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Probiotics for aquariums

KOIKA – Probiotics for fish farming, booster beneficial bacteria in tank & ponds

It is well-known in the fish keeping community that microorganism supplementation is a vital step in maintaining clean and stable water conditions, therefore helping fish to eat more and thrive. So why do these seemingly invisible organisms have such a monumental impact on the aquarium? And are there any simple ways to supplement probiotics for fish in an aquarium?

Probiotics for fish, just like other microorganisms, is a member of the bottom of a food chain. They play a role in decomposing organic materials and maintaining a habitable environment. Biologically speaking, microorganism (or microbes) refer to any organism with microscopic sizes like bacteria and fungi, and they exist virtually everywhere on Earth

So why do we need probiotics for fish tanks?

Every day in the fish tank, wastes are being produced, including but not limited to leftover fish food, fish digestive waste, fish slime, decaying leaves (Terminalia catappa leaves, coconut leaves, aquatic plants, etc). If accumulated for a long time without being processed, these wastes can lead to muddy water, unpleasant smells, and poor fish health. Fortunately, microorganisms rely on these biological wastes for nutrients; therefore, the presence of microorganisms in a fish tank contributes significantly to the decomposition of organic materials to maintain a clean water environment, ensuring healthy living for the fish. For this reason, filling the water with microorganisms has been a topic of interest for the fish keeping community

As of right now, there are 2 ways to generate probiotics for fish farming:

  • Using probiotics supplements or drugs from manufacturers. There are many brands and classifications of probiotics in the current market; therefore, it might take some time to understand and choose the most suitable product. However, this method provides quick results within 1 to 7 days depending on the type of probiotics used.
  • Using natural source: a makeshift filtering system or a dedicated substrate is sometimes used to provide natural microorganisms. However, these methods require intensive labors, time, and experience. Even if they are successful, it can take up to two weeks for the microorganisms to start populating, and one month for them to thrive to a sustainable and effective population. For beginners or urgent situations such as stress, lack of oxygen and dropsy in fish, or milky water, manufactured probiotics are still the most optimal choices.

1. Three benefits of probiotics for fish that everyone should know

Most professional fish keepers agree that without microorganisms, aquarium fishes and plants cannot survive. Even though they are invisible to our naked eyes, these  probiotics for fish play a vital role in maintaining the health, appetite, and flexibility of aquarium fishes. These beneficial roles also extend to humans: without them, wastes will accumulate in our living environment, severely damaging our health and quality of life

Additionally, probiotics also have these following functions:

  • Producing protease, amylase, and lipase, the enzymes that help fishes digesting macronutrients as well as decomposing water wastes
  • Preventing slime accumulations and keeping the water clean and clear
  • Decomposing toxic gases such as NH3, NO2, H2S, etc
  • Filtering unpleasant smells
  • Preventing the growth of pathogenic microorganisms

1.1 Probiotics for fish keep water clear and decomposing toxic gases

a) Keeping water clear

Probiotic bacteria for fish keep water clear has been one of the most researched topics in the community because clear water is one of the utmost aesthetic qualities for any fish tank. Additionally, water clarity is an indication of a healthy water environment, which is beneficial for growth.

However, clear water does not necessarily mean that it has enough necessary probiotics. This is the case for people who use purified water to hatch the fry. Even though this is a high clarity water source, it is considered a “dead water” as the heavy treatment of ozone and UV radiation for pasteurization virtually wipe out all probiotics, making the water unsuitable for a sustainable life. Consequently, using purified water does not always guarantee a healthy fish growth. 

Signs of a lack of probiotics in the water include:

  • Opaque white color
  • Waste particles concentrating at the bottom to form a pale-yellow layer
  • A slimy texture on the inner glass surface despite a clear water

If the water has enough probiotics, specifically the specialized microorganisms like Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus licheniformis, Bacillus pumilus, Bacillus megaterium, or the photosynthetic bacteria like Rhodopseudomonas sp., organic materials can be sufficiently decomposed to prevent the aforementioned signs.

