A discussion on Immunity

Paul B

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I have been thinking about this for seven or eight years and finally, through scientific research and my experimentation I think I have figured out something that may change the way we run aquariums. For many years I have been feeding live blackworms, live amphipods and live new born brine shrimp to my tank and I always assumed the excellent health of my fish was a result of that. My fish seem immune from just about everything including bacterial infections and parasites. Although live food seems to be the reason for their immunity, I think I found out the exact mechanism for the immunity. It's not so much that the food is live, but that the bacteria inside the guts of the food is also live. Many of our fish are quarantined for 72 days, then put in a sterile tank and fed things like freeze dried worms, pellets, flakes and frozen food. Almost all of that food is sterile although frozen food "may" have some living bacteria, albeit weak. Fish in the sea eat nothing but live food along with it's associated gut and skin bacteria. New reasearch indicates that a fishes immune system, while vastly different from ours still depends on the fish meeting an infectious agent to impart immunity to the animal. Our immune system is mainly concentrated in our bone marrow but fish have no bone marrow and instead produce antibodies in their kidney and spleen. The bacteria on the food the fish eat filters through the kidney which helps the immune system recognize a threat. The immune response of fish is to produce slime which completely covers the fish and the slime contains "activated macrophages"
Following are just "partial" quotes of this informative article that I have found which makes good reading especially to the many aquarists that don't believe fish can become immune from disease and parasites. I quoted some parts of the article that I thought were more suited to this post but it is incomplete and can be read in full if you Google the link starting with (ISRN ImmunologyVolume 2012 Maria Angeles
Ref:
Copyright ? 2012 Mar?a ?ngeles Esteban. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
(ISRN ImmunologyVolume 2012 (2012), Article ID 853470, 29 pageshttp://dx.doi.org/10.5402/2012/853470
Review Article
An Overview of the Immunological Defenses in Fish Skin
Mar?a ?ngeles Esteban)
Quote: Immunity associated with the parasites depends on the inhabiting discrete sites in the host. Especially important for this paper are the ectoparasites, those habiting in or on the skin. Until recently there had been little direct evidence of innate immune mechanisms against parasites associated with mucosal epithelium [285]. The active immunological role of skin against parasitic infection has been shown recently [286?288], and now mucosal immunity against them start to be elucidated.
Non-parasitic fishes usually die following infection, but animals surviving sublethal parasite exposure become resistant to subsequent challenge. This resistance correlates with the presence of humoral antibodies in the sera and cutaneous mucus of immune fishes.
According to these authors "probiotic for aquaculture is a live, dead or component of a microbial cell that, when administered via the feed or to the rearing water, benefits the host by improving either disease resistance, health status, growth performance, feed utilisation, stress response or general vigour, which is achieved at least in part via improving the hosts or the environmental microbial balance."
The first demonstration that probiotics can protect fishes against surface infections was against Aeromonas bestiarum and Ichthyophthirius multifiliis in rainbow trout [330]. The research on this topic is considered of high priority at present because enriched diets could be used as preventive or curative therapies for farmed fishes. End Quote
?
Another interesting fact found in a recent issue of Scientific American By Ferris Jabr | September 12, 2012 |
States that zebra fish whose guts were rich in bacteria absorbed more fats from their food as compared to fish in a germ free envirnment which in turn increased the number of energy-rich fat bubbles stored within the fish's intestinal cells for later use.
I also discovered while researching is that fish fed a vaired diet actualy had less bacterial diversity in their gut than fish fed only one or two different types of food. I have always said that fish do not need a vaired diet, they need what they were designed to eat and nothing more. My fish are normally fed only three types of food. Live worms, frozen clams and frozen mysis. The smaller fish are only given live new born brine shrimp. I sometimes increase the diversity of their diet as an experiment but when that is over, they go back to their normal diet.
