Brown Jelly Treatment
Not seldom you can read in seawater-forums around the globe the question „What can I do if a coral suddenly dissolves and forms on the coral a brown gelatinous mass? “. The cellular tissue decreases and brown mucus forms at the affected place and often spreads out fast. This mucus becomes more and more, until, finally, the coral is dead. In this case it concerns the so-called Brown Jelly, trigger should be a little animal, his name is Helicostoma, a ciliate or chilophora (Helicostoma nonatum).
First Signs of Brown Jelly
What exactly is an ciliate or chilophora may be your question? Now, Ciliate also called Chilophora is a protozoon which seems, among the rest, also in the sea water. Their cell surface is covered with eyelashes which serve to whirl for food. Ciliate or also Chilophora are valid as the highest developed and strongest differentiated protozoon’s. Their length amounts between 60 and 300 micrometers some reach a size of approx. 1 mm and are partially recognizable with the eye as small long white points. They are in the situation to change her surface structure and to react thus to chemical and physical charms.
Chilophora react particularly to changes of the oxygen- and carbon dioxide-concentration with direction changes of her movement, until they are again in an area with more favorable conditions. Certain kinds of Chilophora, so-called Toxicystes, can be found which discharge as the cnidocytes of the Cnidarians’, can strain the membrane of the victims and inject toxic materials to immobilize them.
Ciliates in a seawater aquarium to be found, both as single individuals, but also in larger colonies. Protozoa of the genus Helicostoma are therefore on nearly every coral permanent present. Helicostoma nonatum comes from the family of Philasteriade. These unicellular organisms can be found in all corals (leather, soft corals, stony corals, anemones, disc anemones, or crusts). Often they are infecting especially LPS stony-corals. This includes all types Euphyllia and Goniopora as well as Alveopora species, but unfortunately sometimes also other stony corals and gorgonians.
The ciliate destroys the tissue of the coral and then it eats the zooxanthellae of the coral. Under the microscope this behavior is very good to observe. A look at the brown mass in a conventional microscope shows a swarm of countless long Helicostoma nonatum. As I said, under a NORMAL microscope Helicostoma can be clearly identified BUT …. If you have a special laboratory microscope, you'll find much more as the ciliates. There are still much smaller pests in BJ to see. One has only the resolution of the microscope to increase already to seen this very small pest. Under the microscope, I discovered thanks to a notice by Harald Mulder, a well-known veterinarian in Germany, a large number of so-called vibrios. A more precise identification was not possible to me, so good is my microscope unfortunately not. But I would mention, among others vibrion are trigger diseases such as cholera (Vibrio cholerae), a vibrion what the infected body cells extremely weakens and finally left untreated leads to death. Perhaps the comparison is somewhat exaggerated, but in relation human / coral surely true.
One day later ...
Of course, such an article for the help-seekers only makes sense, although treatment options mentioned. There are in literature and also a variety of information on the Internet how to proceed and what can help against BJ. Unfortunately, almost all of these procedures not really helpful. These procedures range from a bath of infected animals in raised / lowered salt concentration, a bath in sweet-water until bathing the affected coral in saltwater with iodine. All the aforementioned procedures help as good as NEVER and are not very helpful for help-seekers. All of the above procedures I have used in experiments. First a bath in fresh water, second in salt water with increased salinity, and finally an iodine bath. The BJ was then under the microscope for each single case investigated and I found after treatment, the pathogen is in great numbers still alive.
On advice of the previously mentioned Harald Mulder, I dissolved the antibiotic chloramphenicol in a little hot water and mixed finally the solution (approximately 100ml) in 5 liters of fresh saltwater. By the way … Chloramphenicol is a bacteriostatic antimicrobial. It was the first antibiotic to be manufactured synthetically on a large scale, and alongside the tetracycline, is considered the prototypical broad-spectrum antibiotic. It is active against Gram-positive bacteria, Gram-negative bacteria and anaerobes and is extremely lipid soluble what the main reason why I used it is. Since chloramphenicol in various dosage forms is available I would like to tell you what I have used (Tifomycine):
These are caps. I have opened the caps and 1.5 grammes per liter saltwater, so a total of 7.5 grammes in a total of 5 liters saltwater mixed. I leaved the antibiotic solution about 1 hour untouched, after that I have the coral three times, at intervals of 2-3 hours, bathed in the solution (5-10 minutes). The antibiotic is unfortunately poorly soluble in water, so the waiting time.
After the bath, I made a smear from the coral, under the microscope I could neither Helicostoma nor vibrios discover. The coral could be dismissed as HEALTHY!
Heinz Mahler, July 2009