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Goldfish Stunting


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I have just realized how I hijacked a thread and figured I should post it on its own so everyone can read it!

This is about the hormone that goldfish release that causes stunting when goldfish (or any fish) are subjected to it in large quantities.

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The hormone that I am referring to is a pheromone that all fish give off. Goldfish are often cited as releasing it because they are so often kept in tanks where the concentration of this hormone is so high. Water changes keep this hormone diluted and help your goldie grow faster!

I tried to find more research but only could find a couple of articles on the hormone {{(gamma)-aminobutyric acid (or GABA)}}. I have found an article that says it is released after a cold winter (ie in spring when the temperatures rise) {http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/reprint/203/9/1477.pdf}. However, this is not always the case as there are hybrids of the carp and therefore it must follow that these hybrids have their own hybrid of GABA. I'm sure some of out pondies will tell you that their commons/comets grow no matter how cold it is!

My own personal thought is that when carp were wild (aka not goldfish yet) they would release this hormone so that the pond or body of slow moving water they lived in would never be "too small" for them. So if there are 700 carp in a pond in mainland China they will never be over crowded.

However, this hormone only stops the development of the body frame. That is, the organs keep growning. The result of this is a goldfish that is still small enough to fit in a fishbowl but his organs are the size of a full grown carp, which in the case of commons is, what 12 inches? This is why so many goldfish die in bowls, they are basically being squashed to death by the pressure of their organs.

I have also found it suggested that the pheromone release rate is highest at periods right after feeding, up until an hour after feeding. This presents another problem with people who feed their goldfish multiple times per day (I mean six or seven small meals, not one or two). Because the introduction of food stimulates the release of this hormone when you feed your fish more often the hormone builds up faster.

This is yet another reason to do 100% water changes each month. They will completely clear your water of this pheromone and allow your goldie to grow to its potential.

More articles have been linked on this site.

http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/foru...php/t-7898.html

I found it tedious going through them because....well....I am not a science person and all those big words hurt my head after a while!

***Another quick search turned up this article as worth looking at, however, I don't have access to it. If anyone else does it'd be cool if you could summarize it! "Stone, N., Mc Nulty, E. & Park, E. (2002) "The Effect of Stocking and Feeding Rates on Growth and Production of Feeder Goldfish in Pools" North American Journal of Aquaculture, Vol. 65, No. 2, pp. 82-90."***

ryukin girl:

How do you know it only affects the frame and not the organs (even though the frame itself is made up of organs)?

Firstly, I do not quite understand what you mean by "the frame is made up of organs." The frame of a fish is made up of the skeletal structure and the skeletal muscles (also the fins...but we won't count these as structural).

GABA is actually considered a "exotoxin" to humans (something I didn't know until I searched tonight!) This is important to note because all research done on GABA has been done at a pharmaceutical level with common goldfish as the "white rats" if you will. Scientists are searching for a way to use GABA as a treatment for many human neurological disorders including epilepsy (another fact I didn't know until tonight).

"At the pharmacological level, the evidence points to the fact that tetanus toxin [A chemical this scientist was also testing] blocks the presynaptic release of the neurotransmitters glycine and y-aminobutyric acid at inhibitory synapses in the spinal cord, or interferes with the postsynaptic action of the neurotransmitters (Curtis & de Groat 1968; Curtis et al. 1973). This has the effect of depressing the generation of an inhibitory potential on motor neurons and leads to pathologically enhanced excitation of the muscles supplied by these neurons."

The key here is motor neurons A.K.A. skeletal muscles.

This scientist, J.P. Arbuthnott, tested a synthetic chemical blocker of GABA. When this chemical was introduced and GABA was blocked, the motor muscles were excited. One can infer from this that the excited muscles would grow. Therefore it can also be determined that when GABA is present this hormone depresses the excitation of motor muscles and these muscles do not grow. However, smooth muscles are not effected by GABA so they continue to grow. Thus causing the internal pressure build up and eventually death.