Coincidently in this months "Popular Science" (August 2015) there is an article about this very topic. The author states that the most germ free envirnment today is on the International Space Station. Everything is sterilized including the air. All the surfaces are coated with bacteria limiting coatings, even the water is treated with iodine and biocidal nano silver so the only bacteria prsent are the ones coming from the astronauts themselves. They can't open a window or send out for Pizza so there is no fresh influx of microbes to balance the ecosystem. Sounds like quarantining doesn't it? He also states that a loss of gut bacteria correlates with many diseases and could impede longer space travel. If we lose our gut bacteria, our immune system goes dormant.
In the real world bacteria, viruses and parasites evolved right along with other organisms that help keep each organism in check. They have their enemies and friends. When we mess with the system by using antibiotics or extended periods of quarantine, or remove living bacteria from their food, we are dooming the fish to a life where they are on the verge of getting a fatal disease.
This is also the reason so many diseases are contracted in hospitals, a place where great pains are taken to keep the place clean. They are clean, so the only bacteria present are from sick people with no other bacteria or viruses to counteract them. It is now thought that people using those hand sanitizers from very young are at a higher risk of becomming an allergic toddler.
Human babies born normally pick up Lactobacillus in the birth canal which helps them digest milk and lowers the gut's pH to the normal range. but babies born by C-section miss out and could be born with Staphlococcus and sometimes antibiotic resistant bacteria. (Rinku Patel Popular Science August 2015)
So after researching all of this I have come to the conclusion that quarantining fish for an extended amount of time is actually very bad for our fishes health. In my opinion, if we want to quarantine I would do it using drugs such as copper in the theory that doing so will kill any parasites present in about 10 days while keeping the immunity the fish intact. Then I would feed at least some live food every day not just for the vitamins that come from live food, but for the bacteria. I am not sure how long a fishes immunity lasts but in the sea, it was immune, or almost immune for it's entire life. When a fish is collected, stored, starved and shipped it is in a very weakened state and their immune system is hardly functioning so even though the immune response to parasites, viruses and bacteria is there. It isn't strong enough to protect the fish, but if we can get it out of stress, fed live bacteria laden food and in a stable envirnment as soon as possable, it will recover and sustain some of their immunity.
How many times do we read that a tank full of quarantined fish suddenly crashes and all the fish are lost to a parasite? It happens daily and all you have to do is go on any fish forum and search for it. Fish quarantined for extended amounts of time and fed sterile foods "have no immune system what so ever". I didn't make this up as you can read the articles I referenced or just Google "Fish Immunity" where you will find a plethora of new research which suggests that keeping fish sterile is the complete wrong thing to do. I rarely put references in my posts because I normally do my own research. But I realize I am not a fish doctor, researcher or marine biologist. What I am is an aquarist with immune fish. How do I know they are immune? I know because some of them have been in my tank for over 20 years, I add fish from many stores and even the sea. I can add fish with obvious parasites and in no case will anything else become infected. Many times during the year I add mud from the sea for the bacteria I always thought it was a good idea, now I know why. My fish get some live food every day and always have. I even think that the fish infected with parasites that I add strengthn the immune system so they never become infected. Of course we can't add parasite infected fish to a system that is not already immune and that is where the problem starts.
. If this is not immunity I am an extreamly lucky individual and should go out and buy lottery tickets today.
 

