Scientists Gave Fish Marijuana to See if It Would Make Them Relax
It didn’t. But it would’ve been a lot cooler if it did.
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You’ve probably heard of edibles—tasty treats fortified with marijuana oil for medicinal or recreational use in humans. But what if there was an edible designed for animals?
According to a paper published last month, scientists in Lebanon fed Nile tilapia fish pellets laced with cannabis oil to test whether the drugs could make the fish chill the heck out and maybe even grow faster.
But what does a tilapia have to be stressed about? It’s not like it has a mortgage, deadlines, or a Twitter feed full of Trump news. But life can be tough for a fish in a barrel. Tilapia is farmed intensively, and in a bid to maximize the amount of product fish farmers can bring to market, some fish pens have become incredibly congested.
Living in such close quarters can lead to all kinds of nastiness for the fish, including reduced water quality, more incidences of disease, and “increasing intraspecific interactions”—translation: fish bullying.
All of which is why it would be nice if there were something we could feed the tilapia to take the edge off. Unfortunately, the pot pellets didn’t quite have the mood-altering effect the scientists had hoped for.
Researchers, concerned that fish living in cramped farms may be stressed out, were looking for something to help the fish chillax. But pot, it seems, is not the answer. Photo by Joerg Boethling/Alamy Stock Photo
For starters, fish fed THC-laden edibles didn’t seem to be surviving any better than fish fed a control diet, which the researchers took to mean that the drugs were not helping the fish deal with the stress of pen life. It’s possible, however, that the fish simply built up a tolerance after receiving the same amount of THC every day for two straight weeks. (Researchers saw a similar habituation in Siamese fighting fish back in 1971.)
As for growth, the researchers found that feeding fish pot oil does give their metabolism a boost. Recreational marijuana users will recognize this phenomenon as “the munchies.”
“[B]ut they were not given extra food to make up for this metabolic increase,” says Patrick Saoud, an aquatic scientist at the American University of Beirut and lead author of the study. “So they used what food they got for energy rather than building blocks for growth.”
Of course, farmers could give the fish pot and then feed them more food, but doing so would cut into profit margins, so Saoud says it’s unlikely that any fish farmers will be investing in the drug anytime soon.
Saoud didn’t have to visit any street corners to source his product. Instead, he spoke with Lebanon’s attorney general, who said no one had ever asked for such a thing before, but there was no law against it. In the end, the police were able to hook up Saoud with cannabis from their evidence locker.
As for the prospects of commercially available pot-reared fish, Saoud and his coauthors’ conclusion is a real downer: “Until further research yields different results, we do not believe fish should be given reefer.”
Effects of CBD in Aquarium Fish Need to be Proven
We all know that stress in our aquarium fish is a big concern, especially for newly caught fish or recent acquisitions. Many freshwater aquarists learn of this importance very early on with the widely available Stress Zyme which is proven to protect the slime coat of fish, but a new company is looking to reduce stress in a different way.
In the United States cannabidiol (CBD) oil has risen in popularity to reduce stress in people as well as a wide range of claims for different kinds of pets. Healthy Fins is the first such company promoting the benefits of CBD extract for fish, especially in reducing stress to help make fish healthier.
CBD extract can come from either marijuana or hemp and has to have very low levels of THC to be legally sold in the US.
The thing is, it’s easy for anyone or any company to promote the medicine of the day with lots of bold claims, Healthy Fins is no different in stating: “When added to frozen or dry fish food Healthy Fins CBD helps lower the stress levels in fish” but they never discuss how they know this. When it comes to stress there’s a very well respected path towards showing the effectiveness of a given substance.
When animals are stressed out, including fish, people and whales, we release cortisol into the bloodstream and it’s an easy molecule to test for. If Healthy Fins really believes in the effectiveness of their CBD extract for fish, it’s not enough to say “well the fish look healthier and less stressed” – they need to test cortisol levels in various fish before and after being exposed to CBD.
Even in humans the actual effects of CBD is not very well fleshed out in the scientific literature, let alone when it comes to non-human subjects. At the moment the idea of using CBD oil in aquarium fish is interesting, but if Healthy Fins actually demonstrates any effect of CBD on Cortisol levels in fish, they could be onto something much more tangible.
Jake Adams has been an avid marine aquarist since the mid 90s and has worked in the retail side of the marine aquarium trade for more than ten years. He has a bachelor’s degree in Marine Science and has been the managing editor of ReefBuilders.com since 2008. Jake is interested in every facet of the marine aquarium hobby from the concepts to the technology, rare fish to exotic corals, and his interests are well documented through a very prolific career of speaking to reef clubs and marine aquarium events, and writing articles for aquarium publications across the globe. His primary interest is in corals which Jake pursues in the aquarium hobby as well as diving the coral reefs of the world.
Benefits Of CBD + Omega-3s Fish Oil For Pet Health
One of the best combinations out there for improving our pet’s health and overall well being is a mixture of Omega-3s from fish oil and Cannabidiol (CBD). Omega-3s fish oil contain two essential fatty acids: EPA and DHA (or eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid). Both are omega-3 fatty acids that can only be made in a limited capacity in dogs and are even more poorly synthesized in cats. EPA, one of the two omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, acts as an anti-inflammatory.
EPA may help with conditions that cause inflammation of the heart, kidneys, skin, and joints—such as arthritis. It can ease inflammation due to allergies, and reduce itchy skin and dandruff. This can also be an effective way to potentially decrease the incidence of hot spots on your pets. Like many fat supplements, it promotes a shiny, healthy coat, and reduces shedding. DHA, the other omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil, is important in brain and eye development in puppies and kittens. Giving fish oil to pregnant or nursing pets may also benefit the babies once they’re born.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is not just beneficial for humans. Pets have the same endocannabinoid system as humans, allowing our furry best friends to benefit from CBD as well. CBD oil may have a relaxing, calming effect on our pets while reducing their anxiety which is helpful in pets with separation anxiety and various noise phobias. CBD Oil, like Omega-3s, is an anti-inflammatory that may help relieve joint discomfort. Also like Omega-3s, CBD supports cardiovascular function and helps promote a healthy heart.
In summary, we recommend giving your pet, whether young or old, CBD and a high quality Omega-3 rich source such as Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil daily. Our Pets by TerraVita tincture is formulated with THC-Free CBD Isolate and Wild Alaskan Salmon oil.†