The "CURE" for Red Acro Bugs

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The "CURE" for Red Acro Bugs

Postby DustinDorton » February 23rd, 2004, 11:33 pm

The Red Bug Treatment

If you use this medication it is at your own risk. No one but yourself is responsible for your actions with this medication.
Please read carefully and follow the directions. This medication will most likely kill off all crustaceans in your aquarium.

This medication was first tested in multiple sterile hospital tanks. The dosage and its effect on corals and other typical aquarium animals was determined at this stage.
The second stage took place in 7 reef aquariums owned and/or operated by 7 different people. It took 2 –3 months to get to this point.
The third stage is taking place right now. The medication name has been released and the treatment protocol posted. I would assume people will be treating their tanks on their own before the end of February.

As you can see this medication has gone through a rather small amount of testing and not much time has gone by. All of the results have been positive so far. However, only time will tell if the red bugs will return to treated systems. Time will also tell if there is some sort of sort of side effect that will pop up a year or more from now. I need to make this point clear.

If you use this medication it is at your own risk. No one but yourself is responsible for your actions with this medication.


Ok, here is the moment many of you have been waiting for. We (myself and the volunteers) feel this medication is effective against red bugs, and probably safe enough to use in a home aquarium.

The medication is a DOG heartworm medication called Interceptor, it is only available from a veterinarian with a prescription. The tablets used in the initial treatments were for large dogs, 51-100lbs. These tablets are just under 1 gram each and contain 23mg of Milbemycin Oxime, the rest of it is a lovely smelling beef flavor. This chemical is active against Nematodes (Heartworms in dogs) and select arthropods (some types of Mange in dogs). Luckily, our red bugs are one of those select arthropods. The tablets come 6 to a box.

Here is the official information from Novartis on the medication.

Refer to this thread and read the whole thing before you begin the treatment.

The dosage used in an aquarium to kill redbugs is 25mg (0.025 grams) per 10 gallons of actual tank water . That is 25mg of the entire tablet. Each tablet in the pack of 6 will treat about 380 gallons. The tablets are ground with a mortar and pestle into a fine powder.

Do your very best to calculate your actual water volume. Take into consideration your sump, oversized plumbing and things like that. All of the initial tests were done with the estimated volume of live rock and live sand subtracted from the total gallons. You need to make sure that every part of the system that’s capable of holding water is treated. This means your refugium, the water inside your calcium reactor, the water inside your skimmer while it is not foaming.

Measure out the Interceptor on a very accurate scale that is capable of reading down to 0.001 grams. Remember, the dosage is 0.025grams per 10 gallons. For safety’s sake get as close as you possibly can. It has been pointed out that it may not be necessary to get down to the 1/1000th of a gram point when we are guessing on the actual water volume. This is an excellent point, however, since we are pretty much guessing our water volume, we should do our very best to make sure that we treat that guess accurately. We don’t want to over treat an over estimate.

Before adding the medication to your tank, turn off your skimmer (water needs to run through it, but you do not want it producing any bubbles. Remove any mechanical filtration if present. Remove any carbon if present. Turn off UV sterilizers and ozone generators.

Remove any shrimp or crabs that you want to save. They will have to stay out of the system for the duration of the treatment. Remember, that when you add them back to your tank, there is a slight chance that you will re-introduce the red bugs to your tank.

The medication is dissolved into some aquarium water (it is not easily soluble, you will have to stir for a while) and spread evenly across the surface of the water. Your tank should remain perfectly clear and look very normal the entire time. The bugs hang on well into the 4th and 5th hour of the treatment, dont be alarmed. Many of the bugs will hang on for days even after they are dead.

If anything goes wrong during treatment perform a water change ASAP and add a large amount of carbon to your system.

After 6 hours, a 25% MINIMUM water change is performed and as much activated carbon as you can fit should be added to the tank. In the initial tests, crustaceans that were reintroduced to a tank after a 25% water change and carbon were unaffected by the medication.
24 hours later the water should be changed again and the carbon replaced.
There is no maximum for the water changes or carbon, the more you do the better.

The treatment needs to be peformed a MINIMUM of 3 times. We know it kills the bugs, but we don’t know enough about their lifecycle to determine if it kills them at every stage of their life. We have to assume that all of the most of the adults are killed in the first treatment. The goal of the second treatment is to clean up any left over adults, and any juveniles that have hatched out of eggs that might have been unaffected. The third treatment is a “just in case” treatment, its goal is to get any bugs that could have possibly survived the first two. I know that three treatments sounds scary, after the first one you will feel much more comfortable with it though.

The frequency of the treatments has yet to be fully determined. Some of the volunteers in the testing did the first two treatments 7 days apart with the 3rd treatment 14 days after the second. Some did 3 treatments 7 days apart. Personally, I have been doing 2 treatments 24 hours apart every 7 days. I will repeat this 4 times for a total of 8 treatments.