**The work cited here is the lecture of J.P. Arbuthnott from Trinity College Dublin Ireland. I found this article on the Wiley InterScience Journal Online Database**

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If anyone has anymore information please share! As I said, I am not a science person so I may be reading these things wrong. However, I do like to think of myself as rather smart so the conclusions I have drawn should make sence...I hope.. :)

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Bones are organs. Each skeletal muscle is an organ. The structure of the fish is made up of lots of organs, every bone and every muscle. If organs keep growing than these will too, since they are organs. I have heard this idea stated over and over and even when I ask about it no one seems to be able to provide any actual evidence that shows that yes, when stunted the body as a whole stops growing but certain organs, or any of them, keep growing.

I think you are making some unsupported assumptions when translating that article. Blocking inhibitory potentials does not necessarily mean a buildup of muscle tissue, it means they may be twitching, which will not necessarily result in increased muscle mass. In addition, smooth muscles will not simply keep growing. They will grow large enough to meet the needs they need to fulfill. If this twitching and potential blocking did equate to increase in muscle size epileptics would be bulging with muscles, since that is one thing they are trying to treat based on the article you provided.

Where did you find that ALL fish give off this pheromone?

"This is yet another reason to do 100% water changes each month. They will completely clear your water of this pheromone and allow your goldie to grow to its potential."

This all does not mean you need to be doing 100% water changes every month. It means you need to have an aggressive water change schedule, something we all already know. Suggesting that people do 100% water changes, even to newcomers, is dangerous. With a 100% water change it is very easy to make slight mistakes that with a smaller water change would not be an issue, yet with larger water changes can cause serious problems such as shock, stress, and death. If it is true that all fish release this hormone, and it has such serious risks that seem to be suggested, then monthly 100% water changes would be required in all aquariums, not just goldfish aquariums. There are many things that can stunt fish, nitrate, DOCs, etc. and all can be properly controlled with proper water changes, which do not require 100% water changes. People cannot simply jump into such large water changes. If anyone wants to increase their water changes they need to do it slowly. Make sure you get used to the larger and larger water changes. If you are not having any issues simply increase the water change by 5-10% each time, do not simply jump into 50%, 75%, or 100% water changes.

"My own personal thought is that when carp were wild (aka not goldfish yet)..."

They were goldfish. Carassius auratus is a naturally occuring species. When we domesticated it we developed new breeds, but it was still a goldfish (Carassius auratus) in the wild. But yes, it is in the cyrpinid family, and part of a group of species which are commonly referred to as carp.

From what I know of the subject growth inhibition in response to poor water quality, including any growth inhibiting hormones, is most functional in the dry season when the volume of their natural waters decreases, along with many other things like the food supply and oxygen availability. Under these circumstances it is beneficial to all individuals that all other individuals and themselves slow or stop growing. Under these conditions no one needs to be growing. In addition, hormones can affect fertility. In angelfish, dominant individuals give off hormones that stunt smaller, subordinate individuals. This allows the dominant individuals to produce as many offspring as possible and to allow for their offpsring to have less competition, thus increasing the fitness of the dominant individuals. Another example is in platies. The normal sex ratio of platies produced is two females per male. In low water quality (and possibly higher levels of certain hormones) more male offspring are produced. This means fewer females, which are the real limiting factor to maximum reproductive rates. In the wild this means that when conditions are crowded, more males are produced which will decrease the overall number of offspring produced by the next generation.

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You stated the hormone in question is a GABA, do all GABAs function exactly the same?

You said that scientist was using tetanus toxin, is tetanus toxin the same as the hormone in question? Is it a GABA?

Where did you hear about the growth inhibitng hormone and that it requires you to do 100% water changes?

Edited by Fishguy2727
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Please understand that I am not trying to say you are wrong, I am just looking for more information on this and other subjects we are discussing. I have seen many people say things that they can't support. It is usually because they heard it somewhere, even very credible sources, and it makes sense but they just never questioned it or asked for more or supporting information. I see lots of things simply stated over and over with no actual supporting information and all this does is hurt the hobby. I am honsetly just asking for more information so that whatever it is, the well-supported truth is what comes out in the end of all this, even if we are both completely wrong.

