Prime and Safe are two conditioners made by Seachem. Prime and Safe are used by easily two thirds of the hobbyists. A recent poll that asked “what water conditioner do you use” had 28 out of 38 (73%) respondents saying either Prime or Safe. This is based largely on a host of claims made for the products.
Prime and Safe are perfectly safe to use with fish and are effective in dealing with chlorine or chloramine. And both products are very reasonably priced. The author does not think people should stop using them to condition their water. Rather the author notes that Prime and Safe should not be used to “detoxify” ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. This is simply because they don’t do that. Because they don’t do these things they are of no use during cycling or as a “tonic” for a sick tank.
All conditioners including Prime and Safe do the same thing, They utilize some form of sulfite (-SO₃) to convert chlorine gas to chloride with the production of a sulfate (-SO₄). Prime and Safe work the same as all the others. But Seachem’s claim of “temporary detoxification of ammonia“ is just snake oil marketing hype. By the very test recommended by Seachem to “prove” its Prime and Safe products “detoxify” ammonia for the short term, Prime and Safe did NO short-term detoxification.
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 in with simply impossible “snake oil” claims in a manner which is very misleading to “newbies” in the hobby. And they have threatened to sue me for “libel”. So the dislike is mutual.
Seachem makes a series of claims about Seachem Safe and Seachem Prime which are false. This “snake oil marketing hype” needs to be called out for what it is.
Seachem makes the following false claims about Prime and Safe
To go to an article proving each claim false simply click on the false claim as all six have links in them to articles. All six of these claims are proven false by testing delineated in each of the six articles. Note that the person doing these tests is a professional research scientist with degrees in chemistry. But also note than all these tests (except for the spectrometer) are very simple and can be done by anyone. They do not require any chemistry background. This was very deliberate. Any hobbyist is heartily encouraged to duplicate any and all tests done here.
A YouTube video maker (Kaveman) made a video of a tour of the only Seachem “manufacturing” facility. The video was quite revealing. The Seachem faculty is largely just a large warehouse. It has a bottling and labeling line and a decent sized office where some dozen employees reside. Then there were a few oversized offices for the executives. What is revealing is what is NOT present.
There are no manufacturing facilities evident anywhere. i.e. Seachem does not appear to actually manufacture any of its own products. There were no labs present. No spectrometers, not even for QC. No analytical equipment at all was evident ANYWHERE. Offices, a huge warehouse, and a bottling line. That is IT. I found this very interesting. It might explain why Seachem can provide no testing data to back up its claims.
At one point in the video there is a photo of some 55 gallon drums of dry chemicals evident with some large taped on 8″ x12″ “labels” that said “Cichlid Lake Salt”. These drums are what a typical bottling line feeds out of. The video narrative said these drums were “stock for large aquarium facilities who use this salt”. When pigs fly. Cichlid Lake Salt is useless and would not be used by large aquariums.
In some of the offices there were some decent sized freshwater aquariums. The freshwater tanks were all obviously very new with small juvenile fish. There was only one marine reef tank that appeared to be relatively old and mature. There were NO testing tanks evident. Not even any quarantine tanks. HHhhmmmm … mmm.
Belief Perseverance Effect
Now there is a psychological phenomena called “belief perseverance effect” which is very strong. “Belief perseverance effect” 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 read the evidence but not interpret the evidence correctly. Any facts presented in the evidence which do not coincide with their beliefs will simply be interpreted by the brain completely differently than the statement is written. This is called a “brick wall in the brain”.
For instance, the Seachem Ammonia Alert tester measures free ammonia and ONLY free ammonia and does not measure ammonium. This fact is repeated several times in the article on ammonia “detoxification” that is linked to below. Yet reader after reader of this article have come on social media pointing out that the “Seachem Alert test measures total ammonia (ammonia plus ammonium) not free ammonia and thus the testing was done wrong“. That is definitely called a “brick wall in the brain”.
Users of Prime who read this article will, to a man, refuse to belief Prime doesn’t detoxify ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. When faced with this it is best to just fold and let people damage their fish.
“Nothing dies harder than a lie that people want to believe” Calvin
An Interesting Social Media Exchange
A comment was given on a Facebook forum to the effect that the Seachem test for ammonia (and NOT ammonium) that is recommended by Seachem to look for temporary ammonia detoxification was used to test the claim that Prime temporarily detoxifies ammonia. The comment said the tests showed Prime actually did not do any detoxification. The comment was posted on a Facebook aquarium group. The following are actual comments that came back:
“That article in itself is bad science. The alert disc reads total ammonia, so will still show any that is in the water column even when treated with Prime. A test kit for FREE ammonia would reflect the reduction of ammonia as it gets bound to the ions in prime.”
“Prime doesn’t reduce ammonia though and doesn’t claim to, it binds ammonia allowing it to be removed by the bio filter in the following 24 hours.”
“I call bullshit on this article. Prime/Safe do work. For how long? Idk. But it’s saved my fish in a pinch many times.”
“This website fails to live up to its name. The science in Aquariumscience.org is poorly done and not reliable”
“The Seachem Alert test can’t be used like he is doing it because it measures the wrong type of ammonia. Prime does bind the ammonia for 24 hours. Alert just doesn’t measure it.”
“I take what any site says in regards to anything like this with a grain of salt. Plus what I read of that article he was using the ammonia alert disc which has been proven to be inaccurate and fail at times. Prime does work in detoxifying ammonia and nitrites when I’ve had a cycle crash before. This article is pure bullshit in my opinion.”
“Yeah I thought it binds the ammonia ions to turn it into ammonium which is harmless to fish but was still test as ammonia by the Alert test”
Obviously the people making these comments either didn’t even read the articles on Prime or Safe or they read them with a huge amount of “brick walls in the brain”. There is no point to telling the people above the errors in their statements. We learned a long time ago it is best just to let it go.
Note that there is another interpretation of these comments. The comments share some very common themes and syntax. If one is paranoid one can possibly conclude these comments are from the marketing department of Seachem through its many fake Facebook accounts. HHHHhhhmmmmm….mmmm.. For more on that go to this link:
The author must emphasis here that Prime and Safe are perfectly safe to use with fish and are both effective and inexpensive ways to neutralize chlorine or chloramine in tap water. The author’s research has ONLY shown Prime and Safe do not even temporarily “detoxify” or “bind” ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate.
If one takes a new aquarium and adds a heavy loading of fish and feeds those fish heavily there can be a problem. If one then adds Prime or Safe as “ammonia neutralizing” additions and if one is expecting Prime and Safe to detoxify the ammonia, one can expect to have an aquarium full of sick or even dead fish. What is unclear is how many newcomers add moderate amounts of fish and Prime and Safe and damage their fish with ammonia levels in such a way that they die months later. Ammonia is a “slow” poison, and can take months to show its effects.
If you want to compare and look at all the various conditioners go to this link:
Aquarium Science Website
The chapters shown below or on the right side in maroon lead to close to 400 articles on all aspects of keeping a freshwater aquarium. These articles have NO links to profit making sites and are thus unbiased in their recommendations, unlike all the for-profit sites you will find with Google. Bookmark and browse!