A Hypocrites View on Not Using Quarantine

Brew12

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Seawitch submitted a new Article:

A Hypocrites View on Not Using Quarantine

Little in this hobby stirs up as much emotional debate as discussions on quarantining fish. Threads on prophylactic treatment, ich management, and immunity are regularly hashed out until people are burned out. Passions run high, and for good reason. Both sides of the debate feel their practices are what are best for the fish, and they all care deeply about the health of their fish.

The display tank of @Brew12.
r2rbrew1DSC_0022.jpg

Photo is courtesy of the author, @Brew12, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

I will admit it. I am a hypocrite when it comes to this topic. Every fish in my tank has been treated with copper or chloroquine phosphate. Most have also been treated with Metroplex, Kanaplex and praziquantel. Almost every fish I have received has had Cryptocaryon irritans, Amyloodinium ocellatum, flukes and/or uronema. I feel that my greatest chance of successfully keeping healthy fish is through treating for these even if they aren’t showing symptoms. And yet, I know that this is not sustainable. The future of this hobby will depend on us getting away from prophylactic treatment. I know this, and yet I can’t get myself to change. I am certainly a hypocrite.

The freshwater world of cichlid-keeping experienced a crisis due to overuse of prophylactic treatment. African cichlids routinely developed bloat. It was found that bloat could be easily treated using metronidazole. With everyone using metronidazole, keeping cichlids became easy. Many fish were saved that otherwise would have been lost to bloat, and the cichlid hobby lived happily ever after.

Except that isn’t how the story went. It took less than 10 years before metronidazole become completely ineffective against cichlid bloat. Fish deaths increased, and the only known cure was no longer effective. Fortunately, it was found that a natural food could be used that would prevent cichlid bloat. This cheap and readily available “cure” was widely adopted and keeping cichlids was easy again. Interestingly enough, several years after it fell out of widespread use, metronidazole became effective again and can still be used to treat acute cases of cichlid bloat.

An African cichlid, Cyphotilapia frontosa.
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This is a royalty-free photo courtesy of Christy Hammer from Pixabay.
What are we going to do in this hobby when copper no longer kills ich (Cryptocaryon irritans) or velvet (Amyloodinium ocellatum) at levels that aren’t also fatal to the fish? How will we react when praziquantel-resistant flukes become the norm or when internal parasites and bacterial infections no longer respond to metronidazole or kanamycin? I believe this is inevitable, and the more widely used these products are the sooner it will happen. I feel we need to start planning for this sooner rather than later.

Typical meds.
r2rbrew2Meds.jpg

Photo is courtesy of @Brew12, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Fortunately, we do have people who have successfully kept fish without prophylactic treatment that we may be able to learn from. I’ve tried to gather as much information as I could from them and figure out what they have in common; I wanted to share my observations.

Fish Nutrition:

The immune system of a fish is a fascinating thing. This immune system is fueled by the food the fish consumes. It is more than having the right amount of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals although those are also important. Gut microbiota (probiotics) play a critical role in the health of a fish. The most reliable way of supplying microbiota is through fresh live foods. That isn’t an option for many of us but frozen foods can be almost as good. All frozen foods made from quality ingredients will contain some of the necessary bacteria. Some frozen food suppliers, such as LRS Foods, add probiotics to their foods prior to freezing. It is important to minimize the number of times the food is thawed and re-frozen as each cycle will kill additional bacteria. There is nothing wrong with using pellets or flake food but they should be supplemented by at least some fresh or frozen foods on a regular basis.


r2rbrew5Larry's.png

Photo is courtesy of LRS Foods. ©2019, All Rights Reserved.
Feeding the proper amount is also important. Feed the fish what the fish need to be healthy. If you are cutting back on how much you feed because of algae issues or to try and reduce nitrates you are risking the health of those fish. Find other methods to address those issues. Properly fed does not mean overfed. One feeding a day should be plenty for most fish. A healthy tank will have pods and algae that fish will graze on to supplement what you provide.

