1.3. False Marketing Claims

There are many, many aquarium products marketed with misleading or simply false marketing claims. Since there is no “truth in advertising” legal requirement and this industry is completely unregulated, marketing hype and downright falsehoods are the norms. Indeed, it is unusual to find an aquarium supply or food that doesn’t have inflated or just downright false marketing claims.

The “snake oil” marketing hype surrounding some products is simply incredible. It reminds one of the ads seen on late-night TV: “grow a full head of hair”, “support your immune system”, “lose twenty pounds in a week”, or “does wonders for your sex life”.

Devario maetaengensis Fire Bar Danio
Devario maetaengensis Fire Bar Danio

Newcomers to the hobby and old-timers both fall prey to the “This product will do wonders for your fish” routine and buy all sorts of unneeded equipment and chemicals at sometimes ridiculously over-inflated prices. The market in the USA for aquarium products is a staggering 2 billion dollars. The author would estimate that easily 80% of those expenditures are for products that are simply very over-priced snake oil marketing hype. Most are completely unnecessary in the aquarium and some are bad for the fish.

Note that I admit I am decidedly biased against the Seachem Company. I can’t help it. The amount of “pseudoscientific bedazzlement” they put out on ALL their products is just nauseating.  They mix real science with simply impossible “snake oil” claims in a manner that is very misleading to “newbies” in the hobby.  And they have threatened to sue me for “libel”. So the dislike is mutual.

Serpae Tetra
Serpae Tetra

List of False Marketing Claims

This list of marketing hype is given twice below. The first list is only the marketing hype. The second list has the article links where the hype is debunked. Here are just the various marketing hypes:

  1. Seachem Primetm and Seachem Safetm are superior water conditioners which also “neutralize” or “temporarily detoxify” ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and heavy metals.
  2. There are products that “neutralize” and “temporarily detoxify” ammonia and nitrite (SeaChem AmGuardtm, Tetra AquaSafe Plustm, Kordon AmQueltm, ClorAm-Xtm, Hikari Aquarium Solutions Ultimatetm,  API Ammo-Locktm, API Stress Coattm).
  3. You can set up an aquarium, use some off the shelf  “starter bacteria”, “nitrifying bacteria”, “quick start”, “stabilization system” or “bacteria-in-a-bottle” products treatment (Seachem Stabilitytm, Dr. Tim’s One, and Onlytm, Tetra SafeStarttm, FritzZymetm 7, API Quick Starttm, Aquarium Products Colonytm or Microbe-lift Nite-Out IItm) and immediately add a lot of fish and not have an ammonia spike.
  4. Expensive “brand name” dry food such as Northfintm is a superior food for feeding fish.
  5. Herbal, “organic” and “natural” remedies (Melafixtm, Pimafixtm, Seachem GarlicGuard, Indian Almond leaves, Aloe Vera Gel, “Stress Coat” products) are effective treatments for fish that are diseased.
  6. If a fish has an internal disease put lots of medication like Seachem Metroplextm, Kanaplex, or Maracyn into the water and the fish will absorb it or drink it and the disease will be cured.
  7. Seachem Paraguard, Seachem Metroplex, ESHA Exit, Sera med Protazol, and API Super Ick Cure treat ich (white spot) and velvet effectively.
  8. Seachem Focus is useful to bind medications into food and also treats many internal fish diseases.
  9. Seachem Matrixtm is the best biofiltration media with huge amounts of surface area on which bacteria can grow.
  10. BioHometm, Marinepuretm, ceramic blocks, sintered glass, and porous ceramic balls and rings are the best biofiltration media with huge amounts of surface area on which bacteria can grow.
  11. Some ceramic media (Seachem De*Nitratetm and BioHometm) remove nitrates by anaerobic decomposition to nitrogen gas.
  12. Activated carbon, exchange resins, zeolites, and chemical filtration media (i.e. Chemi-Puretm Purigentm, and Poly-Filtertm) are very useful in the freshwater aquarium.
  13. It is beneficial to add “starter bacteria”, “nitrifying bacteria”, “stabilization systems” or “bacteria-in-a-bottle” products treatment such as Seachem Stabilitytm,  FritzZymetm 7, API Quick Starttm, or Microbe-lift Nite-Out IItm every water change.
  14. You can set up an aquarium, use some off the shelf chemical water treatment and immediately add a lot of fish and not have an ammonia spike (SeaChem AmGuardtm, Tetra AquaSafe Plustm, Kordon AmQueltm, ClorAm-Xtm, Hikari Aquarium Solutions Ultimatetm,  API Ammo-Locktm, API Stress Coattm)
  15. It is beneficial to add a chemical such as Seachem Primetm periodically during the cycling process.
  16. Seachem Purigentm creates crystal clear water and removes ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and toxins from aquarium water.
  17. The aquarium fertilizers such as the SeaChem Flourishtm products are cost-effective, useful fertilizers for the planted aquarium.
  18. There is such a thing as “liquid carbon” (Seachem Flourish Exceltm, API CO2 Boostertm) and it is useful in a planted aquarium.
  19. There are “sludge removing” bacteria-in-a-bottle (Seachem Pristinetm, Fluval Biological Cleanertm, Nutrafin Waste Controltm, Dr. Tim’s Waste Awaytm), which work to reduce and eliminate brown gunk in the aquarium.
  20. Hang-on-back filters which use cartridges, such as Marineland Penguintm, Aqueon Quietflowtm, Top Fintm, Tetra Whispertm, and Fluval Aqua-Cleartm, should have the cartridges and media replaced every month to three months.
  21. It is important to test your water frequently with test kits such as API Master test Kit, Nutrafin Test Kit, Tetra easy strips, Sera Aquatest, API 5 in 1 Test Strips, or the Fluval Water test Kit.
  22. Expensive substrates such as Fluval Stratum, Seachem Fluorite, CaribSea Eco-Complete, ADA Aquasoil Amazonia, or Controlsoil are necessary to have a beautiful planted aquarium.
  23. Mardel Maracyn Plus, SeaChem SulfaPlex, API Triple Sulfa, Bifuran, and SeaChem Focus are effective drugs for use against bacterial infections.
  24. Canister or hang-on back filters like Seachem, Marineland, Eheim, and Fluval are superior to the “old-fashioned” technology of under gravel filters.

