 and is in the ALARM range in Ammonia Alert.

I have to move the TA reading to over 9 ppm to make the Alert hit the Toxic range. which they consider to be .50 ppm.

Of course a higher pH and or temperature would mean those levels for NH# are hit at a lower TA. But that will also be lower if the pH and/or temp. are lower. The same 9.0 TA reading in a tank at 7.0 and 77F (25C) would produce a bit over 10% of the ammonia in the original examples.

I have one tank I target to be at a pH of 6.0 and 85F (29.4C). If I had that 9.0 reading in that tank the NH3 would be at .0074 ppm. Not a worry in the world about that. The problem is the fish would still suffer from the NH4. It may or may not do non-lethal harm, but it will stress the fish and that opens them to other issues.

My point is that ammonia in tanks is more complex than most realize. I trust the science.


How does Prime® make a difference in reducing nitrates?

A: The detoxification of nitrite and nitrate by Prime® (when used at elevated levels) is not well understood from a mechanistic standpoint. The most likely explanation is that the nitrite and nitrate is removed in a manner similar to the way ammonia is removed; i.e. it is bound and held in a inert state until such time that bacteria in the biological filter are able to take a hold of it, break it apart and use it. Two other possible scenarios are reduction to nitrogen (N2) gas or conversion into a benign organic nitrogen compound.

I wish we had some more "concrete" explanation, but the end result is the same, it does actually detoxify nitrite and nitrate. This was unexpected chemically and thus initially we were not even aware of this, however we received numerous reports from customers stating that when they overdosed with Prime® they were able to reduce or eliminate the high death rates they experienced when their nitrite and nitrate levels were high. We have received enough reports to date to ensure that this is no fluke and is in fact a verifiable function of the product.
from https://www.seachem.com/prime.php
 
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Uberhoust

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Interesting I will have to read more about this at home. FYI, I use the cheapest dechlorinator I can find. Just a quick look at some of the chemistry, which is not a strong point for me, I did come across a number of papers documents that suggest a few possible reactions with Ammonia that result in Imines being produced, though from what I can tell they are in equilibrium and reversible, http://healy.create.stedwards.edu/C...Mitzel)/chapter6/pages29and30/page29and30.htm. The most likely thing that is happening is there is a short window where the dechlorinator will bind to the ammonia, but there is no statement as to how much ammonia is bound, it could be as little as .5% of the available ammonia but that would be OK for marketing purposes.
 

Alice B

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I am real stubborn about all these claims from manufacturers. I've seen more garbage pushed in aquatics, if I can't test it myself and I don't have time, I don't even try the snake oil.

I've never used Prime. I think there is a bottle of Amquel in my cupboard, probably 18 years old and came out of a customer cupboard when I took over maintenance of his tank. he was following all the directions on the bottles on these things and his tank was cloudy and fish dying and I drained the thing, took the fish home, used zip drops to remove chlorine, dumped in a bottle of FritzZyme 7 (nitrosomonas and nitrobacter and the shelf life was 6 months in 2004), a handful of guppies, and left for California for a couple of weeks. He fed his fish, called me in a panic twice a day, my roommate fed my fish, and when I came back that tank was cycled and clear. Got him some fancier fish, took care of it until about 2012.

I only use chlorine removers that contain sodium thiosulfate and sodium carbonate. Ammonia from chloramines is a very small amount and remains ammonia. If I add any bacteria it is still Fritz, either FritzZyme 7 or Fritz Turbo, or a used sponge filter. That's how I handle ammonia. I am sure they are very smart at seachem and very good at making money but I am very suspicious of prime.
I use no heterotrophic bacteria because it starves out the stuff that reproduces and lives for years, producing a crash, in my experience. Anything that lasts years in a bottle has to be a heterotroph.
Fritz no longer puts ingredient lists on their bottles (I just checked). Back when I had an online store Marineland lost their BioSpira culture. Instead of ordering Turbo 700 from Fritz, they ordered it from me. I don't know if I still have the paperwork to prove it, but I got a big kick out of it. That would be about December 2003.
 
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TwoTankAmin

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@Alice B

I think you may have your facts confused. Below is the Bio-Spira timeline. My memory is Marineland put Bio-Spira under their Instant Ocean label and it was only used in salt water. It was replaced by what is now Dr. Tims One and Only and Tetra's Safe Start (and then Safe Start Plus). These products are all protected by a patent which is why no other products can contain Nitrospira.