So how can we truly keep the water clean and clear? Various methods have been applied, such as:

  • Regular water change: this method has the benefit of using an already existing water source without requiring additional products. It is particularly appealing to beginners or small-scale fish keepers; however, for larger fish tanks with more fish types and aquatic plants or large-scale fish keepers, regular water changes demand a high amount of labor and time. Also, the water ratio required for effective water change needs to be calculated carefully, since improper water changes can weaken the fishes due to sudden environmental change.
  • Activated charcoal: charcoal can eliminate or reduce the density of dissolved organic materials in the water; however, this method also requires regular replacement of activated charcoal.
  • Suckermouth catfish: this omnivorous fish is known for eating fish wastes, excess organic materials, and secreted slime. Therefore, their presence can prevent organic wastes and slime accumulation in the water and glass tank, respectively. However, they can sometimes eat aquatic plants, and they can only be raised with bigger fishes like white cloud mountain minnow, zebrafish, tiger barb, cherry barb, etc. Suckermouth catfish should not live together with small fishes or slow swimming fishes like goldfish, discus fish, or guppy fish since they can damage smaller fishes. 

  • Microfilter system: this is a quite common method shared among the community, as it can be made from ceramic filter rings, matrix, lava rock, or used honeycomb charcoal. These materials provide the perfect growth environments for microorganisms; however, a waiting period of 3 to 4 weeks is required for the microorganisms to thrive, and thus not suitable for people who need to stabilize the water environment quickly
  • Probiotics: due to their direct effect on fish health, meticulous research and experience are required to be able to select the most optimal probiotics, especially if you are raising rare fishes. However, these efforts are worthwhile, for probiotics can have instant effects on water quality, ranging from after a few hours to a few days. Additionally, probiotics can rescue fish health due to sudden environmental changes or toxic gas while also decreases the number of water changes and thus labor required to take care of the fish. Finally, probiotics are an economical solution to the water quality problem since most probiotics in fish feed require a small amount to be effective.

Therefore, it is clear to see that probiotic booster for fish are a convenient and optimal choice for fish keepers to keep the water clear, and these are the inspirations behind the product series KOIKA, which include KOIKA-CLEAR, KOIKA- CLEAR PREMIUM, KOIKA-CLEAR PLUS, and KOIKA-PSB

b) Decomposing toxic gases 

Ammonia (NH3) released from fish urine and wastes and leftover food can lead to opaque water and a poisonous environment. If left untreated, NH3 accumulation can lead to various illnesses or even death. Therefore, the presence of nitrogen-fixing probiotics is highly vital

The following are signs of toxic gas poisoning in fish:

  • Weaker or complete loss of appetite
  • Inactivity, inflexibility, slow swimming
  • Weak physical presence or high death rate
  • Make symptoms of low oxygen or jumping off the water
  • Lack of color in fish
  • Unpleasant odor

There are 3 common ways to decrease the amount of toxic gas in water

Method 1: water changes

Although seemingly simple and convenient, it can get complicated easily since many factors need to be considered to prevent shocks to the fish like the water source, the time of water changes, the quantity, and the water changing technique. Without sufficient experience, this method can even backfire, weaken the fish instead of strengthening them.

Method 2: aquatic plants incorporation

Many types of seaweed and algae can partially absorb nitrite (NO2) and nitrate (NO3). However, this might not be the solution in certain situations. For instance, certain design styles only use driftwood and rocks, thus unable to incorporate aquatic plants.

Method 3: probiotics

This method relies on the natural ability of probiotics to decompose organic materials to convert NO2 and NO3 into non-toxic gases N2O and N2, thus requiring minimal effort for the upkeep of the aquarium.

Once again, it is easy to see how probiotics offer more benefits with a more effective, quick, and optimal result that can be applied to many aquarium systems.

KOIKA probiotics come in many forms: spray bottle, liquid bottle, or fine powder packet or bottle. Consultation with experienced fish keepers or store owners is advised so that the most optimal product can be purchased. In terms of quality, KOIKA is proud to say that it is the first product in the Vietnamese market to acquire the Certificate of Conformity from National Technical Regulation, Certificate of Standards for Biological Products from the Vietnam Directorate of Fisheries, and ISO 22000 and GMP from KMR Korea, a member of the International Organization of Standard.

1.2 Probiotics fish food improve digestion, preventing illnesses, and increasing immunity

Even with a clear water environment and a safe level of NH3, the fishes might still not thrive. This could be related to their food digestion, nutrients absorption, and immunity, all of which can be controlled by probiotic fish food.