Fish Stocking:

Stress is the enemy of the fish immune system. One way we can reduce the stress on fish is to make sure we are stocking our tanks properly. Thanks to the Tang Police, we know we should take the fish size and swimming habits into consideration when determining if a fish is right for whatever size tank we have. We do need to take compatibility into consideration when it comes to stocking our tanks, too.

We need to take aggression level into account. We may not be able to keep two similar fish or two of the same species together. Some wrasses can be mixed easily but other combinations may not work. Do your homework prior to going to the fish store. Keep in mind that we aren’t looking for fish that might be able to get along if we are lucky. We want compatible fish that will live together with minimal stress.

Another thing to keep in mind is that we may need dithering fish to keep stress down. Some fish may hide unless they see other fish swimming around for fear of a predator being nearby. Dithering fish are fish that will more readily swim in the open to reassure the less assertive fish that the area is safe. This has the side benefit of drawing your shy fish out for more public observation.

Acclimation:

We should expect any fish we purchase to be in a stressed and weakened condition. They may have been plucked from the ocean and moved through several systems along with multiple overnight flights over the course of a week. Odds are they have not been fed well during this time, if at all. Unless your system doesn’t have other fish yet, or is extremely peaceful, it may be best to not just dump the fish into your display to fend for itself. At the very least I would recommend using an acclimation box for a few days. This will allow the fish time to adjust to your system and feeding regime without having to compete with its tank mates. Another option, if your system has room for it, is to let the fish acclimate in the sump for a few weeks and then move them into the display tank.

It is also not unusual for local fish stores and wholesale suppliers to keep their fish in water with a salinity below 1.017. Some fish can adapt to a sudden increase in salinity to 1.025 but others may struggle. For this reason alone it may be worth setting up a quarantine system to keep the fish isolated while gradually raising salinity over the course of a week. The fish can also adjust to your feeding habits during this time giving you a better chance for success when you do add them to the display tank.

Aquascaping:

There is more to aquascaping than just making it look nice. We want it to meet the needs of our fish. Are we going to have enough hiding spots for our fish? Do some fish need a sand bed? Will the fish have enough open swimming area? Will they still have enough swimming area when the coral grows in? One sure way to have aggression is to not have a place for each fish to hide at night and aggression leads to sick fish.

System Stability:

This is a very broad term and I am only going to hit the highlights. We should do our best to provide a consistent environment for our fish. We should monitor our systems regularly to ensure all our equipment is operating properly. It is important to keep spare pumps and heaters so we aren’t panicked if we have a failure on a Saturday night. A heater controller is also a great idea as temperature spikes have been known to cause disease outbreaks in tanks. Using an ATO system will help if we can’t regularly top off the tanks manually.

Parasite Control:

If we have weakened fish that we have just added to our system, it will help to have a system in place to help limit the number of parasites that can attack the fish. The most commonly recognized methods of parasite control are ultraviolet (UV) filters and ozone. Most UV filters have two recommended flow rates, one for algae and a slower flow rate for parasites. Ozone generators can be used to damage the cell walls of the parasites and kill them before they infect the fish.

r2rbrew3DSC_0010-2.jpg

Photo courtesy of @Brew12, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Another observation I have made is that people who are successful keeping fish without prophylactic treatment are well populated with corals having large polyps. We know ich and velvet need hard surfaces to attach on so that they may reproduce. Fewer hard surfaces due to coral growth may make the parasites travel further prior to finding a place to attach. Coral polyps are known to eat copepods and other small organisms. I suspect that they also eat the parasites both looking for a place to encyst and again as they get blown around trying to find a host. If I ever do set up a system that doesn’t rely on prophylactic treatment I will load up on these natural mouths by adding Green Star Polyps, Zoanthids, and any other corals that can directly consume small organisms.