When Dr. Hovanec and Aquaria Inc, applied for and had their patent granted for "Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, use of the same and method for detecting the same" they had tested their product against 4 commercial ones which included Fritz Zyme. I have read that patent application (I am crazy enough to do that sort of thing which is almost as much fun as having root canal).
https://patents.google.com/patent/JP2010057494A/en?inventor=Timothy+Hovanec&oq=Timothy+Hovanec
Fristz Zyme did not prepare nearly as well as the ones being patented above because it lacks Nitrospira and used differen ammonia oxidizers. But it performed best of the 4 tested.


Two formulations containing strains of the present invention were tested along with four commercially available bacterial mixtures. On the first day of the test, 100 ml of the first formulation (Rtr5) is added to each of the four aquariums and the second formulation (100 ml of Rtr7) was added to another 4 water baths.

BIOZYME, CYCLE, FRITZ-ZYME No. 7 and STRESS
For the treatment of ZYME, a commercial bacterial mixture was supplied according to the manufacturer's instructions. In addition, each of these commercially available bacterial mixtures was tested three times at the recommended feed levels (Table 17).
. There were a total of 33 aquariums (ie, (((4 × 3) × 2) + (2 × 3) +3) because there were 4 replicate aquariums for each treatment / dose combination. = 33).
I wonder where they got the Fritz Zyme from for the experiment. Maybe it was from you?

Instant Ocean owned by Aquaria Inc as well as Marineland Plus Tetra all became parts of Spectrum Brands Global Pet Care operation. At that time Dr. H/. departed and started his own business in the Aquaria Inc. facilty in CA. BTW, here is the history of Bio-Spira

April 1990Marineland Labs created
May 1990Conducted research to determine the most effective BIO-Wheel material to maximize nitrifying bacteria populations.
June 1990Marineland introduced the revolutionary BIO-Wheel at APPMA.
1991 - 1992Comparative tests begin to quantify the effectiveness and size of nitrifying bacteria populations. Tests begin to quantify the presence of Nitrosomonas europaea and Nitrobacter winogradskyi in the closed aquarium.
Jan 1993Dr. Hovanec begins Ph.D. program at University of California, Santa Barbara, on the dissertation of "Characterization of the Nitrifying Bacteria in Aquaria and Mono Lake, California, using Molecular Methods".
April 1993Presentation at the Third International Aquarium Congress, Boston, MA comparing Bio-Wheels and undergravel filters.
1994 - 1995Development and testing of molecular probes using DNA sequence data for Nitrosomonas europaea and Nitrobacter winogradskyi.
May 1996Presentation at General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology on findings that suggest Nitrosomonas europaea and Nitrobacter winogradskyi are not the bacteria responsible for nitrification in aquaria.
1996 - 1997Development and testing of molecular probes for the novel nitrite oxidizing bacteria Nitrospira.
August 1996Published paper: Comparative Analysis of Nitrifying Bacteria Associated with Freshwater and Marine Aquaria. The use of molecular techniques that show Nitrosomonas europaea and close relatives, along with Nitrobacter winogradskyi and close relatives, are not the bacteria responsible for nitrification in aquaria.
May 1997Presentation at General Meeting of American Society for Microbiology on research showing that novel ammonia and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria are responsible for nitrification in aquaria.
December 1997Provisional patent for Nitrospira bacteria, its use to eliminate nitrite in water and methods for its detection.
January 1998Published paper: Nitrospira-like Bacteria Associated with Nitrite Oxidation in Freshwater Aquaria. Research that showed novel bacteria from the Phylum Nitrospira are responsible for nitrite oxidation in freshwater aquaria.
February 1998Presentation at Aquaculture '98, International Triennial Meeting of the World Aquaculture Society showing that Nitrosomonas europaea is not the ammonia-oxidizing bacteria in freshwater but members of this genus are present in seawater aquaria, and that Nitrobacter is not present in either system.
May 1998Presentation at General Meeting of American Society for Microbiology on findings that commercially available preparations of nitrifying bacteria, even those with Nitrosomonas europaea and Nitrobacter winogradskyi, do not accelerate nitrification in aquaria.
May 1998Marineland Labs expands Microbial Ecology Laboratory (MEL) dedicated to research on the microbiology of closed aquatic systems using modern molecular methods.
September 1998Paper by Schramm et. al. (Germany) published in AEM demonstrating that Nitrosospira and Nitrospira (and not Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter) are the active nitrifying bacteria in fluidized bed reactors.
December 1998Tim Hovanec awarded the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
December 1998Dr. Hovanec dissertation of "Characterization of the Nitrifying Bacteria in Aquaria and Mono Lake, California, using Molecular Methods" is published.
January 2001Presentation at Aquaculture 2001, International Triennial Meeting of the World Aquaculture Society, on findings that commercial preparations of nitrifying bacteria do not accelerate the establishment of nitrification in aquaria but mixtures containing novel species of Nitrosospira, Nitrosomonas and Nitrospira are effective.
March 2001Granted Patent 6,207,440. Bacterial Nitrite Oxidizer - for the isolated bacterial strain Nitrospira in various compositions and a probe to detect Nitrospira.
May 2001Presentations made at General Meeting of American Society for Microbiology 1) on research identifying the bacteria responsible for ammonia oxidation in freshwater aquaria and 2) research on the putative nitrifying bacteria in seawater aquaria.
July 2001Granted Patent 6,265,206. Method of Using Bacterial Nitrite Oxidizer - a method to alleviate or prevent the accumulation of nitrite using Nitrospira in various mediums including aquaria, waste waters and through bioremediation.
July 2001Granted Patent 6,268,154. Method for Detecting Bacterial Nitrite Oxidizer - detecting and quantifying Nitrospira.
December 2001Published paper: Identification of Bacteria Responsible for Ammonia Oxidation in Freshwater Aquaria. Presents findings showing that novel bacteria from the genus Nitrosospira and Nitrosomonas are responsible for ammonia oxidation in freshwater aquaria.
June 2002BIO-Spira product introduced at APPMA in Chicago.