It is quite common to see during raining seasons that fishes likely to get sick. This is due to the drop in water temperature, leading to less physical activity and appetite in fish and more fungi growth. An increase in feeding usually does not solve this problem; on the contrary, it can result in more problems such as indigestion and dirty water due to leftover food. Some people also avoid live food like Limnodrilus hoffmeisteri or Moina for fear of infection. However, fish health is not entirely determined by the weather or the quality of food. Rather, it is influenced by digestive health.

Signs of poor digestive health include:

  • Weaker or complete loss of appetite
  • Inactivity, inflexibility, and slow swimming
  • Flatten belly or indigestion
  • White feces
  • Frequent illnesses and observable skin lesions

So, what should we do when the above signs are observed? For most experienced fish keepers, probiotics are the key to this problem. Most of the time, the lack of probiotics like Bacteriocin or Bacillus coagulans is the reason for poor nutrients absorption and immunity and a higher risk of digestive diseases.

This is not exclusive to fish. For human, the lack of the classic probiotics Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum or Bifidobacterium breve also lead to a decrease in digestion and nutrients absorption, resulting in exhaustion, lifelessness, and poorer health. Therefore, it is recommended that probiotics should be supplemented into daily meals.

Among the current probiotic fish food products in the market, KOIKA-BAC+ has truly made a name for itself. KOIKA-BAC+ probiotics have been recommended for Asian Arowana, Beta fish, Ranchu goldfish, Flower Horn fish, Discus fish, and Guppy fish.  The product has also been reviewed by various Youtuber and Vlogger like PT Guppy Nguyễn Phát, Thủy Sinh Tím, Youtuber Sơn Betta Chia Sẻ Kinh Nghiệm, Youtuber Ba Cu Đất, Youtuber Hugo Dương, fish breeder Lãng Tử 02 - Nguyễn Đình Quân, Youtuber Mến, or Youtuber Lala Guppy with complete satisfaction for its 2 in 1 function: improving fish health and maintaining clear water.

The key to the success of KOIKA-BAC+ and KOIKA-BAC M is the richness of Bacillus coagulans and Bacteriocins, the two most important factors in fisheries. While Bacillus coagulans directly affect growth by increasing nutrients absorption rate and enriching digestive enzymes, Bacteriocins are antibacterial substances to prevent digestive illnesses. The combination of these two factors ensure a healthy fish growth by increasing appetite and improving nutrients acquisition while also preventing digestive issues and fungi and parasites infection

In addition, Bacillus coagulans are known to process toxic gases in the water, thus preventing intoxication and algae overgrowth, increasing dissolved oxygen in water, and expediting the decomposition of organic materials. All these processes contribute to a clearer water environment.

It can be said that KOIKA-BAC+ is the most distinguished product of KOIKA due to its diversity in functions, such as decomposing toxic gases, improving digestive health, increasing immunity, and maintaining clear water, and diversity in usages. KOIKA-BAC+ can be sprayed directly into the water or incubated with the food 15 minutes prior to feeding. Therefore, water changes are not necessary, which can save a lot of time and labor. This is of particular interest to rare fishes such as Asian Arowana or Koi fish or for large-scale fish keepers as it can help simplify the regular upkeeping compared to other probiotic products.

1.3 Probiotics for fish improve pH level

Probiotics for fish also help to improve the pH level, a vital factor to be considered in fisheries. It is also one of the leading reasons for shocks for fishes in new water. Without adding of base substrate material, over time the pH level in the water will decrease, providing a favorable environment for pathogenic microorganisms and organic material accumulation. Therefore, fish keepers should always monitor the pH level to mimic the natural pH level or the pH level of the water used in the stores or fish farms to ensure the best health quality.

Signs of pH shock or unsuitable pH level include:

  • Weaker or complete loss of appetite
  • Unnatural movement
  • Stunted or slow growth
  • Increase mortality of fry fish

In fisheries, the pH level is often adjusted by limestone (CaCO3). However, this might not work for aquarium fish keeping due to their more fragile health and calcium residues. Therefore, probiotics for fish farming are still the safest solution to the problem

Some fish farms or stores also take advantage of natural methods of controlling pH by using Terminalia catappa leaves, coconut leaves, or banana leaves. However, this can result in slime accumulation or surface scum if the leaves are not being processed carefully. Additionally, it could take some time for the effect to take place, and unaesthetic yellow water can also be observed.

