Personal Experience Best Practices: 4 Step Process to Help Prevent Fish Disease Outbreaks


This article highlights on a 4-step streamlined process that in my experience has proven to be beneficial in preventing fish disease outbreaks.

Sourcing healthy livestock is always the first acceptable approach in finding long term success in this hobby. However, these days even the most reputable of vendors aren't following the stringent quarantine procedures required to prevent disease outbreaks that cause complete havoc in our aquariums. Realistically it’s a revenue game and these vendors don't keep the specimens long enough to truly identify the disease and then treat that disease accordingly. Liveaquaria for example has an amazing on-site facility that follows a basic 2-3-week quarantine process which simply monitors the fish’s behavior and only in the scenario that the specimen exhibits signs of disease will the fish be treated. After the fish is eating well and it is visible healthy, the specimen is shipped off to the new owner who takes on the responsibility of the next critical steps. This is where we all have our own personal failure and success stories and I am happy to share mine. My primary missteps were centered around improperly quarantining livestock and without a hitch I’d experience parasites outbreaks and devastating livestock losses. Through these experiences of trial and error, I have learned to treat all fish that enter my aquarium as if they have a parasite even if they don't show any signs of disease.

Step 1) Conduct Fresh Water Dip
Step 2) Copper Treatment
Step 3) Internal Parasite & Bacterial Treatment
Step 4) Flukes Treatment

Here are the 4 steps broken down in detail.


Step 1. Key Points to Conducting a Successful Fresh Water Dip:

Fresh water dips can be frightening for all parties involved the first time around. I steered away from them for many years because I was too scared to perform one. It's quite simple and is NOT as stressful as one would think, but it must be conducted properly.
  • Use a clear 1 gallon bucket.
  • Use RODI water that matches the same PH and temperature of the shipper water perimeters.
*Note: Retrieve water sample from bag the fish was shipped in and test the PH and temperature. Keep PH buffer on hand if you need to raise the PH of the RODI to match the water sample.
  • Add air-stone into the bucket to produce more oxygen and agitate the water surface.
  • Use Prime or Amquel to ensure ammonia doesn't rise in the bucket during fresh water dip (FWD)
  • The duration of the dip should last anywhere between 5-10 minutes.
*Note: This timeframe is dependent on the health and behavior of the fish during the dip.

Image of flukes (FWD)
Screen Shot 2019-08-14 at 3.40.03 PM.png

Treating the Worse of Two Evils:

In my opinion, velvet and ICH are the hot ticket items as they can kill quickly (velvet primarily). Copper treatment is advised for treating these two parasites. A fresh water dip followed by administering the copper treatment will help suppress flukes if they are present on the fish but it will not eradicate worm completely. This buys time to treat the worst-case scenario and after the copper treatment has been completed I circle back to administering 2 rounds of Prazipro to eliminate flukes from the equation. However, in the scenario that flukes are identified during the dip, it is advised to move straight forward into treating the fish with Prazipro followed by 4 weeks of copper treatment at therapeutic levels.

*Note: Flukes are opaque in color (reference photo above) and the size and shape of a sesame seed. FWD’s can be effective against skin flukes, however, it is ineffective against flukes in the gills. Therefore, it’s important to treat with Prazipro even if you don't identify during the FWD.


Step 2. Key Points to Successfully and Safely Administering Copper Medication:
  • Copper is extremely toxic to aquarium life. As a matter of fact, no inverts, corals, etc. can survive the copper treatment and it is advised to administer copper in separate QT at-least 20 feet away from DT. In addition, all tools should be utilized separately for water changes, testing, etc.
  • Copper is only effective when administered at therapeutic levels. Too low of solution it can’t do its job properly and too high of solution it can potentially kill your livestock.
  • My personal brand preference for copper treatment is Seachem Cupramine. It is fully charged (ionic) copper solution. I've personally had great success with this product but there are several great products on the market.
  • Do NOT run media such as carbon unless you're trying to remove or reduce of the copper solution.
  • Keep the QT scape minimalistic. You want to maintain consistent levels of copper during the treatment period and any additional media, sand bed, rock, etc. can affect the copper absorption rate. PVC piping is a great solution to use for creating hiding places for your livestock while in quarantine and it will not have a large impact on the copper solution.
  • A reliable test kit is a must and in conjunction with Cupramine I recommend the Hanna Checker. These tests kits are easy to facilitate and the results are read digitally. Seachem makes their own copper test kit. However, the results are viewed through a color scale which I find it hard to decipher.
*Note: API copper test kit does not work well with Cupramine.
  • When administering copper treatment, it is advised to slowly increase the copper level to allow time for your fish to adapt. I start with 1/4 the recommended amount suggested by Seachem. I then add 1/8 dose twice daily splitting between am/pm over a 4-5-day period until I reach the recommended level of .50ppm.

Image of Marine Ich
Screen Shot 2019-08-14 at 3.41.27 PM.png

Image of Marine Velvet
Screen Shot 2019-08-14 at 3.42.08 PM.png


Step 3. Working Inside Out, Treating for Internal Parasites:
  • I feed a combination of Seachem Metro + Health Aid Bifuran + Seachem Focus for a 14-day period. Seachem Focus is a great product that binds these medications together with the frozen foods.
  • I suggest adding a TBS of Seachem Garlic Guard to help entice the fish to consume the medicated food.
  • Suggested dosing quantity: One heaping spoon of each medication.
*Note: Use the scoop provided with the Seachem Focus or Metro bottle and add one TBS of frozen food. Allow the food to soak in the medication for approximately one hour or longer before feeding.

Screen Shot 2019-08-14 at 3.33.16 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-08-14 at 3.34.05 PM.png
Screen Shot 2019-08-14 at 3.34.28 PM.png


Step 4. Treating for External Worms:
  • Conduct two separate 50% water changes over a 2-day period.
  • Run carbon for the same 2-days period in your media chamber if possible.
  • Test to ensure copper levels reading below .10ppm
  • Dose the first recommended treatment of Prazipro. 3-5 days later conduct a 50% water change and administer the second round of Prazipro.
*Note: Cupramine can be removed by adding carbon into your media.



These best practice steps noted above will highly increase your success rate with preventing fish disease outbreaks. An immensely overlooked disease prevention tactic is quarantining corals, inverts, CUC, etc... essentially anything wet being added to your aquarium has the potential of caring unwanted hitchhikers. I've read many nightmare stories in regard to well-established aquarists, some 10 plus years, who have added a coral or snail for example and lost their entire fish livestock due to a parasite outbreak. To conclude, you can follow the strictest fish quarantine procedures but if this last step is neglected through your quarantine process, you could fall victim to a disease outbreak.

The best protocol to eliminate this issue is an invert and coral setup that houses your prized processions for at-least a 12-week period prior to adding it to your display aquarium. You can avoid pulling out your entire livestock and conducting these stressful 76-day fallow periods for parasites such as ICH. Best of all you’ll have the peace of mind that you've protected your investment.

Happy Reefing!!!
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@Pathot984 supporting the community with fish disease prevention and treatment information.

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Great detailed information. Learned the hard way as i don't have a quarantine tank! Always wanted a purple tang, and i finally got one at a hefty price of $85 for 1/2'" size. He did well for a few days and then i believe had ich. Panic set in. i was worried about infestation of my whole tank. Option of buying medication online and delivery was out of the question. Got Dr. G's Medicated Nutrition, medicated frozen food! from Pets Co. A great product! Within 4-5 days it all cleared up
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Excellent info..
Like the comprehensive nature of your protocol!
Grate information.
This article is very informative. I have had my issues with parasites and I look forward to trying this out on my tusk fish for LA next week.

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