ALL these claims are just false marketing hype

All these claims are deceptive or false claims invented by the marketing departments of these manufacturers. They are ALL pure “snake oil”.  These claims only make huge amounts of money for the manufacturers and fleece unsuspecting hobbyists of literally billions of dollars.

Pethia conchonius Longfin Rosy Barb
Pethia conchonius Longfin Rosy Barb

Links to Debunking the Marketing Hype

These marketing hype points are repeated below with the links on this website where they are debunked:

  1. Seachem Primetm and Seachem Safetm are superior water conditioners which also “neutralize” or “temporarily detoxify” ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and heavy metals.
  2. There are products that “neutralize” and “detoxify” ammonia and nitrite (SeaChem AmGuardtm, Tetra AquaSafe Plustm, Kordon AmQueltm, ClorAm-Xtm, Hikari Aquarium Solutions Ultimatetm,  API Ammo-Locktm, API Stress Coattm).
  3. You can set up an aquarium, and use some off the shelf “bacteria in a bottle” treatment (Seachem Stabilitytm, Dr. Tim’s One and Onlytm, Tetra SafeStarttm, FritzZymetm, API Quick Starttm, Aquarium Products Colonytm) and immediately add a lot of fish and not have an ammonia spike.
  4. Expensive “brand name” dry food such as Northfintm is a superior food for feeding fish.
  5. Herbal, “organic” and “natural” remedies (Melafixtm, Pimafixtm, Herbtana,  Seachem GarlicGuard, Indian Almond Leaves, Aloe Vera Gel, “Stress Coat” products) are effective treatments for fish that are diseased.
  6. If a fish has an internal disease put lots of expensive medication like Seachem Metroplextm, Kanaplextm, or Maracyn into the water and the fish will absorb it or drink it and the disease will be cured.
  7. Seachem Paraguardtm, Seachem Metroplextm, ESHA Exittm, Sera med Protazoltm, API Super Ick Curetm, and Waterlife Octazintm treat ich (white spot) and velvet effectively.
  8. Seachem Focus is useful to bind medications into food and also treats many internal fish diseases.
  9. Seachem Matrixtm is the best biofiltration media with huge amounts of surface area on which bacteria can grow.
  10. BioHometm, Marinepuretm, ceramic blocks, sintered glass, and porous ceramic balls and rings are the best biofiltration media with huge amounts of surface area on which bacteria can grow.
  11. Some ceramic media (Seachem De*Nitratetm and BioHometm) remove nitrates by anaerobic decomposition to nitrogen gas
  12. Activated carbon, exchange resins, zeolites, and chemical filtration media (i.e. Chemi-Puretm and Poly-Filtertm) are very useful in the freshwater aquarium.
  13. It is beneficial to add “bacteria in a bottle” such as Seachem Stabilitytm every water change.
  14. You can set up an aquarium, use some off the shelf chemical water treatment and immediately add a lot of fish and not have an ammonia spike (SeaChem AmGuardtm, Tetra AquaSafe Plustm, Kordon AmQueltm, ClorAm-Xtm, Hikari Aquarium Solutions Ultimatetm,  API Ammo-Locktm, API Stress Coattm)
  15. It is beneficial to add a chemical such as Seachem Primetm periodically during the cycling process.
  16. Seachem Purigentm creates crystal clear water and removes ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and toxins from aquarium water.
  17. The aquarium fertilizers such as the SeaChem Flourishtm products are cost-effective, useful fertilizers for the planted aquarium.
  18. There is such a thing as “liquid carbon” (Seachem Flourish Exceltm, API CO2 Boostertm) and it is useful in a planted aquarium.
  19. There are “sludge removing” bacteria-in-a-bottle (Seachem Pristinetm, Fluval Biological Cleanertm, Nutrafin Waste Controltm, Dr. Tim’s Waste Awaytm), which work to reduce and eliminate brown gunk in the aquarium.
  20. Hang-on-back filters which use cartridges, such as Marineland Penguintm, Aqueon Quietflowtm, Top Fintm, Tetra Whispertm, and Fluval Aqua-Cleartm, should have the cartridges replaced every month to three months.
  21. It is important to test your water frequently with test kits such as API Master test Kit, Nutrafin Test Kit, Tetra easy strips, Sera Aquatest, API 5 in 1 Test Strips, or the Fluval Water test Kit.
  22. Expensive substrates such as Fluval Stratum, Seachem Fluorite, CaribSea Eco-Complete, ADA Aquasoil Amazonia, or Controlsoil are necessary to have a beautiful planted aquarium.
  23. Mardel Maracyn Plus, SeaChem SulfaPlex, API Triple Sulfa, Bifuran, and SeaChem Focus are effective drugs for use against bacterial infections.
  24. Canister or hang-on back filters like Seachem, Marineland, Eheim, and Fluval are superior to the “old-fashioned” technology of under gravel filters.