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I have also heard of this and it is why I do water changes but I still dont and wont do 100 percent. It is very stressfull on the fish. IMO And can if your not very very careful cause your cycle to crash.

And no I have never asked for the scientific reasoning behind this hormone cause I would never understand it. I just know a stunted fish is an unhealty fish and can get sick very easy and die. So I make sure mine have plenty of space (10 gallons plus per GF) and do weekly water changes.

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You do seem very aggressive, however if you say you are just after truth then so be it.

Where did you find that ALL fish give off this pheromone?

The articles that I have cited state that all fish give off this pheromone. Also some research this morning turned up even more articles from scientific journals and such that mention this. (It's not just forums or Yahoo!Answers which are hardly credible sources) It is just so noticeable in goldfish because they are such large specimens. Guppies, for example, never face this problem because their adult size is so small and it seems almost impossible for a tank to be "too small" for them. Likewise we don't notice it in, say, trout because they aren't kept in the common aquarium.

Where did you get the information that growth inhibitors are only released during the dry season? This doesn't make sense to me because most ponds that fish live in in the wild are fed by outside sources such as springs or rivers or are created by dams. There would be no dry season if the water was continually being replenished. I suppose this would make sense if you were referring to articficially ponding (standing) water such as a retention pond in a subdivision or something along those lines. Could I see a scientifically based article on this?

You stated the hormone in question is a GABA, do all GABAs function exactly the same?

You said that scientist was using tetanus toxin, is tetanus toxin the same as the hormone in question? Is it a GABA?

Where did you hear about the growth inhibiting hormone and that it requires you to do 100% water changes?

Yes, GABA is the growth inhibiting hormone released by all fish and some other species (the article did not specify which species just made mention of "some amphibians, reptiles and mammals.") I would imagine these to be water dwelling animals. All GABA does is inhibit growth.

Tetanus toxin is a synthetically derived chemical that blocks the reception of y-aminobutyric acid in the motor neurons of goldfish. This was found in the article I cited.

Because the research for GABA has been done almost exclusively for pharmaceutical reasons, there is no article that I have found that says "100% water changes are necessary when keeping goldfish." This is an inference on my part. I derived this based on the same principle used when ridding tank water of nitrAtes. Because there is no bacteria that changes nitrAtes into anything, water must be changed in order for that specific chemical to be diluted. Therefore it makes sense to me that in order to dilute the presence of GABA one must do water changes. I said that the presence of GABA was another reason to do a 100% water change, not the only reason. Admittedly this is only a real concern if your fish is in a tank that is too small, or dramatically overstocked.

Please understand that I am not trying to say you are wrong, I am just looking for more information on this and other subjects we are discussing. I have seen many people say things that they can't support. It is usually because they heard it somewhere, even very credible sources, and it makes sense but they just never questioned it or asked for more or supporting information. I see lots of things simply stated over and over with no actual supporting information and all this does is hurt the hobby. I am honsetly just asking for more information so that whatever it is, the well-supported truth is what comes out in the end of all this, even if we are both completely wrong.

I have supported everything I have said with either a qualifier that it is an inference or with a scientifically based article. I have asked for more supporting evidence that is why I have spent the entire time writing this with five or six different articles open on my computer so that I can reference them.

I can sympathize with you on the fact that most people just state something because they have heard it before. However, I am not. Like I have said many times now within this post, I have been continually referencing scientific journals and experiments to support my views.

I have yet to see an article reference from you. Where are you getting your information? I would love to peruse these articles so that I may better understand what you are saying.

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Thanks Chrissy! k-thankyou.gif

I had you in mind when I asked if anyone had anymore articles! You do a lot of work in a lab with goldies, right? I'm so glad you are a part of this thread now!