The medication seems to be fairly safe, since we dont know the life cycle of the bug its best to err on the side of caution and treat several times. Pretend its an antibiotic, if your going to use it once, make sure you do the whole treatment process at least 3 times!!!

Refer to this thread and read the whole thing before you begin the treatment.

Some things to remember.

1. The ENTIRE system has to be treated. There could be bugs or bug larvae anywhere in your system. Do not take your refugium offline. Do not turn any part of your filtration off that will trap water. For example, if your skimmer is shut off, but has 1/2 gallon of water in it, that water needs to be treated!
2. You will probably kill off a lot of your pods, shrimps and crabs.
3. This medication has not been tested for very long. The bugs might come back. Like anything you put in your tank it could be toxic a year down the road.
4. The pills are for Large dogs, 50-100lbs. The dose is 25mg/10gal/6hrs.
5. If the treatment is not successful and you still have bugs visible after the 1st treatment, make a slight adjustment to your dose and start over again. This was only necessary in 1 out of 7 systems tested. It was a very old, large and intricate system.
6. I am sure, someone, somewhere will overdose or do something wrong. I am sure that someone will blame a tank crash 6 months down the road on this medication. Remember, no one but yourself is responsible for that!!!!!


I have not been able to come up with an effective, quick kill dipping strength. Even at 100x strength, the bugs lasted over 30 minutes. The best way to keep them from getting back in your tank is to treat the coral for the full 6 hours, an increased dose seems to be safe for corals. You are only going to be treating your new coral once. If the bug lays its eggs on the corals (no one knows) they could hatch off a week later in your aquarium.

Some questions that people have posed online already:

Where do I get the medication?

I was able to get Interceptor by being honest with my local Vet and telling them what I was going to use it for. I would suggest trying this route first, several people have already been successful with this approach. If you can’t get from your local vet, there are Canadian mail order companies that will ship the medication without a prescription.

How important is it to use a scale that’s accurate down to .001 grams. Where do I find a scale like that.

In my opinion, its pretty important to measure out the medication accurately. I have tested corals at doses 10x and 100x higher, but I do not know what it would do in an aquarium.
I am sure if your patient and try hard enough you will find a scale you can use. Everyone knows someone who knows someone else that has access to a scale like this. Perhaps at a local school or university.
You can prepare all of your treatment when you go. Store the medication at room temperature, in the dark in an air tight container. Do not let it get cold.

So you are saying to use 25mg of Interceptor per 10 gallons. Not 25mg of Milbemycin Oxime. Is that correct?

That is correct, each large dog tablet contains 23mg of Milbemycin Oxime. The tablet weighs just under 1 gram. You will be using 25mg (0.025grams) per 10 gallons.

How did you come up with this ?

I was looking into medications used to kill crustaceans. I was thinking of using several medications used to treat parasite problems in saltwater and freshwater fish. I was ready to order Dylox (a crustacide). That night I spoke to Jeremy from Coral Reef Aquarium online. When I told him what Dylox did, he told me that he knew someone who treated their pond (Koi) with the dog medication Program. Program’s active ingredient is Lufenuron. It’s a chitin synthesis inhibitor. I was very excited and tried to get this medication the next morning. I was unable to get Program so I decided to try Sentinel instead. Sentinel has the same amount of Lufenuron as Program, but it has the added ingredient Milbemycin Oxime. The initial test worked to kill the bugs. I was very excited. I stored the medication in the freezer that day. The following day I was able to get a pill of Program. I setup another test, one with the Sentinel again and one with the program. Both of those tests failed, the bugs were unaffected. The freezer was the only explanation for the Sentinel not to work. It was odd that the Program didn’t work, but this meant that the ingredient that killed the bugs the first time must have been the second ingredient in Sentinel, Milbemycin Oxime.
Milbemycin oxime is the active ingredient in Interceptor. The next day I picked up a pack of Interceptor and proceeded to fine tune the dose and perform rudimentary sensitivity testing on as many random aquarium animals as I could. Jeremy was the first person to use it in an aquarium a few weeks later. It was decided that the medication and its treatment would be public knowledge. My employer was not interested in even attempting to commercialize it.

I wanted to thank Jeremy at Coral Reef Aquarium for his help with this project! I couldnt have done this without him. I want to thank the other volunteers as well, Janine, Paul, Andre, Chris and Joe!!!

Please read the original thread in its entirety before proceeding with the medication. It is located here:

This thread will be locked, please discuss it on this message thread. Please ask any questions you have before you move forward.

Lastly. I did all of this work for you guys. The medication seems to be safe in aquariums, however your results may vary. Please be careful, think about what your doing. You are adding a poison to your tank. Please do not attempt to hold me responsible for anything.
Dustin Dorton
RDO Taskforce
Posts: 254
Joined: August 26th, 2000, 1:01 am
Location: Vero Beach, Florida

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