Another way parasite control happens in a more mature tank is through "decoy" fish. The free-swimming parasites have no way of knowing which fish in the tank have a strong immune system and which have a weakened one. Parasites that land on a fish with a strong immune system will reproduce in very low numbers, if at all, which will help protect newly added weakened fish while they build their immunity.

The display tank of @Lasse.
r2rbrew6Lasse.jpg

This photo is courtesy of and used with permission from @Lasse, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

And quickly, I want to address something that doesn't work. Cleaner fish and shrimp are not likely to have much impact on the parasites and only clean up the mucus and dead skin from the parasite entry location. There is no evidence that either will eat the parasite itself.

I hope people out there who are struggling with fish disease but don’t want to treat prophylactically have found this useful. And don’t feel like you need to do each of these perfectly, just do as well as you are able. The better you do any of them, the more likely you can have a failure in a different area while keeping your fish healthy. A poorly fed system that is overstocked with aggressive fish will do much worse during a heater failure than a system that is well fed and properly stocked.

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Author Profile: @Brew 12

Steven Frick has spent much more time under the ocean than keeping a small piece of it. He got his start in the electrical field in the US Navy Nuclear Power program as an electrician's mate. After 5 years of service on the submarine USS Henry M Jackson he finished his final 3+ years of service teaching electrical theory at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory.

Currently, he runs the projects and maintenance for the power distribution system of one of largest electrical consuming heavy industrial companies in the Southeastern United States. He wrote his sites' electrical safety policies and routinely acts as a consultant to other industrial facilities looking to improve their electrical safety programs. As someone who loves to both learn and teach, he has focused his attention on his newest hobby, reefing.

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tgrick

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Nice! A fantastic job. I'm a hypocrite also! Copper and CP are perma items in my fish toolkit! I like healthy fat robust fish and disease gets in the way of it! You did a wonderful job with this writeup and so far I agree 100%!!! Thank you for taking the time.

Maybe we should start a hypocrite club!

I do hope the tools we have today will last longer. If parasites become immune to copper or other treatments it would be a gamechanger for those trying to keep a marine system. I guess we take it one step at a time.
 

00Barracuda00

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Man this hits too close to home too soon.
Up until yesterday, I believed I was successfully practicing ich management. My first two clowns were treated for brook, after showing symptoms. But after about a month of clean health, I added a handful of new corals. While I did dip the corals, I didn't QT.
The warning signs were all there. The advice was plentiful, especially here on the forums. I just didn't see it.
I looked in the tank at night, and saw it was absolutely crawling with pods. I had never once added any. Of course they came in with the corals, but I didn't put it together. 3 days later my blue flasher wrasse was covered in ich. My gramma had vanished. My black and white clowns looked awful, and my springeri damsel was in serious trouble.

I only have 1 clown left, currently in a QT system I was able to throw together on the cheap. I was able to make it happen quick, because of the wonderful advice found on this forum. Had I just listened to this advice in the first place, I wouldn't have killed my fish.

I feel absolutely awful about it. I made myself another statistic. I'm another newbie that went too fast too soon, and suffered a tank crash before I could complete my first year in the hobby.




Any new folks reading, please QT. Whether you decide to treat prophylactically or not, is another matter entirely. But enacting a QT policy can only be beneficial to a new hobbyist. Give yourself an observation period to check your new purchases before risking the lives in your tank.
 
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Brew12

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Nice! A fantastic job. I'm a hypocrite also! Copper and CP are perma items in my fish toolkit! I like healthy fat robust fish and disease gets in the way of it! You did a wonderful job with this writeup and so far I agree 100%!!! Thank you for taking the time.

Maybe we should start a hypocrite club!

I do hope the tools we have today will last longer. If parasites become immune to copper or other treatments it would be a gamechanger for those trying to keep a marine system. I guess we take it one step at a time.
Thank you!

We have 2 members who do a ton of research on treating fish that have recently come across what appears to be a copper resistant strain of velvet. It used to take 1.5ppm copper for successful treatment but this stuff seems to have survived 1.75ppm. If what they have found is accurate, and I believe it is, we are already past the stage of hoping they last longer.

