Coral/Invert Quarantine Time Frames

The purpose of this article is to outline time periods required to properly quarantine (QT) marine corals & invertebrates. While unable to host...
By Humblefish, Nov 3, 2017 | |
  1. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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    Coral/Invert Quarantine Time Frames

    Preface: The purpose of this article is to outline time periods required to properly quarantine (QT) marine corals & invertebrates. While unable to host ectoparasites the way fish do, corals/inverts are still able to “carry” fish diseases in one of two ways:​
    • Free swimmers inadvertently attached if the coral/invert was taken from infected water.​
    • Tomonts encysted to the animal, which can occur if the coral/invert was previously housed in an infected tank.​
    The information contained in this article only takes fish diseases into consideration, as discussed here: https://www.reef2reef.com/ams/how-to-quarantine-coral-and-inverts.228/

    It DOES NOT take coral specific pests into account, such as Red Planaria, Acropora Eating Flatworms (AEFW) and Montipora Eating Nudibranchs. In most cases, these threats can be dealt with by using a coral dip (e.g. CoralRx) upon receipt and then placing the coral into a dedicated QT for observation. The point of post dip observation is to watch for hatchlings that emerge from eggs, which oftentimes coral dips do not eliminate.
    [​IMG]
    A simple coral/invert quarantine tank.

    Free Swimmers: This is the infective stage, which propels through the water seeking fish to infect. However, it is possible for this free swimming stage to come into contact with any coral/invert and remain there. Especially if it has become weakened (unable to swim) or damaged in some way. A free swimmer could then hitchhike its way into your Display Tank (DT) if you were to buy an “unlucky” coral/invert. There are two ways of alleviating this threat:​
    1. Due to weak adherence, a simple rinsing (using tank water) should wash away any potential free swimmers. However, some animals (like anemones) absorb a lot of water, so Option #2 may be better:​
    2. Isolate the coral/invert to a fishless environment (e.g. frag tank) for 16 days. Ich free swimmers (called theronts) can remain infective for only 48 hours; however velvet free swimmers (called dinospores) can use photosynthesis for energy and thus can survive for up to 15 days without finding a fish host to feed upon. In both cases, denying the pathogen a fish host is key to breaking its life cycle.
    Tomonts: This is the “egg” stage, which encysts upon hard surfaces. It cannot be washed away like free swimmers, and scrubbing tomonts off is likely to be very hit or miss. In addition, it is unlikely that coral dips have any impact on tomonts, since not even copper can eradicate them (copper only kills free swimmers). So, the only way of dealing with this threat is to wait out any tomonts by isolating newly purchased corals/inverts to a fishless environment. As previously mentioned, a frag tank is ideal to use as a coral/invert QT so long as no fish are being housed in it.

    Tomonts inevitably rupture and release free swimmers (previously discussed) into the water. When a free swimmer fails to find a fish to feed upon, it starves to death. How long this entire process takes, and thus how long you must QT a coral/invert, is what I will discuss below.

    [​IMG]
    Could this be on a new coral or invert you just purchased?

    In most cases, 45 days worth of isolation will eliminate most threats. This includes velvet, brook, flukes, bacterial infections and all but one strain of ich. In a 1997 study (Colorni and Burgess) it took 72 days for all the theronts to be released from a group of tomonts. However, that study has been the subject of debate, because the longer excystment period occurred at 20C (68F), and it is possible that lower temperature slowed down the parasite's life cycle. More on this can be found here: https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/marine-ich-and-temperature.232825/

    In any case, the Colorni and Burgess study directly influenced the “76 day rule” (explained here) – which is the widely accepted fallow (fishless) period to rid a DT of marine ich (and all other diseases except Uronema marinum.) Therefore, 76 days worth of isolation in a fishless environment is also the safest time frame to QT all corals/inverts. However, whether you choose to QT for 45 or 76 days really comes down to your tolerance for risk. There are always exceptions to every rule, so let's break down exactly how long you need to QT various corals/inverts:


    * Whether to isolate to a fishless environment for 45 or 76 days comes down to your tolerance for risk. Obviously, a longer QT period is always better from a disease prevention standpoint.

