View Full Version : MelaFix (Warning:Pictures)

01/13/2000, 11:13 PM
I first used MelaFix following an outbreak of what appeared to be a bacterial infection in a 90-gallon aquarium containing assorted stony corals. The symptoms were a brown, jelly-like mucous covering the tissue of the corals and an associated lack of polyp extension. Two of the most heavily affected corals were two particular specimens of Turbinaria sp. One larger, convoluted Turbinaria was 90% covered with the slime. During the first 3 days of treatment the infection appeared to spread rapidly. After four days of treatment with MelaFix at recommended dosage there were no signs of improvement. Following the fifth day, the coral shed a mucous coat and revealed massive tissue necrosis over 40% of the coral. I performed a 25% water change on the tank and began treatment with MelaFix again. Two days into this second treatment the spread of the infection appeared to be arrested and the “jelly” had been shed completely. Five days into the second treatment the coral exhibited the first extension of polyps since the infection first appeared. At this point approximately 30% of the tissue was completely absent, but there was a distinct boundary between the skeletal areas and the perfectly healthy tissue. There was no evidence of any necrotic or even slightly unhealthy tissue. Twenty days after the initial infection, the coral exhibited full polyp extension. MelaFix was used once more at the 25-30 day period and after 40 days the coral had regenerated fresh tissue to cover all but perhaps 10% of the area that been destroyed. Polyp extension has been phenomenally robust.
The other specimen of Turbinaria recovered even more rapidly, looking completely normal only 20 days after the initial infection.
Two Trachyphyllia sp. and one Physogyra succumbed to the rapidly spreading disease within 48 hours of its first appearance (about the time of the first MelaFix dose.)
In conclusion, my extensive experience with maintaining stony coral aquaria in less-than-ideal retail environments led me to believe the affected corals had virtually zero chance of recovering from this disease. I can confirm there was a sudden halt to the rapid progress of the infection after the first dosing of MelaFix. I have never seen a disease arrested like this without the use of potentially toxic doses of antibiotics, Iodine, or other unnatural remedies. The speed of the healing and regeneration was nothing short of remarkable.
After this apparent success with MelaFix I decided to use it in a recovery and grow-out tank for propagated cuttings of Sinularia sp. While I have no concrete results regarding reduction of loss, the cuttings in the tank treated with MelaFix appear to heal and attach much quicker than those in the control tank.
My results have led me to plan to use MelaFix as a preventive medication in both my propagated coral grow-out systems and in quarantine systems for infection-prone corals such as Euphyllia sp which have poor tolerance of shipping stress.


[This message has been edited by Kirbster (edited 01-14-2000).]

01/13/2000, 11:19 PM
The above shows the fully necrotic area with remaining symptoms of infection. Below is the same area with the infection seemingly gone.


01/13/2000, 11:20 PM
Regeneration, which happened at a phenomenal pace:


01/13/2000, 11:22 PM
This is the 40 day picture.


01/13/2000, 11:27 PM
BTW, I wasn't paid for this testing and I'm not affiliated with API. Do your own research.

The things that stunned me about this was the sudden arrest of the infection and the unbelievable regeneration. Turbinaria are not usually speedsters at regrowing tissue.

KA :cool:

Larry M
01/13/2000, 11:30 PM
Fascinating stuff, Kirby. Thanks for taking time to post it.

Larry M

See my tanks at Northern Reef (http://www.homestead.com/larry_reef/index.html)

01/14/2000, 03:26 AM
Excellent job kirbster!...It's the care and dedication of people like you, that keep me coming back to this board!...Keep up the good work...Jim

01/14/2000, 08:37 AM
Great to see this kind of info passed around. Although there is nothing scientific about it this gives us all an alternative treatment for problem infections. Thanks. Now just have to find a source for melafix.

