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- May 27, 2012
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I would like to first discuss why it is important to quarantine fish. Fish introduced into our systems are often stressed. This stress could be due to subpar living conditions in the LFS, being transferred thousands of miles to a wholesale distributor to the LFS to your tank, or for those that order online fish that are sent on their journey from an online vendor in a Styrofoam box to our doorstep. Also, you do not know how the fish was harvested or what it may have been subjected to. Why should I care if my fish is stressed? It leaves the fish as an open canvas that welcomes disease and parasites.
Another good reason to quarantine a fish is to observe a fish before introducing it to the display tank. Why? It gives you the opportunity to observe the fish to ensure that it is eating well, active, and does not contaminate the DT with any diseases or parasites. It is all too common for a hobbyist to introduce all their fish directly into their DT and then somewhere down the road they have a disease breakout in their tank. This sometimes can lead to all the fish dying within 48 hours.
My final reason for quarantining fish is that itâ€™s easier to treat fish in a quarantine tank as opposed to a DT. Many of the treatment methods can kill many, if not most, invertebrates. They can also be absorbed into the live rock only to leach out later.
Now you have decided to quarantine - what equipment is needed?
Now you have decided to quarantine - what equipment is needed?
The first thing that is needed is a tank. Now, the tank does not have to be large. It all depends on the size of the specimens that you are quarantining. If you have a large tank and get large fish, then go at least a 40 breeder. If you are quarantining smaller fish like clowns or firefish, then get a smaller tank. I recommend a 20 long as a good quarantine tank. However, the tank does not necessarily have to be a fish tank. It can be a Rubbermaid container (food grade quality). The key is that you need to be able to clearly see the fish to be able to observe it for any signs of disease. This would be difficult to do with a rubbermaid container.
I would recommend a hang on back filter or even a canister filter if it is available. I find it best to use a filter that is rated at least double the size of the tank. For example, your tank is 20 gallons therefore I would get a filter rated for 40 gallons. During the quarantine period, it is acceptable to run carbon. If at any point you need to medicate the tank, remove the carbon. Carbon will absorb the medication making the treatment useless.
An appropriately sized heater for the tank is recommended. You want to replicate the same temp for the quarantine as you would the DT. This will help make the transition to the DT a little smoother.
I recommend having a light for the tank. This will make it easier for you to see the fish.
This will make it easier for you to see parasites on the fish.
What to do with that stuff for the quarantine tank?
Time to setup the tank. Now there are two different scenarios in which I will suggest setting up the quarantine tank. I also have my own method for each scenario. The first scenario is as a true quarantine tank. This tank will serve as a tank to house new additions before introducing them into the display tank. I like to look at this tank in the same sense as a nursery for a newborn. This tank needs to have optimal conditions and the parameters should be as close to the display tank as possible. I like to setup the quarantine tank just like I would a new tank, but with a slightly different setup (no live rock* and no sand**). The tank should be setup ahead of time and be allowed to cycle just like the display tank. I prefer to use PVC painted black, coffee mugs, terra cotta and even standard freshwater tank decorations. All of these surfaces can provide surface area for the denitrifying bacteria to live. Be mindful of the fish's needs when choosing the decorations for the tank. I recommend quarantining fish for a month. This will allow plenty of time to observe the new additions for any signs of disease.
Then, there is what I consider to be the hospital tank. I like to refer to this tank as the ICU for the fish. You have found yourself in a situation where a fish is sick, beat up or is just not acting right. The fish needs to be "hospitalized". A lot of hobbyists find themselves in this position when they do not have a tank setup to isolate the fish. It is important to isolate the fish quickly, but at the same time not subject the fish to the harsh conditions of a new, sterile tank. Here is what I do. I prep my water and allow it to mix for at least four-six hours (this is NOT ideal it is best to allow it to mix for 24 hours). I also hook up the filter I plan on using to the DT in order to get some of the beneficial bacteria in the filter. I also keep sponges in all of the tanks that I run. You can also use water from the DT in the hospital tank. The reason this can benefit the tank is that the water parameters are the same and it won't stress the fish unnecessarily. This is so I can place the sponges in my hospital tank should I need them. The sponges harbor beneficial bacteria and will be helpful in helping get the bacteria going in the hospital tank. I place decorations like ceramic mugs, terracotta pots, PVC and fake decorations in the hospital tank.
In either case, I cannot stress how important it is to maintain optimum water quality. It is important to have test kits and a reliable refractometer on hand at all times. For the quarantine of fish, I recommend ammonia(free and total), nitrite, nitrate, & pH. I recommend testing daily and even urge people to test twice a day. The reason I recommend having a test kit for both free and total ammonia is that you may have to treat the tank for an ammonia spike. The products that are available for remedying ammonia will only detoxify the ammonia and not remove. The standard test kit will test for total ammonia not the free ammonia, thus giving you a false positive. I recommend keeping amquel on hand to help deal with high ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Another important thing to keep on hand is fresh saltwater. This way you have it available at all times to be able to do a water change.
It is OK to use a product such as BioSpira or Nite Out when setting up a quarantine tank. These products can help boost the denitrifying bacteria populations but they are not a cure all.
*Live rock can be used in setting up a quarantine tank. However, it must be removed if medications are going to be used. The rock can absorb the medications. I would not recommend placing the rock back into the display tank.
**The only time I would place sand in a quarantine tank is if the fish was a sand dweller. In this case, I would place the sand in a dish such as a terracotta planter base.**
A very simple and basic quarantine tank:
Pic from wetwebmedia.com
As you can see from the above tanks, they are very simple. They do not need to cost a lot of money, but they can save you a lot of money down the road. It is like an insurance plan for your livestock.