.

Lemon Tetra
Lemon Tetra

An Intriguing Twist

A small company in the UK (Aquamedics) is offering aquarium medications largely through Facebook. They have taken the various disease write-ups on this website, rewritten them very cleverly, and used them to sell products. None of the products they offer will work against diseases (they are in the UK and they simply cannot legally sell any products which work!). But I have to admire their creativity. They have even appropriated the photos from this website.

Belief Perseverance Effect

Note that we can state with absolute certainty that everyone, and we mean EVERYONE, who reads this list will have at least one product and probably more like three to five products where they said “NO!! THAT PRODUCT WORKS GREAT FOR ME AND I’M GOING TO CONTINUE TO USE IT!!!!”. And they will maintain that belief even when presented with five or more university papers saying it is snake oil or when presented with scientific tests which prove the claims to be false. They will rationalize and rationalize some more and reject the scientific evidence.

Belief Perserverence Effect
Belief Perseverance Effect

This is something called the “belief perseverance effect”. It says that if someone buys something, and especially if someone pays a lot of money for that something, even when presented with evidence they made their purchase in error, a normal person will rationalize and support their own decision. There is no point in trying to use logic or science to change such a person’s mind.

“Nothing dies harder than a lie that people want to believe”

Calvin

Now ignoring the science and embracing these products will generally not kill one’s fish. They will only result in what is an unnecessary expenditure of money. If one believes in one or more of these products, have at it! In our society burning money is completely acceptable.

Leopard Danio
Leopard Danio

API Stress Coattm

There is one exception to this “do no harm” rule for marketing hype. There are four versions of API Stress Coattm. All four say on the bottle they neutralize chlorine. There is one with a red plus on it, one that says “Natural” on it, one that is a “Pond” version, and one that says “Marine”. The red plus contains sodium thiosulfate (this may have been changed to a similar chemical) and reduces chlorine to harmless chloride. This is a decent product.

The “Natural”, “Pond” and the “Marine” Stress Coattm version are only aloe vera gel. Aloe vera gel is simply a polysaccharide, i.e. polymerized sugars.  Aloe vera does not neutralize chlorine any more than adding a teaspoon of sugar to the tank will neutralize chlorine. These “Natural”, “Pond” and “Marine” products have killed most of the fish in several tanks on FaceBook. This is one case where the marketing “hype” is downright dangerous.


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Translated in dutch by : Joost Abrahams
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