01/14/2000, 08:47 AM

Here is a source for MelaFix:


01/14/2000, 03:53 PM
Thanks, Kirby. That is indeed impressive. Here's a thought...Did you happen to see Julian Sprung's column in this month's FAMA? In it he talked briefly about the recent problems with elegance corals, and how he thinks they are caused by a bacterial infection, Vibrio I think he said. He recommended treating newly imported elegance corals with antibiotics before introducing them to the reef tank. I was intrigued by this suggestion but with all due respect to Mr. Sprung I suspect that many aquarists might be reluctant to do that. BUT, now you've got me wondering if MelaFix could help with the dying elegance syndrome? It does seem to be "reef-safe" based on your experience (did you treat your turbinaria in your reef tank or in a quarantine tank?), so maybe someone with a dying elegance might be willing to try this treatment and see if it helps!

01/14/2000, 10:25 PM


Yes, I put it directly into my reefs. No problem at all. It is an organic plant extract and make sthe skimmer blow it's lid, but otherwise it seems to entice feeding reactions in corals.

Yes, I think it would be good to use in a coral quarantine tank. Especially for Euphyllias that sustain shipping damage so easily.

I don't think treating Elegance with antibiotics or other antibacterial agents is a bad idea...

But, I have to agree with Rob Toonen that screaming "Vibrio" every time something unknown comes up is getting too common. If there was a vibrio outbreak, the Elegance in my tanks that have imports dumped in them regularly should be dead by now. I suspect bacteria present in dying Elegance (or Goniopora, or whatever) are often just opportunistic bacteria taking advantage of a severely weakened organism.

Same thing happened with HLLE, and before that hole-in-the-head in FW Cichlids. Everyone blamed Hexamita because it was present in the lesions. SO we started flinging around all these volatile protocides to eradicate the Hexamita. It took a while for people to realize that the disease was fully reversible and preventable with attention to diet, and possibly to water quality. The Hexamita were, IMO, just being opportunistic.

All boils down to: Proceed with caution and an open mind.

KA :cool:

01/14/2000, 11:02 PM
Sorry, I didn't mean to "scream Vibrio" and I didn't have the magazine with me at work when I wrote my last post. In checking it now, I see that Mr. Sprung did not actually say it was Vibrio, he merely stated that the elegance corals seem to undergo rapid disintegration of tissue, and that RTN in other corals has been shown to be accompanied by various strains of Vibrio. What he did say more firmly was that the condition in Catalaphyllia has been halted by treatment with nitrofurazone in experiments conducted at the Shedd Aquarium, and that he recommends treating newly imported elegance corals with 25 mg/gal nitrofurazone for a few days in a well-aerated hospital tank while they are still healthy. I'd still be curious to see if Melafix worked in this same situation; I used nitrofurazone to treat a sick fish recently and it messed up my biofilter, whereas the Melafix did not. Good to know it didn't hurt your reef tank,either.

Terry B
01/14/2000, 11:33 PM
Thanks for the great thread and the pictures. I gotta say it could be easy to scream Vibrio because this is one pathogen that probably is always present in our (maybe not in tanks that have not contained animals before) aquariums. Luckily, Vibrio species are usually facultative so they don't cause a problem unless the conditions are bad or the animal is weakened or wounded.
Personally, I like the Melafix idea. I assume that Michael Yoshpa has seen the pictures.
Terry B

01/14/2000, 11:38 PM

I like Nitrofurazone as antibiotics go, but you point out the major problem: it is effective on biofilters too.

Sprung and Delbeek mention Streptomycin in TRA2 when discussing treating infections in soft corals. I don't know what the significance of that is.

I know Julian didn't actually implicate Vibrio, and he may be accurate in assuming that an infection is causing these problems. But in 99 out of a hundred times the infection is caused by some stressor affecting the coral. Saving the corals is good, no doubt. But I dont think we should lose sight of the search for the actual problem.

So I agree that quarantine treatments for Elegance are a good idea, but I'm afraid it might not be solving a root poroblem.

As far as MelaFix goes, I like the idea of using it as a Q tank med. Superior to Nitrofurazone? Maybe not in effectiveness...certainly superior in terms of side effects to the system.