Also, I have a lot of free time this weekend and am going to spend some of it in the library at school looking more of this stuff up.

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Yes we use goldies in the lab, more focused on acclimation but I'm sure I can find info on hormones. When I did a search last week for goldfish articles the majority of them are on physiology, so I'm guessing it's been well studied.

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No, I did not mean that they only give off the hormones during the dry season, but that is when they actually play a big part in their physiology. Under other conditions they do not have a significant affect on the fish because their concentration stays so low, but in the dry season when the input of water decreases dramatically and the total voldume starts to drop, it is not beneficial to be growing. It is not that they only give them off during the dry season, but that the dry season is when all of these growth inhibiting chemicals actually affect the fish sicnificantly.

Which article said that all fish release the growth inhibiting hormone?

"Because there is no bacteria that changes nitrAtes into anything..."

This is not true. Anaerobic denitrifying bacteria turn nitrate into nitrogen gas which will simply evaporate out of the water and into the atmosphere. However, the conditions for these bacteria are effectively never present in a freshwater system. They are the main exporter of nitrate in a properly setup marine tank though. It is possible to have these bacteria grow in freshwater aquariums, but it requires things to be setup specifically to favor their needs. There are reactors or special filters for them, deep sand beds will allow for them, and there is a setup using water slowly flowing through a long spiral of air tube that also allows them to develop. Basically you need an area with significant'y less oxygen but not quite no oxygen. With absolutely no oxygen you develop toxic anoxic hydrogen sulfide producing bacteria.

I do not feel, nor have any experience that would indicate or support, that 100% water changes are needed. There are always stunting chemicals in the water. Nitrate, DOCs, this hormone, and others all do it. If fish are in the water they are there. Many people even have a lot coming out of their tap to begin with. So the difference between 100% and smaller (safer) water changes is not large enough to outweigh the risks of a 100% water change. When you get newcomers involved who aren't even used to doing 50% and tell them they need to do a 100% water change every month, it is asking for tragedy. Adequate water changes in general will keep all stunting chemicals to a minimum. It should be keeping them low enough so that there is no significant effect on the fish.

Other fish can be stunted, even small ones like tetras and guppies. It is not just a factor of their body size compared to the size of their environment, it is mostly a factor of water quality. Guppies in a 75 that never gets water changes will be stunted. I am just curious why I have never heard of this before ever, and why it seems to be life-threatening, or at least so serious, in goldfish but not a concern in other species.

I assumed there was no scientific article stating aquariums need 100% water changes. I asked where you heard this. Did you hear it from an advanced keeper, a magazine article, a book, what?

The only time I have seen anyone discuss 100% water changes was in reference to discus. Apparently one guy (presumably others as well) does this. In general though, even with discus, water changes are frequent and large, but not 100%, 90% every day for example. The other option is a constant water change system. This means water is continually added and the overflow is simply hooked up to a drain. With this system I have heard of people having effectively 250% daily water changes, or really a 250% turnover per day, again with discus. With such large water changes it is important to have water standing by in containers so its parameters can be checked to ensure they match that of the tank. If that is the case then it needs to be specified and not just stated that 100% are needed. If you are not using water that is ready to go and have to rely on the house's water supply, then some very serious risks are being taken. A slight difference in pH could cause huge effects in a 100% water change, but not even cause stress in a smaller water change. Temperature is also an issue. If the temperature of the water being added is too different (maybe someone else was using hot water for something) then that could cause shock. Many times it changes after the person has already checked it because there was hot water at first, but after only 1/4 of the tank was full the hot water ran out and the temp was not rechecked since it was fine at first. This could also shock and kill fish.

My main points are that it does not seem like this hormone or 'bad bacteria' are so risky that they outweigh the risk of a 100% water change. And the way you come off is like someone is not taking proper care of their goldfish unless they are doing a monthly 100% water change.