Man this hits too close to home too soon.
I'm sorry about all your recent problems.

Any new folks reading, please QT. Whether you decide to treat prophylactically or not, is another matter entirely. But enacting a QT policy can only be beneficial to a new hobbyist. Give yourself an observation period to check your new purchases before risking the lives in your tank.
I can tell you that if I ever set up another system I will not be practicing strict QT protocols. I already do much of what I have listed in my article although I would like more coral coverage that could potentially eat parasites.
I am at least somewhat inspired by the Seattle Aquarium. They have moved away from strict QT with prophylactic treatment and have seen a huge improvement in their fish survival rate.
 

Doc Lemonjello

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Nice article. I agree that the health of the fish in our care should be our primary concern even when it impacts how our preferences for how many fish we can safely maintain and keep stress levels to a minimum.
 

Jay Z

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Hmm. I’m completely backwards on this besides stability and aquascape.

I treat no fish or coral upon entry. Never have treated a tank. No light acclimation. They get 1 cup of tank water 2 times into their bag 15 minutes apart then dumped in the tank.

Only things out of the norm for me are 100lbs + of live rock in my 45 and my sump holds more water than my tank.

My tank has so many random creatures in it from hitchhikers. Like a mini zoo.

I feed once day a mix of rods, 1 mysis cube, reef roids, photo, and 4 drops of coral vitalizer. Broadcast feed only, not spot feeding. I do feed my anemone and elegance krill by hand.
 

smartwater101

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It took less than 10 years before metronidazole become completely ineffective against cichlid bloat. Fish deaths increased, and the only known cure was no longer effective.
I don't understand how they would develop a resistance considering they come from various sources. Unless they are all captive breed?

I guess I have the same thought about ich/copper. It doesn't make sense that it would develop a resistance to copper, when the the only place its being exposed to such high levels of copper, is in our tanks, lfs, breeding facilities, ect ect. I'd image the number of captives are a drop in the bucket relative to what's in the wild.

It seems strange to think an entire species is going to evolve based on what's being done to the few in captivity.
 
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Brew12

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I don't understand how they would develop a resistance considering they come from various sources. Unless they are all captive breed?

I guess I have the same thought about ich/copper. It doesn't make sense that it would develop a resistance to copper, when the the only place its being exposed to such high levels of copper, is in our tanks, lfs, breeding facilities, ect ect. I'd image the number of captives are a drop in the bucket relative to what's in the wild.

It seems strange to think an entire species is going to evolve based on what's being done to the few in captivity.
It isn't the wild strains that will develop a resistance. There are wholesalers that run low levels of copper in their systems to try and keep parasite numbers down. It's become very common to run low levels of copper at LFS's. Since these systems are never taken down and sterilized there are hundreds of generations of each parasite that are exposed to copper without being eradicated. These copper conditioned parasites can infest every fish that passes through the wholesaler systems and spread to LFS and hobbyists. Hobbyists may trade potentially infested fish and coral back to LFS's and with each other.
I don't worry about this with the parasites the fish may come from the ocean with. I do worry about it with the parasites the fish collect as they pass through the distribution chain.
 

cain720

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In 9 years of owning saltwater tanks, I've never quarantined a single fish and haven't had any significant issues with disease or parasites. My 9 year old clownfish has shown signs of Ich twice, but the symptoms subsided after a few days.

I think my success is due to my conservative take on stocking. Many of these huge tanks have so many fish they look unnatural. It's no wonder to me that a system with 30 fish and 2 caves has massive die-off from disease. My take is that your fish should appear sparse, and your rock work should be built to house all of your fish.
 

FlyPenFly

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PaulB has had a lot of success with live blackworms. Some fish go crazy for them like butterflies and angels and some fish won’t touch them but they’re fairly easy to get from your local FW LFS. Cheap and very easy to keep in a wide loosely closed tupperware container in your fridge. I just clean the water out every 2 days.

