RE: miracle cure or snake oil

Hi everyone,

I hope you are all enjoying the holidays.

In a recent message to the list, Scott Corbeil posed the following question:

I read an article in the January 1997 issue of Freshwater and Marine =
Aquarium Magazine (FAMA) titled "Make your Aquarium Come Alive".  The =
article describes a product manufactured by AquaMate and Assoc. (Marc =
Weiss), called "Living Water Vital".  The article states that this liquid =
formulation  enhances and sychronizes the "cycles" that occur in nature.  =
The article leaves the impression that this is the end all cure for what =
ailes the planted tank.  Owen Jeffries, the author, claims elimination of =
algae, enhanced plant growth, and reduced need for fertilizers.  
Does anyone have any experience with this product, who might comment on =
it's authenticity and performance.  

I read the same column, and couldn't help but see the ad on the opposing page featuring Owen Jefferies acting as a spokesperson for the product in a paid advertisement. Given the fact that neither the advert nor the article gave any REAL information as to what the product contains nor what it actually DOES, I was rather disturbed. So, disturbed in fact that I sent e-mail to both Don Dewey, the Publisher of FAMA and to Mr. Jefferies, the author of the article.

I haven't heard back from Mr. Dewey, but Mr. Jefferies did get back to me. Apparently, Marc Weiss is afraid of having their product duplicated by others so they will not release any details about it, claiming a proprietary interest. Fair enough, perhaps, if they spent millions of dollars in research and this product is the result of that research. 

There are so many products claiming to everything but Simonize your aquarium that I have become very leery of testimonials of this type. Most are just empty hype designed to part gullible consumers of their money. When a respected columnist for a solid magazine becomes party to this hype, it curdles my bile.

As I wrote to Mr. Jefferies, I don't know if this product works (perhaps it DOES do what it claims), but I would expect that he, as an independent columnist would at least make some attempt at being objective in his reporting. If indeed the product is capable of working magic, I would still like to know what the exact conditions were in his aquarium before, during and after he dosed it with "Living Water Vital". That would have been well within Mr. Jefferies ability as he does have test kits available to him (I asked!). It would also help both Mr. Jefferies and his readers begin to figure out what the product was doing in the tank. Experimentation without control is worthless, and the reporting of same is doing a disservice to the hobby. 

Even aquarists of long standing and those who have scientific backgrounds are at a loss to fully explain and understand exactly what is going on in our tanks. The newbie, when confronted with an off-kilter aquarium can easily do serious damage to his/her pets with products claiming the moon but delivering less than nothing. The danger is real and I would have liked to think that magazines such as FAMA and journalists such as Mr. Jefferies would insist on a slightly higher standard than was displayed in the article. Mr. Jefferies simply parroted what Marc Weiss told him about the product when he tried to explain why it was doing it's thing in his tank.

Again, I must say that while the product SOUNDS interesting, I would never try it on a valued show tank. I might try it out on an experimental basis on a separate tank, but only one which I could carefully monitor and control. If I knew what it contains and EXACTLY what it was doing, I could perhaps make an educated decision as to it's real worth.

And I should also add that I continue to enjoy Mr. Jefferies columns and articles in FAMA on freshwater planted tanks. I was just a little disappointed in this one. 

James Purchase
In fog-bound Toronto... hey Vancouver, you have our weather and we have yours! How does it feel?
jpp at inforamp_net