Overview of Tank Transfer Method Tank Transfer Method (‘TTM’) is a method for prophylactic treatment for the Marine Ich parasite (Cryptocaryon irritans, referred herein as just ‘Ich’) that is common to marine fish (does not apply to freshwater fish). The method entails transferring a fish from one tank to another several times until the parasite is eliminated. When administered correctly, TTM is highly effective at eliminating Ich from the fish. If you read nothing else in this write-up, consider at minimum the following important points about administering TTM properly: 1. Transfers need to occur every 72 hours OR less, NOT more 2. The total number of days to pass should be 12 OR more, NOT less 3. A minimum of four transfers is required, with more required if doing transfers more frequent than every 72 hours 4. Time of day of transfers does not matter, provided no more than 72 hours elapse between transfers (ignore what you think you know or have heard about mornings being required) 5. Between transfers, the tank and equipment should be allowed to completely dry AND stay completely dry for 24 hours OR longer 6. You can also use disinfectant, such as bleach or vinegar solution, to clean your tank/equipment between uses 7. The day you purchase your fish counts as a full Day in the 12-day counter, as long as you do not allow 72 hours to pass before your first transfer 8. You will need two or more of all your equipment, recommended: a. Tank or bucket/bin of an appropriate size b. Heater, plus thermometer (yes, even that you need two of) c. Hiding places (simply PVC elbows work great and they do not roll) d. Airtube & Airstone – should be thrown out after each use/transfer e. Tank cover (to prevent jumping)9. Powerheads and HOB filters can be used, but may complicate the disinfection process due to the risk of incomplete drying. If powerheads/HOB filters are to be used, a thorough (24-hour) soak in bleach solution is recommended 10. It is recommended you transfer your fish using a colander, however by hand or by net is OK with some considerations 11. As little water as possible should be transferred with the fish 12. Using Display Tank water instead of newly mixed water is OK if your Display Tank is disease free 13. For best practice, you should keep your fish quarantined in an observation tank for at least 4 weeks after TTM completes, longer the better 14. You can dose PraziPro for Flukes along with TTM or after 15. It is not advised to couple TTM with other treatment methods 16. Do not put your TTM tanks within 10 feet of your Display Tank due to the risk of disease transmission via aerosol. Preferably, keep your QT/TTM tanks in a separate room or location. 17. TTM only works on fish, due to the nature of the parasite’s life cycle (requires a fish host) 18. TTM does NOT work on anything else, such as hermits, snails, live rock, macro algae, ANYTHING WET! Table of Contents (topics and questions answered): 1. How is Tank Transfer Method performed? a. Transfer timeline example2. What equipment do I need? a. Recommended basics b. Is additional/other equipment OK? c. How do I transfer the fish to the new tank? i. Incidental water transfer3. Standard Q&A for TTM procedures a. Can I do transfers more often (less than 72 hours)? Can I do transfers for more than 12 days? b. Can I use Display Tank water instead of mixing new water? c. How long after TTM should I wait to add them to the Display Tank? d. Can I couple TTM with Copper or Hyposalinity, or other treatments (formalin baths, etc)? e. How does TTM compare to Copper, Chloroquine Phosphate or Hyposalinity treatment? f. Will Tank Transfer Method work on anything else, such as shrimp or coral? g. If I may already have Ich in my Display Tank, what steps should I take?4. Why/how does it work? a. I heard that you must do the transfers in the morning, is this true? b. Parasite infection via tank proximity5. What is Ich and why should I worry about it? How is Tank Transfer Method performed? TTM is a very simple process. For the why/how it works, see the ‘Why/how does it work?’ section below. For now, we jump straight into the important part, “how to do it”. Over the course of 12 days, every 72 hours (3 days), you move/transfer the fish from their current tank to a new sterile tank with sterile/dried equipment and fresh saltwater (parasite-free). Upon completion, your fish is Ich free! Easy as that? Yes! Don’t over think it. Important things/rules to consider and to NOT skimp on: · 72-hours rule: You can do transfers sooner than 