I have never once done a 100% water change on a goldfish tank and see no evidence that it is needed. An aggressive water change schedule? Yes, absolutely. But 100% NEEDED? No. More is always better, but 100% is not required. In the thread I started about water changes I think a grand total of three people so far, including ryukin girl, have stated that 100% water changes are any part of their schedule. Out of all the people who replied so far only a fraction do this. I have seen you state that most on this site do, it seems they don't. You have stated they are needed, but apparently most of the people on here are able to raise amazing and very healthy goldfish without them.

You have also yet to explain the bad bacteria that buildup and you claim are another reason to do 100% water changes. Any scientific names, even the Genus name? Any articles discussing these bacteria, even popular articles?

What claims have I made that you would like to see some support for?

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I don't have the info with me (left it at the lab :unsure: ) so I can't tell you. But I do know there was TONS of stuff on goldfish eyes, so I'm thinking they were in comparative physiology journals. I do know that a lot of the hormone ones were in Endocrinilogy related journals.

PS this is offtopic, but fishguy, you keep fire bellied toads together with newts? Have you had any problems with agression? (I tried to pm you, still doesn't seem to be working)

Edited by Chrissy_Bee
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Can I accept PMs before 200 posts? Or how can I change it to accept PMs?

I will start a new thread somewhere, share a few pics, so we can discuss it without hijacking. I guess the most appropriate place is the chatterbox, so give me a few minutes and a thread will be up.

Nevermind, need 200 posts to post there. It will be in members' info pages.

Edited by Fishguy2727
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This is a very interesting discussion.

Can I diplomatically suggest we keep it that way by employing a few interpersonal skills?

Sharing info and exchanging ideas works best when members ask about each others experience and source info, rather than conduct a prosecution of each others ideas.

And for the record, I do not believe 100% w/c's are 'dangerous' per se, providing they are PH and temperature matched. The only time I have noticed them to be problematic is in cases where the cycle is very new and/or when the source water is very low in alkalinity.

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Agreed.

100% water are not inherently a problem. But as stated things like pH and temp can be problematic. An advanced fishkeeper who is used to them is one thing, but most beginners are not advanced enough to do it properly. I think that at the least it should be described as to how to step up to larger water changes and what things need to be monitored to ensure success.

Yes, the works and experiences that these conclusions are being based on need to be analyzed, not the people presenting them.

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Sorry it has taken a while to get back to you but I've had other things on my mind this weekend.

I assumed there was no scientific article stating aquariums need 100% water changes. I asked where you heard this. Did you hear it from an advanced keeper, a magazine article, a book, what?

I'm sorry, I thought I said this.

It is my own inference that 100% water changes will dilute GABA. If you do only a 50% water change then you are, in essence, taking out 50% of all the chemicals or medicines or what have you. So it makes sense to me that a 100% water change takes out 100% of them.

I suppose that daily water changes of lesser volume would serve the same purpose. I guess I am just supposing that it would be less work and less stress on the fish if one did a monthly 100% water change. By less stress I am referring to the stress that the fish goes through during a routine water change. At least, mine do. They rocket around when I dump the water back in. They are trying to evade the water that is pouring in and in the process they run into decorations and even the walls of the tank. During a 100% water change this doesn't happen because they are outside the tank while it is being filled. But, maybe my fish are just skiddish, who knows.

Also I don't think you should label all beginners as incapable of performing a 100% water change. There are many factors that would play into this. Perhaps a beginner is a person who knows science. Wouldn't then s/he be perfectly capable of temperature and pH matching water? I would consider myself a beginner at goldfish (I've only been keeping them in the correct set-up for about 6 months). And I also would venture to say that I am completely capable of doing pH and temperature matched 100% water changes.

Also, even in small water changes things like pH and temperature have to be taken into account. It is essentially the same process for small water changes as large water changes only less frequently and with different equipment (and no fish in the tank). In fact, it may even be easier to do a 100% water change because you can adjust the entire tank's worth of water with Prime, buffer, or heat as needed. With small water changes, you have to treat each bucket separately. It is much easier to work with stabilizing 20 gals of water over 5 gallons. At least that is my experience.

