How to Quarantine Coral and Inverts

Coral and Invert Quarantine

What?! You want me to quarantine my fish AND my corals and inverts? In a word, Yes. Have you ever quarantined all your fish, were so careful to treat carefully and follow all the rules only to end up with ich or velvet in your display anyway? The reason this happens is most usually because there was a tomont on the hard surface of the coral, frag plug, or even the shell of a crab or shrimp! A tomont is the cyst stage of ick and velvet where the parasite multiplies before breaking free of the cyst to search out a new host to feed on. Pretty much any system that has fish in it can produce a coral carrying parasites. Unless the coral or invert comes from a fishless tank, that has been that way for 76 days or more, you’ll have to assume it can bring ick or velvet into your tank.

Fish parasites aren’t the only thing to worry about when adding corals to your display. Most of us already know to dip our corals in a coral dip to rid them of any coral pests. What they don’t know is that these dips won’t touch the tomont stage of parasites like ich. Running your corals through quarantine is also handy to do to be sure none of those coral pests made it through the dip. Some, like montipora eating nudibranchs lay eggs and those eggs can be difficult to remove with just a coral dip. Multiple dips may be required for some of these pests so having the corals in the coral QT will keep them out of your display until you are confident you have the pests eliminated.

Let’s talk about what a coral/invert QT needs to be. First and foremost, it needs to be completely fishless at all times. This is key to keeping fish parasites from entering your display through corals or inverts. It can be as simple as a 20 gallon tank, cheap T-5 lighting, small powerhead, HOB filter and a heater. Throw some live rock and sand in there and you have a quarantine tank set up and ready. You may choose to ditch the sand and rocks to go with just a frag rack and that’s fine as well, but you’ll need to be sure you have some biological filtration like Matrix by Seachem in the filter. Running a skimmer or reactors or even dosing pumps shouldn’t be necessary for a simple QT like this, but that’s entirely up to you and what all you will be keeping in the tank. 76 days shouldn’t be long enough, especially with regular water changes, to need all those things.
Photo by: Humblefish
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This frag tank will need to cycle just like any other tank and will go through the “new tank uglies” as well. Having inverts always in there will help with any algae that might pop up, especially at first during the “ugly” faze. I tend to keep a group of snails and hermits going through the frag tank, so as I introduce one group to my display there is another group going into the frag tank. Feeding the inverts and corals in the QT may be necessary to keep nutrients up. I will tie a bit of nori or a small silver side to a frag square for the hermits and snails to eat on occasionally.

The good news here is that you don’t have to introduce the corals and inverts in batches. Each individual coral needs to be in the QT for 76 days. Adding another coral later doesn’t restart the clock for the first coral. I like to add them in small groups (mostly because they are like potato chips, how do you just buy one?) and keep a list of which corals or inverts went in the QT on what date. It helps keep track of which ones can be added to the display so I don’t accidentally add one that hasn’t been in quarantine for the full 76 days.

I keep a JBJ 20 gallon frag tank which is an all in one tank. This means that the back of the tank is sectioned off as the “sump” area and contains the overflow, prefilter sponge, middle section for media in which I keep a heater and some carbon, and the return chamber. It comes with a pump already and a spray bar in the display side. I purchased an AI Prime for this tank, the Micro ATO and a heater and I was done. A little live rock from the display and a sprinkle of sand to cover the bottom and it looks like a tiny display tank. This worked for me, but yours can be done for much less. Used equipment sales will be more than fine for something like this if it is in proper working order.
Photo by: Melypr1985
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Operating a coral and invert QT can be lifesaving, reef saving and money saving in the long run. Going through the trouble to quarantine your fish and be sure there are no diseases in your tank is great but can still result in disaster without also running the rest of your livestock through QT as well. You should always dip any new corals anyway, but pests will still slip by that and a QT will help keep these out of your tank even when they slip by. I hope this article helps you understand just how important this is and how to implement a coral QT.

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About author
Meredith Presley started keeping marine aquariums in 2007. She’s done everything wrong that can be done in the hobby (mostly but not all in that first year) and that has afforded her to learn a lot of hard lessons. Recently she’s been focused on marine disease diagnosis and treatment and hopes to focus on breeding soon as well. She also keeps a blog with basic info on saltwater keeping and her experiences with her own tank and livestock.

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