Other natural solutions include:

  • Decrease the pH level: using reverse osmosis (RO) or deionized (DI) water, supplementing driftwood, or adding decayed mosses to secrete the pH-decreasing compound tannin
  • Increase the pH level: using reverse osmosis (RO) or deionized (DI) water, using pulverized coral or dolomite, or decorating the tank with corallite.

However, these methods require a careful set up in the fish tank, and their effect is also not instantaneous. The magnitude of pH change is also relatively small to be effective. Therefore, to adjust the pH level reliably, effectively, and easily, KOIKA is happy to introduce 2 products that have been trusted by many fish keepers and fish farmers: KOIKA - pH- (pH reduction) and KOIKA - pH+ (pH increase). With only 2 uses 10 hours apart, the optimal pH will be reached without needing further setup.

2. Mistakes and Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Is aeration required when adding probiotics?

Depending on whether the manufacturers use aerobic or anaerobic probiotics, aeration might be required to “activate” the probiotics. Most KOIKA products recommend strong aeration for optimal usage. It is therefore best to consult the instruction manuals before using the product.

Mistake: probiotics need to be raised in water prior to usage

Probiotics are living organisms that require nutrients from fish wastes and metabolism. Without any fish, probiotics cannot survive due to the lack of food. Therefore, fish and probiotics need to be raised together to form a closed-loop life cycle.

Probiotics for fish ponds need some organic resources from leftover food, fish waste ... and give back a clean living environment. This is a closed cycle. Therefore, if you only use microorganisms for the empty environment, they will be killed soon, absolutely.

Mistake: nitrate-reducing bacteria requires an anaerobic environment; however, oxygen is always supplemented in the water, thus preventing toxic gases decomposition

Organic material decomposition can happen in both aerobic and anaerobic environments. Therefore, the anaerobic probiotics of the Bacillus genus in KOIKA products will still produce excellent results in controlling the pH, NO2, and NO3 level to ensure a clear water environment

Mistake: fish colors are genetic, with little influence from the water environment

There is a scientific basis for the effect of the water environment on fish colors. Researchers demonstrate that when the nitrate level in water is high, it can go inside the fish body through respiration and compete with oxygen for hemoglobin binding, damaging pigment-containing cells and resulting in loss of or unwanted coloration.

Besides the nitrate level, total organic carbon (TOC) is also important. A high TOC can result in dirty water, rampant pathogenic bacteria growth, and even hole-in-head disease.

Therefore, it can be said that fish farming probiotic supplementation is highly vital, as they create a stable water environment. The creation of probiotic products has provided a more convenient solution that easily responds to the demand for fish keepers if growing probiotics at home is not feasible. However, KOIKA wants to remind fish keepers that the tank surface area, the density of fishes, and fish wastes processing should also be taken into consideration to maximize the success of your aquarium. 

 Question: I am currently growing Pindani fish, a species that require a high pH level. However, the pH level in my tank is low, and I have not been successful with pH-raising products on the market. How can I achieve my desired pH level?

Hi! We would love to know what kind of pH-raising products you have been using, and whether they are probiotics-based. If not, we recommend you try using probiotics booster for fish farming to adjust the pH level safely and effectively. A lot of current products on the market use alkaline chemicals to increase the pH level, and in your case, we suspect that the minerals in the water are reacting to the product, preventing it from exerting its effect. Additionally, since chemical reactions-induced pH change is very sudden, it is not suitable for a controlled pH change. A sudden increase in pH can also induce shocks that could kill your fishes or aquatic plants.

For now, we would advise you to try the KOIKA pH+. This product has Bacillus subtilis, a probiotic in fish farming capable of increasing the water pH through its growth and metabolism. Since these processes take time, the pH change will also be gradual and thus preventing pH shocks. Furthermore, since these are living organisms, the change in pH will be maintained as long as they are alive. With 2 uses 10 hours apart, your pH level will reach the desired level without further setup.


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