Mattl22

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Interesting I'm with u on the immune system I might have to try live food one day see if I see an obvious difference
 

oh207

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Another great article! Thanks for sharing.
Ever since you posted the other thread about feeding live worms and whole clams I always wanted to try it. Now I feed live black worms (whenever I can find it in stock at LFS) and I picked up half a dozen clams a couple weeks ago and was slowly shaving off pieces of a frozen one to feed the fish.
But today I got bold and decided to (gasp) put the entire clam into the tank! :shocked:

At first the fish was extremely shy and didn't want to eat. I went out to run an errand and when I came back everyone was pigging out.

Picture.
 

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rookie07

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Very interesting Paul!

Thank you for sharing.
I guess this is food for thought..... But at a minimum this gives me something to chew on for a while.... I couldn't help myself there.
 

Paul B

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I just dumped 20 gallons of water from the Long Island Sound into my tank as I have been doing for decades. I just strained out the seaweed and jellyfish as these things will rot and turn into nitrate which I already have enough of. The natural water also has some bacteria in it. Not much in the water itself but on the microscopic particles that are always associated with NSW. many people ask me if I am afraid of introducing parasites and diseases and I always say something like "Do I look afraid?" As years go by my thinking has changed and now I am afraid to use water that does not have some bacteria and parasites in it because I feel it enhances the fishes immunity. Of course I couldn't do that to a tank where everything was quarantined and the fish were eating sterile food or I would kill everything. I am so surprised the hobby has not at least tried to think about keeping fish a natural way and instead insist on trying to keep everything out then curing them when they get sick. To me, it is mind boggling and my mind is boggled enough without worrying that my fish will get sick. I can't imagine buying a fish than stressing it out for 2 months in quarantine then when it has virtually no immune system and is stressed beyond belief, introduce it to a mixed community of fish. It must be very hard on such a fish.

I can't even mention this on some forums or they would (and have) closed the thread. That is unfortunate.
 

ReefDiver

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I followed your lead here and dumped some Long Island water into my tank. So far so good. One very small bird feather floated down into the tank. All the fish got spooked by it and hid in the rockwork for a while.
 

Paul B

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OK, but if you run a very sterile tank and quarantined everything in there for a long time, your fish may not have any immunity so they may grow two heads tomorrow or just start texting. I really don't know.
 

Lavoisier

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Paul, have you come across information on how long it takes to build up a healthy immune system in a newly purchased fish?
 

Paul B

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No, I have not. I do know that in the 70s I got blue devils into breeding mode in 6 weeks by feeding them live blackworms every day. I am not sure if they were also immune. New fish from the sea should have immunity from most things but that immunity would be very weak in a fish in a store which is stressed and probably not fed in a week. If you can get it fed good foods right away and don't quarantine it for 2 months, I would imagine it would keep it's immunity intact. I never have a problem with new fish and they all seem to become immune right away as I can't remember loseing a fish to any parasites just after I bought them even though they may have shown some parasites after a day or two. The parasites always disappear in a few days.
For a sterile kept fish to aquire immunity I would imagine it would have to be exposed to disease organisms, but that would be dangerous to a fish with no immunity so it would be better not to allow the fish to lose it's natural immunity in the first place.
 

Lavoisier

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My post is going to take a slight digression but I would be interested in folks thoughts on the subject. After I have to take a round of antibiotics I always begin taking probiotics to rebuild my deplete immune system. Several of the articles had some discussion of probiotics as a promising field of study for aquaculturing... not only gut bacteria but as Paul mentioned, kidneys, spleens, and skin. I noticed there is a developing, commercial aquaculture probiotic market but the only aquarium product I could find is carried by Drs. F&S and Amazon. Unfortunately, it seems to have been around since at least 2002 and most of the scholarly articles Paul referenced (and others I found) seem to have been written after 2012, so I am somewhat dubious of the product's effectiveness. That dubiousness leads me back to Paul's points about feeding foods (live or frozen) that contain live bacteria to build up depleted immune systems in newly purchased fish. All of this to say I'm still a little leary of giving up on QT'ing new fish (I may still come around, Paul, but are you sure frozen clams contain live bacteria?) but am thinking a 2-3 week QT focused on building up the immune system might be worth considering.
 