KA :cool:

01/14/2000, 11:56 PM

I'd imagine he has. I sent all my stuff to Jason and Jason was working closely with Michael, so...

About the Vibrio...By the time a coral is showing signs of severe stress or even necrosis, it would seem to me it is far too late to isolate the responsible pathogen. A dying hunk of flesh is a pathogen party and most of them probably showed up, or at least flexed their muscles, after the party started.

KA :cool:

Terry B
01/15/2000, 12:20 AM
No doubt, identifying a specific bacteria as the offending pathogen is tough to say the least. There are always going to be opportunistic bacteria that are going to quickly join the party once the offending bacteria has paved the way.
Terry B

01/15/2000, 12:50 AM
I will never, never, NEVER again dismiss anything without trying it. Some time ago, a marine biologist named Romeo Liwag swore by a gel containing tea tree (Melaleuca) and garlic (Allium) extracts in preempting infections is quarantined fish and inverts. At the time, the Australian government was giving tea-tree products a hefty push throughout trade fairs in the Philippines (and Southeast Asia). There was a lot of tea-tree this or that, so I just dismissed Romy's claims, and speculated (uncharitably :( )that he was importing the stuff out of Australia and looking for a customer.

Thanks for the effort you put into trying and sharing, Kirb.

01/17/2000, 08:17 AM
Three questions:

First of all, what is in MelaFix?

Second: Given that you know what is in it, how do you know what exactly you are treating?

Third: Given that you know 1 and 2, do you know that agent 1 is effective against 2?

The remarks regarding Julian and his recent broken-record-like mutterings of Vibrio are irresponsible, to say the least. He's got Vibrio responsible for the completely unexplained "RTN" (not even sure its necrosis without histological exam, so profoundly ignorant are we of this condition), bleaching (excepting an unusual case w/ V. shiloi in O. patagonica), and now an unnamed and completely unstudied loss of Catalaphyllia (with apparently diverse ranges, morphs, and exposures and no incidence of it in the wild). Not to mention the treatment and use of antibiotics without any discretion at all against unknown agents, unknown etiologies and possibly exposing normally healthy and extremely abundant microbial colonization of coral mucus. Bacteria on coral surfaces are not only normal (including mostly Vibrios, Aeromonas, etc.), but are important in the normal respiration and metabolism of the coral, are important for digestion and possibly even for provision of certain amino acids to the coral through direct absorption.

Furthermore, coral diseases, even those which actually are diseases, are typically caused by microbial consortiums, including algae, fungii, ciliates, flagellates, blue-greens, bacteria, etc., and not by single agents or even bacteria alone. Under stressful conditions, normal fauna and flora may become opportunistic pathogens or just affect coral metabolism through changes in abundance, type, or even by changing the compostion of mucusal secretory cells, but the trick is not stressing the coral and not trying to eliminate microbial flora - especially when there is no reason whatsoever to suspect that they are the cause to begin with...

While trying to save an ailing coral is noble and worthwhile, it is not a good idea to start throwing antibiotics around. Tertacycline has been found effective against sedimentation stress, and various microbial band problems (BBD, RBD) can be treated judiciously with local application of antibiotic in a separate quarantine tank with susbsequent inactivation of antibiotic with bleach before disposal.

Outside that, I would suggest quarantine and non-antibiotic experimental therapy at the aquarists own risk. Kirbster's statements and anecdotal observations were well done and subsequent statements quite responsible. I would like to know what is in this product. Following that, knowing what and how the active ingredient works and on what would be a reasonable idea. If no activity is known or shown, the placebo effect becomes an issue and we can chalk MelaFix up to the equivalent of homeopathy.

Eric Borneman

01/17/2000, 08:26 AM

Welcome to Reef Central. I hope you stick around and contribute. It's good to have the experience of people like you and Ron Shimek around to help us all to learn as much as possible.


angelfire.com/ak3/korysreef.htm (http://www.angelfire.com/ak3/korysreef/)

01/17/2000, 08:38 PM

What a pleasant surprise! Glad you stopped in.