Next, if you have nirtifying bacteria living in their biofilm in your tanks and filters, you also have heterotrophic bacteria living with them. It is a symbiotic relationship. When the nitrifiers die, they become food for the heterotrophs. Here is a good paper on this.

Kindaichi T, Ito T, Okabe S. Ecophysiological interaction between nitrifying bacteria and heterotrophic bacteria in autotrophic nitrifying biofilms as determined by microautoradiography-fluorescence in situ hybridization. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004 Mar;70(3):1641-50. doi: 10.1128/AEM.70.3.1641-1650.2004. PMID: 15006789; PMCID: PMC368389.

Abstract​

Ecophysiological interactions between the community members (i.e., nitrifiers and heterotrophic bacteria) in a carbon-limited autotrophic nitrifying biofilm fed only NH4+ as an energy source were investigated by using a full-cycle 16S rRNA approach followed by microautoradiography (MAR)-fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Phylogenetic differentiation (identification) of heterotrophic bacteria was performed by 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis, and FISH probes were designed to determine the community structure and the spatial organization (i.e., niche differentiation) in the biofilm. FISH analysis showed that this autotrophic nitrifying biofilm was composed of 50% nitrifying bacteria (ammonia-oxidizing bacteria [AOB] and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria [NOB]) and 50% heterotrophic bacteria, and the distribution was as follows: members of the alpha subclass of the class Proteobacteria (α-Proteobacteria), 23%; γ-Proteobacteria, 13%; green nonsulfur bacteria (GNSB), 9%; Cytophaga-Flavobacterium-Bacteroides (CFB) division, 2%; and unidentified (organisms that could not be hybridized with any probe except EUB338), 3%. These results indicated that a pair of nitrifiers (AOB and NOB) supported a heterotrophic bacterium via production of soluble microbial products (SMP). MAR-FISH revealed that the heterotrophic bacterial community was composed of bacteria that were phylogenetically and metabolically diverse and to some extent metabolically redundant, which ensured the stability of the ecosystem as a biofilm. α- and γ-Proteobacteria dominated the utilization of [14C]acetic acid and 14C-amino acids in this biofilm. Despite their low abundance (ca. 2%) in the biofilm community, members of the CFB cluster accounted for the largest fraction (ca. 64%) of the bacterial community consuming N-acetyl-d-[1-14C]glucosamine (NAG). The GNSB accounted for 9% of the 14C-amino acid-consuming bacteria and 27% of the [14C]NAG-consuming bacteria but did not utilize [14C]acetic acid. Bacteria classified in the unidentified group accounted for 6% of the total heterotrophic bacteria and could utilize all organic substrates, including NAG. This showed that there was an efficient food web (carbon metabolism) in the autotrophic nitrifying biofilm community, which ensured maximum utilization of SMP produced by nitrifiers and prevented buildup of metabolites or waste materials of nitrifiers to significant levels.
from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC368389/
 