They also seem to last longer in hyposaline conditions when thrown into a QT.
 
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This article was extremely well-written. I completely enjoyed it.
Thank you, I appreciate that!

Also some thanks should go to @Seawitch for helping polish it up and make it more presentable.
 

Mastiffsrule

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I really enjoy this article as well. I have an interesting but kinda lame thread coming to an end tomorrow on something along these lines.

There is no absolute as I always say. Works for one, not for the other.

A few things I thought of.

If we go for a total Sterile environment, how fragile is it that 1 mistake or dormant critter make it thru and wipes out the tank due to no resistance. There is no guarantee just because symptoms are gone after QT it is still not there. Or it adapts like chicken pox into shingles.

How much stress does a fish goes thru with all the treatments leaving no it immune system when a healthy diet could produce same results. Or worse create the stress that leaves its immunity down to fight the aggressive guys.

Copper resistant strain of velvet come thru because it already made it thru a low does of it from a supplier. I used to get loopy on one drink. Now I drink 5 no problem. (Not an endorsement)

Before fish hit the tank it comes thru a suppliers that has cross contamination. I would assume eventually the issues learn to adapt and multiply. Why is the flu and common cold still around.

And that is the world as I see it

8C8D1F10-B7C7-4803-A444-B529B8F2E52D.gif
 

WVNed

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Nice article. I have said how I felt about this here before. My unquarantined Petco fish are fine tonight. I wish I understood the reasons for my success better. I am now doing it out of habit because it works.
The way I run a tank has worked in 8,20,30,56 and 75 gallons. I am about to try 240. We will see.
 

lion king

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I have long been against prophylactic treatment and have already experienced an exposure to an unusual stain of velvet and find fighting with internal parasites tougher and tougher. I also find the unknown ravages of copper treatment greatly denied,; organ failure, blindness?
 

FlyPenFly

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IMO, the best thing we can do is find more sources of live food. I don’t think frozen food is enough. We put so much time and effort in all sorts of filters and lighting and flow but we have relatively very low tech in providing perhaps the most important determinant of health, nutrition. Frozen and powdered food is probably not enough for optimal health.
 
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Brew12

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IMO, the best thing we can do is find more sources of live food. I don’t think frozen food is enough. We put so much time and effort in all sorts of filters and lighting and flow but we have relatively very low tech in providing perhaps the most important determinant of health, nutrition. Frozen and powdered food is probably not enough for optimal health.
I agree more live food would be great, but it isn't practical for many of us. Not all frozen foods are equal when it comes to fish health. I mentioned LRS because of the effort @ReefFrenzy puts into his LRS foods. Not only do they add probiotics, but they had an independent lab verify that they were surviving the freezing process.
http://www.larrysreefservices.com/probiotics.html
 

Cyricdark

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I don't think the cichlid comparison is really relevant to the saltwater hobby. All you need to breed them is a tank to put the babies in. This consistent over the course of years breeding of cichlids with mostly very relaxed to non-existent quarantine and disease management is what led to the bloat building a resistance by the same strain being exposed to treatment over the course of many generations. That is never going to happen in the saltwater hobby at least not in that scale, Most captive bred saltwater fish have to be bred in a lab grade environment with very strict prevention and disease/parasite management/eradication procedures to be successful. Even clownfish arguably one of the easiest to breed when done commercially still have these procedures. We will always find different strains of ich/brook/velvet etc, that are more/less resistant to various treatments simply because the ocean is vast and new organisms and variations of organisms are discovered every day. Prophylactic treatment and proper quarantine Should be the gold standard aspired too for any serious hobbyist, Allowing these parasites/diseases into your system will put you one stress event away from many more fish fatalities than you would have had otherwise. There's a youtube aquarium channel where the person that makes videos and gives advice has killed alot of expensive fish with ich, once I could forgive but they didn't learn and did it more times, and is still doing it. I often wonder how many more fish he has killed with his viewers following his example...
 
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