Re: Living Water Vital: panacea or snake oil?

I got a copy of FAMA and read the article, "Make your Aquarium Come Alive",
by Owen Jeffries, and I have to agree with the comments by James Purchase.

Let me go a bit further.  Mr. Jeffries reports that when he used the Living
Water Vital product in his 20 gallon tank that had "less than ideal water
parameters", although he doesn't say what they were.  He also mentioned
some "unsightly algae on the glass and filters".  He said that the product
caused a change in the fishes' behavior and an increase in plant growth,
and that the algae went away.  He said that the phosphate level dropped
from 0.1 ppm before the additions to  0 ppm.  Nitrates, which were at 0,
stayed that way.  He said that the product, when added to a friend's 100
gallon tank made green water go away and increased the plant's rate of
growth.  Also, Phosphate dropped from 0.3 ppm to 0.1 ppm by the time the
tank cleared up, and then to 0ppm.

To summarize, in both tanks, the algae went away, the plants started
growing faster, and the phosphate levels dropped.  That is about it.  I
don't know what to think about the reported change in the fishs' behavior,
since nothing specific was said about the behavior before or after the

The photographs of the friend's tank show green water, but not very thick
green water.  You can still see things in the back of the tank.  Owen
describes the tank as a real mess, but that is not what I would call a real
green water takeover.  It seems to me to be a rather light load of algae,
and I think it is significant that it didn't get really thick.  The algae
may be starved for some nutrient, or more likely, there was some kind of
balance between growth of the algae and removal (possibly by filter feeding
organisms).  I noticed that the "after" picture of the friend's tank showed
an entirely different set of plants than the "before" picture, but perhaps
they were of two different portions of the tank.  It would have been more
convincing, however, if both photos were taken at the same place.

Most of my plant tanks have no fish, and I use snails and Daphnia to keep
soft, attached algae and green water algae under control.  I have noticed
on a number of occasions that the algae can sometimes take over and be
persistant even with snails and Daphnia present.  Several times, I have
seen that adding Hoagland's solution, which contains all the macronutrients
for plants---N, P, K, Ca, Mg amd S) causes the snails and Daphnia to
suddenly start thriving and clear up the algae.  My hypothesis is that the
algae was too low in nutrient value for the snails and Daphnia to thrive on
it, and that after the mutrient addition, it became a much better food.
Defensive chemicals in the algae may also play a role in inhibiting the
growth of the snails and Daphnia.  It could be that under low nutrient
conditions, the algal cells build up higher levels of these defensive

Anyway, I have seen it happen often enough that I believe in it.  Feed the
algae, and it will often go away.  A long time ago I had a 5 gallon tank
with only two male guppies and a small plant of Eigeria densa (Anacharis)
growing in a small dish of soil.  The water quickly got green---so thick
that you couldn't see the fish if they were two inches away from the side.
The Elodea struggled up to the surface where it got plenty of light, but it
stopped growing.  Both the plant and the algae were a yellow green,
indicating nitrogen deficiency.  I tried a series of small, 50 ml additions
of Hoaglands roughly two weeks apart, and, after each one, the water
changed from yellow green to bright green and the plant also got greener
and grew some more. Quite quickly, however, the plant and the algae both
turned yellow-green again and the plant stopped growing.  Finally, after
about the fourth addition, the algae cleared up. The water became
completely clear.  Another 50ml addition of Hoaglands only caused a growth
spurt in the plant, but no visible algae growth.

So what can we conclude about the product that Owen Jeffries tested?  Not
much.  If it did anything at all, it might have supplied some mineral
nutrients that fed the algae, making it more nurtitious for microscopic
algae feeders.  Sometimes green water algae just goes away for reasons
unknown when the plants get more crowded.  Perhaps the product provided
some nutrients that encouraged the growth of the plants.  Perhaps the
phosphates in the two tanks dropped because the product provided some other
element needed by the plants, stimulating their growth and uptake of
phosphate.  If plants are, for example, growth-limited by nitrogen
deficiency, their rate of uptake of other elements that are not limiting
will be decreased.

In the rest of the article, Owen Jeffries endorses claims about the product
that he never observed, such as the claim that it cures ich; synchronizes
and enhances cycles; cures imbalance of cycles (whatever that is); cycles
other unnamed compounds; prevents hair algae, which he says is due to an
"imbalance" problem; impacts on plant cells, microflora and mocrofauna, and
facilitates their abilities.  The language gets awfully pseudoscientific,
here, with references to enzymes in the product that "kick start" various
functions, and whose "catalytic action allows 'good' microbes and plant
cells to outcompete 'bad' ones".

My conclusion is that I wouldn't spend my hard-earned money on the product
until it is tested thoroughly to see if it lives up to any of its claims.

Paul Krombholz                  Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, MS  39174
In 70 degree Jackson, Mississippi.