    ** Starfish & sea urchins cannot carry the encysted stage (Peter Burgess 1992).

    *** Use a coral dip (e.g. CoralRx) to eliminate any hitchhikers or tiny crustaceans, such as pods.

    (a) Or until first molt is observed. Any tomonts will be on the shedded exoskeleton.

    (b) LPS & SPS both have stony components that tomonts can easily adhere to. Most soft corals contain sclerites (skeletal needles) which they use for absorbing calcium. Zoas often come on a small rock or coral plug, both of which a tomont could encyst upon.

    (c) No available information on these (and others not mentioned above), so best to play it safe and QT for 76 days.

    Note: The information contained in the chart above was mostly derived from Dr. Peter Burgess 1992 thesis: https://pearl.plymouth.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/10026.1/2632/PETER JOHN BURGESS.PDF?sequence=1

    The table (below) was taken from that publication and to my knowledge, is the only time Cryptocaryon attachment and cyst development has been studied on corals & inverts.

    [​IMG]

    Quarantine these just as you would a fish:
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2017
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  2. LuckyPhil

    LuckyPhil Member R2R Supporter

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    Love your threads Humblefish, I am going to stick with 76 day QT for anything wet, it would be my worst nightmare to think that i introduced ich to my achilles tang (and livestock) because i wanted to save a month (31 days).
     
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  3. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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    I agree 100%; but I wanted to offer people a more palatable option (45 days) that would protect their DT from everything except the possibility of encountering the 72 day strain. However likely or unlikely that may be. Isolating your corals/inverts for 45 days is still better than not QTing them at all. ;)
     
  4. 4FordFamily

    4FordFamily Tang, Angel, & Wrasse Addict Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    Yes thank you!! Make this is a sticky if you have not already! :)
     
  5. 4FordFamily

    4FordFamily Tang, Angel, & Wrasse Addict Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    @Humblefish, could you clarify one thing?

    I remember you saying that you need not reset the clock each time you add coral or inverts to a coral qt— rather only add those pieces that have been there 76 or 16 days depending on what they are to the display tank. Can you confirm?
     
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  6. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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    Tomonts cannot transfer from one coral/invert to another, so you are good to go there. The only danger would be from a free swimmer released by a tomont on a more recent coral/invert addition. To alleviate this threat you should thoroughly rinse any corals with DT water before adding them to your system.
     
  7. lactose

    lactose Active Member R2R Supporter Partner Member 2019 Partner Member 2018

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    Thx that was my question as well.

    In addition to rinsing, If I wanted to be extra safe I could wait 16 days after new addition before removing an existing one and that would be enough to wait out any new free swimmers right? Thx again
     
  8. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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    Unfortunately, you would need to wait 76 days after the most recent coral/invert addition to be sure there were no free swimmers in the water.
     
  9. lactose

    lactose Active Member R2R Supporter Partner Member 2019 Partner Member 2018

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    Thanks. I inferred from this below that you would only need 16 days for free swimmers?

    Thanks again, I am asking as I am going to do the maximum appropriate for EVERYTHING in QT before it goes into any of my displays but at the same time don't want to hold things unnecessarily long. Your info here and in other threads has become the reference/basis for all my protocols.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2017
  10. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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    Yes, but that's only if the animal entered the QT with free swimmers loosely attached. A perfect example of this would be an anemone, which could have free swimmers on it but their "skin" is too soft for tomonts to encyst upon. By contrast, a stony coral could have tomonts stuck to it and it could take up to 72 days for all the ich free swimmers to be released from the tomonts. You then wait 4 more days (76 days) for all the free swimmers to starve to death. Any velvet tomonts/dinospores would be gone by the 45 day mark, because velvet's life cycle occurs faster than ich's.
     
