Do Aloe vera and Tea tree oil really cure fish ailments?

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Are these traditional herbal medicines useful in fish health? William Wildgoose explains.

Both of these herbal extracts have been used as traditional medicines in humans for many years but it is only recently that they have been studied scientifically to investigate their medical properties.

Tea tree oil for example, is a complex mixture of over 90 different compounds, of which a few are known to have antifungal and antibacterial properties.

Unfortunately, although these are natural products, they are toxic if swallowed and irritant to the skin at certain concentrations.

There has been very little published research about their use in fish, which can be harmed by small amounts of any toxic substance in their environment. There have been some promising results from studies on the use of herbal medicines in fish, but much more has to be done.

All medicines in the UK are strictly controlled by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. The scientific proof that is required for any medicine involves extensive testing on many species, with various diseases and under different conditions to ensure that medicines are safe, of good quality and efficacious. In other words, a medicine shouldn’t kill the patient and it should treat the disease it claims to be effective against.

Although there is often a strong temptation to make up your own remedies based on other hobbyists’ experience with basic ingredients, manufacturers offer the safest option for using these medicines.

This item was first published in the November 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping. It may not be reproduced without written permission.