I am headed to the library on campus today and will try to find more succinct information on GABA and it's effects on goldfish. If you have any ideas about where do find "credible" sources please let me know. I am working off the fact that fishguy has hinted at least twice that the articles I have already cited weren't credible.

Edited by ryukin girl
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LIke I said on another post I had two goldfish in a 10 gallon bowl (Yes, I said bowl and I am not proud) and they were around a inch long and with in a year they grew to be huge. One was 6 inches and the other one was 8 inches. I repeat in a bowl with only 8 gallons of water I never filled it to the top and it had gravel in it. I changed the water every other day 100% water changes. If I was sick I would skip the water change. I did not know what I know today. So I would not do that again. But they grew huge and lived in there a whole year. I thought at the time they were suppose to stay small. I ended up buying a 30 gallon tank for them they were so big. After putting them in the new tank they grew even larger. I can not tell you if I caused them harm because they died two years later due to a PH crash so I do not know how long they would have lived otherwise.

Now My grandmother had a 20 gallon tank maybe larger. With 2 goldfish. She bought them at an inch long. They lived 9 years in a tank where the water was never changed or checked and the filter was never changed. Water was only added as the water level droped and she let it drop to half the tank before adding water. They stayed small and never grew. I killed them when I changed the water one day because I was horrified at the way they were living (I sould have left them alone I guess). So I can not tell you how long they would have live.

So with My personal goldfish stories I feel even in cramped places they will grow with water changes. with lots of room they will not grow with out water changes. Altough I have seen fish grow in samll places I do not agree with this practice I do not LIke bowl ar small aquariums and I would never do that again.

I have a 100 6 foot long aquarium and I now feel bigger is better. I would not want to be stuck in a bathroom with lots of people to live out my life. So I feel small bowl and aquariums are cruel. We grow and we learn.

Oh I did feed my fish in the bowl junk (again not proud). So I feel water changes and lots of water changes or what makes a fish grow. I have seen it with my own eyes.

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They were credible, I just don't think those articles mean as much as you seem to think. Tetanus toxin having one effect does not mean GABA will do the same.

Most beginners are not used to doing large water changes. Most should not jump in to such large water changes since they are not used to monitoring things as needed. Yes, if a new to goldfish keeper and also chemist comes on here, then by all means they are probably more than capable of doing them. But that is not the majority of new people.

And again, it is not necessary to do 100% water changes. The simple fact that so many seem to be able to produce amazing goldfish in healthy environments without them speaks for itself. You give the impression that 100% is a vital part of goldfish keeping, that without them someone will likely end up with serious problems. This does not seem to be true. You do not have to get and keep all the negative things down at 0, you just have to keep them low. This is very possible without 100% water changes. Many people have had issues with the water changes others told them were vital. They do water changes and the fish are stressed or even die.

Anyone reading this: More water changes are better, but be careful. If you want to increase the amount you change, do it slowly. Don't jump from 25% to 75%, step up in small increments. Be careful, watch your goldfish for signs of stress, and know your limits. Some have found that for their tanks 100% water changes work wonders, others have found that for their setups, it is more stressful than beneficial. I, nor anyone else, can tell you for sure what is best for your tank. You need to figure it out.

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So unrelated but I had to post this somewhere....I just pulled out the undergrad animal phys text that the class I TA uses. The only thing in the entire book on goldfish was this:

"Two species of related cyprinid fish are known to have extaordinary abilities to live without O2. One of these is the common goldfish (Carassius auratus), which is reported to survive in O2 free water for 11 to 24 hours at 20 degree Celcius and 1 to 2 days at 6 degrees Celcius. No wonder goldfish survive the tender loving care of 5 year olds!"

:blink: what an intellegent comment

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It looks like we agree on something finally! :P I don't think any animal could live without oxygen for that long of a time. I would think their brains would die long before that.

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