MelaFix's active ingredient is an extract from Melaleuca, an Australian tea tree. And before you start yelling, I know that didn't answer your question! :) I can certainly track down some info if you're interested since I have friends at API. I recommended they talk to you back in '98 when they first started playing with this stuff, but apparently they never did.

You said the trick is to avoid stressing the animal. Agreed, of course. But what about those of us slicing and dicing soft corals et al in propagation efforts? We are certainly stressing the animals and inviting problems with microbial infections. Do you think non-antibiotic prophylactic "tonics" are something to think about in that case?

KA :cool:

01/17/2000, 10:41 PM
Melaleuca formulations have been sold in the last ten years in a pyramid marketing scheme. You can get melaleuca laundry detergent,toothpaste, vitamines, etc.It's similar to Shaklee and Basic H products of previous years. The melaleuca tree is considered a noxious weed in Florida because the oil in the trees is so flammable it's a danger if a grove of trees catches fire. But if it works, it works. Page 67 of the Pet Warehouse has it for sale for$3.97 for 8 oz.[I have no financial interest in Pet Warehouse or melaleuca products]

01/17/2000, 11:42 PM
Precisely, Agu.
It was a freak show, as I remember. That's why I and a lot of others gave tea tree oil and peripheral products (--man, were there ever some wild ones!) no respect. The Australian counterpart to our Chamber of Commerce would release no information on the active components of tea tree oil, just dressed-up but vague generalizations. Either they had no clue then or they regarded it a trade secret. I'm looking now to see if things have changed in the eight or so years.

Hi Eric.
At this point, obviously homeopathy is all anyone can afford to grant it status. While reductionist analysis seeks to validate, unmonitored usage and "testing" will take place anyway. The fuzzy appraisal kirbster's provided may not be empirical, but I'm sure you consider it has value. Others are bound to arrive.

P.S. Perhaps I misunderstood, but I'm not sure mentioning material from Sprung is irresponsible, no matter how questionable the material. The citation seemed guarded enough. Now if you meant "the remarks MADE BY Julian were irresponsible", you'll find little dissension in the house :)

01/18/2000, 08:36 AM
Horge, you calling me Fuzzy? :)

Regarding homepathy: I'm not a big fan of it. I preach as much as anyone else does about prevention rather than treatment. I don't get diseases in my established reef tanks...never have. Not on fish and not on corals. I attribute that to paying attention to creating ideal environments and thus eliminating stress. Quarantine also helps.

But I also do a lot of work in which I subject corals to massive amounts of stress. Just shipping a Euphyllia or Catalaphyllia in a bag is an unnatural and quite harmful and stressful activity for them. Euphyllias often are imported with tissue damage which usually leads to an infection. I don't know what bacteria/virus/protozoan/parasite causes these problems, nor do I have the facilities to make accurate ID's. But I do know it isn't hard to get an "infection" that wipes out a system full of Euphyllia. I also know that when I make 50 or 60 cuttings of Sinularia (or worse yet Lithophyton or the other tree corals) that they often heal quickly and easily, but sometimes one will "go bad" and this often results in all of them following suit within 48 hours.

If I can find a homeopathic remedy that prevents or reduces the above, I'm going to jump all over it. I tried Sano with fish, realized quickly it was a joke, and didn't give it a second thought. My losses from shipping and propagation mishaps are minimal (and in my mind acceptable), but if there is a cheap way to reduce 2.5% to 1.0%, I'll try it, witchcraft or not.

So far with MelaFix, I have seen no ill effects and several surprising recoveries. Would "several" hold up to scrutiny? Of course not. I'd be the first to scream, "Where's the quantifiable data?!?!"

