by Ron DeWilde, August 1998
the malady immediately. During my previous thirty
years experience of keeping freshwater fish I had
seen the effects of the dreaded Head & Lateral
Line Erosion. Not a pretty sight. And I was shocked
to discover it a condition which occurred with marine
fishes as well.
In the beginning, as a novice marine aquarist, I
sought to apply my breadth of freshwater knowledge
to reach success with the more intricate side of
the hobby. With a little reading and past experience
as a guide I determined it would be easier to begin
with a large tank for a "fish only" endeavor. One
hundred gallons would do fine. As for filtration:
a standard under gravel filter with power heads
to handle biological activity in a bed of crushed
coral of about 3 inches in height. Add a canister
filter for particulates and I was set, or so I thought.
After the standard bio-cycle using damsels, I introduced
a few hardy yellow tangs and a clownfish. And after
a few months of keeping these alive I decided to
step up to more exotic display fish. I swapped the
tangs for several juvenile angels. Each about 1"
in length. In all there were four: a Koran Angel,
a Bluefaced Angel, a Queen Angel, and my favorite,
the majestic Imperator Angel, or Emperor, as it
is sometimes called. In the next year I reveled
in my success at producing rapid growth and healthy
specimens and so consequently, found myself ill-prepared
for the next chain of events.
I eagerly awaited the coming of age of my group
of angels. I had heard about the amazing transition
of color transformation when these fishes begin
to reach adulthood. The angels had grown to a length
of about four or five inches. The time was soon
and one day I awoke to find not the beauty, but
the beast. There it was. The beginnings of that
ugly condition, Head & Lateral Line Erosion.
Right there, on my prized Emperor. A process where
the fish literally exhibits a wasting away of the
outer layers of skin along the lateral line and
around the head area. It was an aesthetic nightmare.
And I knew, in it's extreme form, a condition which
could result in death. I was devastated. What could
I do? I had heard of no real lasting treatment for
such a disease. A program of nutritional supplements
and frequent water changes might help. But no one
could boast of truly reversing the affliction with
assurance it would not return. And so I was left
with the question, what should I do?
I decided to keep the fish at least so that I might
witness it's transition from juvenile to adult.
Additionally, my moral convictions as a harborer
of caged pets compelled me to attempt to provide
all I could for the specimen. I tried food supplements
and more frequent water changes, but I could not
arrest the erosion. I had now kept the fish for
about eighteen months and though the fish did not
die, I had the sense it wished it would!
Although the Emperor continued to develop into an
otherwise beautiful adult, the disease persisted
to the point where the fishes head was completely
enveloped with a raw, open wound appearance. A deep
canal was etched along his lateral line. His now
unmistakable, painfully obvious misfortune prompted
my daughter to say, "he looks like Freddy Kruger!",
the infamous horror movie star whose face was bloodied,
raw and shredded. And so, the moniker stood, and
poor "Freddy" remained in our custody, seemingly
with his days numbered.
Now Freddy, I am sure, was at the zenith of his
discomfort when I happened to a man named Leng Sy.
And as it turns out, Leng had just the answer for
me and my ill fish. An answer, he described, as
having taken seven years to develop. An answer with
such astounding simplicity, I can only describe
it as miraculous. It seems Leng had developed a
unique filtration system whereby the water quality
of a marine aquarium is actually replenished with
vital chemical compounds. This system which he called
"The EcoSystem Method" is the only one of its kind.
The filter consists of a separate filter housing
in which Caulerpa coral is harvested with 24 hour
lighting. What makes the filter unique is the medium
the coral is harvested in. Leng calls it "Miracle
Mud", an organic substrate that took him years to
develop. The "Miracle Mud", he described, rejuvenates
the water quality, thereby actually simulating the
natural environment. He showed me pictures documenting
other successes he'd had with reversal of Head &
Lateral Line Erosion. I witnessed his impressive
display of EcoSystem reef tanks showing beautiful
examples of hard and soft corals. And so, when he
offered to place Freddy in one of his system equipped
aquariums, I agreed without hesitating. In February
1998 Freddy became a case study for the effectiveness
of the EcoSystem Aquarium.
Every month I returned to Freddy's "hospital" and
at just the second visit noticed improvements and
he did so with only the change of tank surroundings,
and with no change in diet. With each succeeding
monthly visit I witnessed the transformation in
progress. The shrinking of his lesions was obvious.
His demeanor markedly better. Leng instructed to
me that with such an advanced case of erosion it
would take some time to reverse what took me over
two years to create! Still I was amazed at the progress
of his return to health and vitality. Today, seven
months later, I can say with confidence Freddy is
about 85% cured. It appears he will be completely
healthy within a month or two. Needless to say,
I am acquiring an EcoSystem filter for my own tank.
Additionally, I intend to set up an EcoSystem reef
tank with the assurance I know I can create a flourishing
display with the most delicate species the ocean
has to offer.