kiko

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at the end of the day lots of products aren't what they're made to be
and claims like seachem for ammonia/nitrates and bacteria in a bottle products or stress coat/guard products
I liked how the taricha person got up and tested things herself to make triple sure
and then comes the patent workarounds by using lower/higher quantities (I wonder how this would go in a lawsuit)
and the issue of using prime with medications such as ich-x where it can get all of your fish killed by overdosing formalin
I did like one thing...how he recommends no products like prime but the actual active ingredient in it chlorine removal... "sodium thiosulfate"
and how it's explained in a related water conditioners article that any product that actually lists sodium thiosulfate as it's main ingredient can be "overdosed" even up to 10x the recommended dose
but products like prime should never be used more than 5x it's recommended dosage or risk overdosing your fish
at the of the day...nothing beats the old proven methods
salt and garlic xD
 

Alice B

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I routinely overdose sodium thiosulfate in ponds because precise volume and precise chlorine level for whatever city or rural area I am in is very hard to determine, overdosing doesn't kill fish, underdosing does.

Fritz changed their wholesale set up some time around 2012? I'd have to dig thru bookkeeping, and I just pick up enough for whatever tanks I may be starting, and for pond work done when temp is too high now. I no longer ship anything. I don't know anything about heterotrophs surviving in tanks, I do know bottled ones seem to cause a crash in 2 to 3 weeks, they multiply like crazy in high ammonia levels, ammonia vanishes and they seem to die. This is my experience and perception. I think what I sold Marineland was the freshwater turbo, but the laptop that has that year of quickbooks has decided not to start again and I don't know that I will be able to check anything prior to 2014 again. I do know that was December 2003 because I was living in New Mexico and running the business remotely.
 

OnlyGenusCaps

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You will have to decide for yourself whether the article as accurate or not.
So, Dave gets a bit hyberbolic at times. I have no doubt he believes what is in the article. And without someone doing more exhaustive research than he has, and some tests, I would buy into his claims. As you have pointed out Seachem offers little to grab onto to refute it. Fortunately, on another forum, where many of the science minded have migrated, there was recently just such an article published that suggests that Prime may well do what it proposes, and suggests the chemicals it contains, as well as how they work and the context in which their utility first became known . It included an historical perspective, and reviews of the relevant patents (I mention this because of your stated interest in patents). I feel as though I am teetering on the edge of violating forum policy here as it is, so I will leave you with this - I have read a better researched article that makes me think this is one of the areas where Dave has overplayed his hand, despite my generally liking his website. I therefore do not think it is as cut and dry as it is presented there.
 

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The big problem with all claims from the manufactures and what the test kits show us may be two very different things. In everything above everyone is talking about free ammonia. A molecule of ammonia floating int the water. But in real life free ammonia doesn't last last long.

ammonia is very reactive and will react with other things in the water creating compounds like ammonia carbonate, Ammonia sulfate. The assumption by many people is that these compounds are just as dangerous as as free ammonia. But the truth is that some are harmless and some are harmful but less harmful as free ammonia.

The other issue is with the test kits many assume that if the kit detects ammonia then there is free ammonia. Howeve these test kits may actually be able to detect ammonia carbonate and ammonia sulfate.While I have not looked into ammonia test kits specifically. I have found phosphate test kits cannot tell the difference between soluble phosphate such as KH2PO4 and insoluble phosphate such as iron Phosphate. Plants prefer soluble nutrients so they can use KH2PO4 but they cannot use iron Phosphate. So a test can show phosphate levels are fine and yet the plants might be showing phosphate deficiency and or a iron deficiency.

The other issue to keep in mind is how free ammonia and free chlorine harm fish. Free ammonia and chlorine are very reactive and will react with tissue in the animal causing gill damage, blood damage and orther organ damage.

So if you can react a free radical like ammonia or chlorine with some other atom you can greatly reduce the toxicity of the ammonia and Chlorine by simply preventing them from reacting with fish tissue the fish would be fine. But the test kits might not show any difference in the water.

So any test using a chemistry test kit needs to be independently verified with test that doesn't use theist kit. So the linked article that showed no effect of water conditioner needs to be verified by possibly with live fish.
So the test AwoTankAmin linked to is incomplete and as a result more testing is needed to verify the conclusions.
 
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