Paul B

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Lavoisier, this is just a theory of mine and I don't mean to advise to give up quarantining if that is what you do. I just assume that a long quarantine is dangerous in regards to losing immunity. I can't find out how long fish keep their natural immunity but I would imagine it differs with different types of fish and how long and under what conditions they were cared for at the dealers and shippers. I myself don't quarantine at all but I realize many people do. If I still did, I would do it for less than two weeks and I would do it with copper (If I was worried about parasites) After the fish are in great condition and spawning or at least making spawning gestures, I would totally give up quarantining. But thats just me and I know I keep my fish in great shape and immune by feeding live food "every" day along with the other foods I mentioned. This has worked for me for decades so I assume it would work for anyone. "But", if you already have a tank full of fully quarantined fish that have been fed dry foods for quite a while, I believe those fish have no immune system at all. If you read those articles you will know that fish (and us) depend on meeting with pathogens occasionally to keep up our immunity.
I think we are spending far to much time curing fish rather than keeping them healthy.
We go to doctors to get inoculated with weak organisms to keep up our immunity, why don't we do that with our fish? :scratchch

I don't know how much live bacteria is in frozen clams but I know freezing doesn't kill most bacteria. That is why if the food thaws out, even in a sterile bag, it rots. Also even if the bacteria in a frozen clam is dead, I assume an immune response will still take place just as it does in us when we get shots. Just a thought as I am not the God of dead clams. :Blurp:
 
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Lavoisier

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Thanks, Paul, I always appreciate your thoughts. Nice write up by the way.

I have not been feeding frozen clams (just live brine shrimp with selco) but I think I'll start. I tried blackworms but in Kansas City they were just too expensive!
 

Paul B

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Live brine shrimp are not a good food and if you put Selcon on them, it will just wash off and be wasted. Clams are very good but don't put Selcon on them either. You can only put Selcon on dry food such as pellets or freeze dried which I don't recommend feeding
 

Paul B

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I think many in this hobby are thinking as we did in the 70s, but I feel we need to advance and progress a bit. We humans try to become immune by being inoculated with weak organisms and it works for us. We are immune from most things. Our ancestors were also immune from most things because they were exposed more to stale food, and dirt. Remember for the first 300,000 years we didn't bathe or wash anything including our food and we got along just fine except for that Saber tooth tiger thing.
Now that civilization here is relatively clean, our immune system is not as strong as it used to be. Even in the last 100 years we have lost some immunity. My own Mother lived to be 99 never being in a hospital or taking an aspirin. As a young girl, when she would get sick, her Mother would make her sleep in the stable with the horses because they thought the smell of horse poop would keep her free of disease. It seems to have worked.
Her brother, my Uncle, also lived into his 90s, never having seen a doctor or dentist (or paid taxes) in his life. Like never. And he was very strong and would have killed you if you looked at him wrong. Those were strong people with a strong immune system. He was even stabbed numerous times and cleaned it with a rag he cleaned eels with. Now that is an immune system. (he worked at the New York City docks and that was one of the toughest places on earth in the 1920s) If any or us did that, we would be dead. I don't advocate living like that, but it shows how our immune system can be if it is exposed to disease organisms and how us modern humans unfortunately lost most of that ability through our hygiene. Now we depend on doctors and medications to keep us healthy because our immune system is not allowed to do the job it was designed for. But we can keep our fish immune without feeling bad that they don't practice the proper hygiene. Their tank is not supposed to be squeaky clean. It may make us feel better but it is bad for the fish who were designed to live in an ocean that has everything in it including Amelia Hearts shoes and Columbus underwear.

I realize this thinking is backwards from the way we were brought up and I can't help that. I don't like thinking about re cycled Ideas that obviously don't work. I get a lot of flack from my ideas but I feel it is common sense.
I also was always taught to wash my hands before I eat and still do, but just because we were taught that doesn't mean it will help us stay immune from anything.
Doctors are now prescribing much less antibiotics for this very reason, so our own immune system can strengthen itself and help us in the future just as Supermodels sometimes do.
 

BioMan

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I once put 4 liters of seawater that I took home from Aruba into my tank and I also buy fresh shrimp and salmon/sole/tuna process it up and feed my fish.
 

Paul B

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BioMan, I take mud from the Bronx near the Throgs Neck Bridge and put it in my tank along with amphipods from the same place. No problem yet.
 

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