I use MelaFix in systems receiving newly imported corals and in my "healing" systems for cuttings. Both of these are similar to a reef tank. They have deep sand beds, fish, get fed heavily, etc. I do everything the same as I do in a display reef except that all the animals are routinely stressed...intentionally. That is why I said I put MelaFix directly into my reefs. Most people think my coral quarantine is a display reef when they see it.

The reason I intially didn't want to publicly post my MelaFix stuff is that I don't want to be lumped in with the homeopathy crowd. I have been vocal against Sano and extremely voacl against the slick marketing of Leng Sy's ecosystem method. That's why I told Jason I didn't want to be involved with testing MelaFix unless its contents were going to be available for public assesment...which they are. I am fully aware, however, that it is still filed under "homepathy", and in my opinion it still should be.

I have a reputation for being fairly rational about the marine hobby, I don't want people to think I've gone off the deep end. :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

KA :cool:

01/18/2000, 10:08 PM
Kirbster, If my post came across as an attack on your character or ethics I apologise. The purpose of the post was to give some history of the product. Thank you for using your corals as guinea pigs and post an update if you continue to test the product.

01/18/2000, 10:30 PM
How long were these animals in the aquarium? These symptoms would be synonimous with shipping stress. I *do* use SANO btw ;)

Just wondering.


01/19/2000, 01:40 AM
Fuzzy? Yes kirbster, but take it as it was meant: a compliment. (start the violin music)

I am fully appreciative of empirical data. But reductive logic and its pinnings can be taken only so far when constrained by the limits of BB post space, and in the context of a complex dynamic like a reef microcosm:

I would imagine that if hard "unfuzzy" data were the only currency of this medium, we'd be whipping out citations and referenes all day before ever getting a point across. Much worse if the data itself were to be traded verbatim. Maybe the reason this medium works is that we start off assuming everyone is competent at reefkeeping; has a solid grasp of basic biology and chemistry and then some; has an ample resource pool of information to draw on; is not out to disparage or to show off; and is honest.

If anyone had tried to deliver the "fuzzy" data in your pictures by using "unfuzzy" empirical verbiage alone, I imagine the result would have been lengthy at best, and at worst impenetrable.

I apologize if you feel slighted, kirb, (choke!) but I guess I overused your fine post to sneak in a point for the positive side to "fuzzy".

Would anemone fritters ease the hurt? :)

BTW: regarding the dressed up vagueness regarding Melaleuca alt...things HAVEN'T changed in the decade since:

(From an Australian defender of Mela-oil)
".....The group of researchers that has done the most comprehensive job to date is the team of Microbiologist at the Department of Microbiology, University of Western Australia. Led by Professor Thomas V. Riley, his team of people including Miss Christine Carson and Miss Katherine Hammer has managed to not only do excellent research, but to have the research accepted and published in some higly respected international publications.

In 1993, they proved that Tea Tree Oil was effective in killing the Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, a bacteria that has become resistant to any other treatment (MRSA).

A major part of the groups initial work was in developing the best possible method to measure the Anti-microbial efficacy of Tea Tree Oil. The standard methods to determine the anti-microbial efficacy of synthetic products were not useful when measuring the efficacy of Tea Tree Oil, as they were designed to test water soluble products. Tea Tree Oil is an oil, and therefor it was necessary to use an emulsifier together with the oil to determine the efficacy. This meant that the result of the test could have been influenced by the emulsifier and not showed the true power of the Oil.

Now sponsored by the Australian government funded research organisation RIRDC for more than 3 years, the team has produced a number of interested findings. Including the proof that Tea Tree Oil kills Malazzesia Furfur, a yeast responsible for certain types of dandruff, dermatitis and vaginal infections.

Another interesting finding was that Tea Tree Oil actually does not kill the healthy bacteria on the skin but only the bacteria that are pathogenic, if Tea Tree Oil is used daily in the right concentration.

As this team now possesses the most advanced scientific understanding of how Tea Tree Oil actually works, Australian Bodycare has increased the co-operation and financial support of the research group."

Suitably vague, everyone?

[This message has been edited by horge (edited 01-19-2000).]