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  11. coweyes298

    coweyes298 Active Member

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    I have QT and treated every fish and let the DT to be fishless for 83 days. Now fish are in DT for 70 days after the fallow period and I haven't seen any sign of ich or fluke. Occasionally Hippo Tang and Midas Blenny will flash to rock/sand one or two times a day, but I think their skin are just irritated by the way they sleep inside tight rock space. I have a small coral QT and I am playing it safe to count 76 days after the last coral added. It is hard to do this way since you need to stop buying coral and start counting 76 days. I am at 37 days mark, still 40 days to go without buying any coral!

    I recently introduced Berghia Nudibranch from Salty Underground to My DT due to Aptiasia outbreak. This is the only invert I didn't QT. I couldn't find a way to feed these nudi Aptiasia while in a separate QT for 76 days, so I took the chance. My procedure was to rinse nudi for 3 times, with discarding the rinsed water every single time. I also tried to introduced as lees water after rinse as possible into my DT. Now it's been 9 days since nudi added and I haven't noticed any ich to be introduced. Knock on wood.
     
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  12. revhtree

    revhtree Owner Administrator Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter Photo of the Month Award R2R Excellence Award Partner Member 2019 Article Contributor Build Thread Contributor

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    Thank you for this wonderful information!
     
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  13. Bob E

    Bob E Active Member Partner Member 2019 Partner Member 2018

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    Thanks for the great write up
     
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  14. Sistawolf

    Sistawolf Valuable Member R2R Supporter

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    @Humblefish the most intelligent man on planet earth.. I don’t know where I would be in this hobby if it were not for you!! Thanks for this thread along with your others.. you should seriously put a book together! I would so buy it
     
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  15. Kyl

    Kyl Valuable Member Build Thread Contributor

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    I didn't even think of velvet spores when designing my new QT / frag system, instead planning on going with a temporary two day "bath" in another tank before transfer into the DT to wipe out theronts. Has any type of black-out period been observed to eliminate them that can be combined with the temporary "bath"?
     
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  16. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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    I soooooooooo need you to explain this to my wife. :D

    To my knowledge, no. The general rule is 16 days in a fishless environment to starve out velvet dinospores (free swimmers); 6 weeks fallow to eliminate both velvet tomonts & dinospores. Being a dinoflagellate, all life stages of velvet are capable of using photosynthesis as a means of obtaining nutrients.
     
  17. Kyl

    Kyl Valuable Member Build Thread Contributor

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    16 days it is!
     
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  18. pfoxgrover

    pfoxgrover Active Member

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    Thanks for the article.
    I have been very good about QT of fish but after many failures of QT with sensitive SPS corals, I gave up with coral QT and do a two stage dip of Coral RX and Bayer. In order to keep some sensitive SPS frags happy for 45 or 76 days I would say that I would need a QT tank capable of replicating the lighting, flow, and stability of my reef tank. My attempts of doing that in the past have fallen short. Doing regular massive water changes for 45 to 76 days with matched water perimeters would prove to be a lot of work.
    It sounds like I am left with a very difficult or risky proposition?
     
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  19. Humblefish

    Humblefish Dr. Fish Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Expert Contributor Article Contributor Louisiana Reef Club Partner Member 2018

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    One of the advantages of a fishless tank is you can control nutrients. You could setup a bare bottom 29 gal (for example) coral QT and blast as much flow as you wanted in there without worrying about kicking sand up. You should get more than enough PAR using one of these: http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=25292

    A good HOB skimmer and proper dosing to keep up with supplement demand. There's no reason why it can't work. ;) I did it for years (dedicated frag tank) using a similar configuration back during my SPS phase.
     
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  20. pfoxgrover

    pfoxgrover Active Member

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    I always remove the frag plug to try to prevent coral pests from getting in. Will Tomonts attach to heath tissue of a coral?
     
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