72 hours, but you should not go over 72 hours by much; if you inadvertently go over the 72 hours when performing a transfer by more than even an hour, then you must start over again with TTM from Day 1 to be absolutely sure the treatment was effective. See ‘Why/how does it work?’ below for why. · 12-days rule: The minimum treatment period for TTM is 12 days. This equates to 4 transfers total, every 72 hours. You can do more than 4 transfers within the 12 days as long as (1) the last transfer is performed after 12 days OR longer and (2) you first-and-foremost follow the 72-hours rule above. If you miss a transfer at any point in the process, you must start over at Day 1 to be sure the treatment is effective. Examples of day-combinations that work just fine: o 4 total changes – 3+3+3+3 = 12 o 5 total changes - 2+3+2+3+2 = 12 o 6 total changes - 2+2+2+2+2+2 = 12 o Daily (24-hour period) changes are discouraged as it may not allow for sufficient time to disinfect the tank and equipment between transfers· Cleaned/Dried Equipment rule: You must clean and dry all equipment between transfers o Drying: Research has confirmed that simply allowing the equipment to dry AND remain completely dry for just 24 hours will kill any remaining Ich life-cycle stages. This means that you must allow time first for (a) all little remaining spots of water to evaporate and then (b) the equipment to then stay that way for 24 hours; this means you really should allow for no less than 48 hours total of drying to ensure this happens [authors opinion, fwiw]. * You MUST consider the points in the ‘What equipment do I need?’ section associated with certain types of equipment when dealing with drying; such as airstones and other equipment with difficult-to-dry nooks-and-crannies. * Consider putting a small fan over the drying tank and equipment to speed up the drying process. * It is NOT a requirement (per research) to also clean with bleach or other disinfectants, unless you are paranoid (not a bad thing to be when dealing with Ich). Drying is enough.o Cleaning/disinfecting: Simply rinsing with tap water and letting dry is all that is necessary; however, as stated above you may also prefer to take additional precautions to ensure Ich cysts are all dead in between transfers, and many people prefer to take this additional step. A bleach solution is the most commonly recommended disinfectant for assisting in killing Ich cysts. You can use as little as a 10% bleach-to-water solution to be successful. * Interesting, and important to know, is that if you have leftover bleach on your equipment/tank after cleaning, then when the bleach completely dries it only leaves behind salt with no harmful residue remaining (i.e. bleach residue is safe once dried). * If you do use disinfectants, it is still highly advised to allow your tank and equipment to dry thoroughly as well (see ‘Drying’ above). This will ensure that any spots that the disinfectant missed will still result in dead cysts. Transfer timeline example: It does not matter what time of day you receive the fish, the first day can count as a full day; even if very late in the day. However, you will want to start your transfers at a time of day prior to when you received the fish (ex. you receive your fish at 11am, you will want to do your first transfer at 11am or before, 3 days later). In a hypothetical January 1st purchase with 8:00 planned transfers (does not have to be 8:00am), you would follow the timeline below: Sunday, January 1st – purchase new fish, add to new tank (Day 1)…approximately (up to or less than) 72 hours passes… Wednesday, January 4th, 8:00am – Transfer #1: transfer fish to new tank (Day 4) o Clean/disinfect/dry equipment and old tank …approximately 72 hours passes… Saturday, January 7th, approx. 8:00am – Transfer #2: transfer fish to new tank (Day 7) o Clean/disinfect/dry equipment and old tank …approximately 72 hours passes… Tuesday, January 10th, approx. 8:00am – Transfer #3: transfer fish to new tank (Day 10) o Clean/disinfect/dry equipment and old tank …approximately 72 hours passes… Friday, January 13th, approx. 8:00am – Final Transfer (#4): transfer fish to new tank (Day 13) o You are done with TTM. This is their new temporary home, no more transfers necessary; however, you will want to quarantine them for a period of time here to ensure that TTM succeeded and that no other health issues are present on your fish. See ‘How long after TTM should I wait to add them to the Display Tank?’ below for things to consider. What equipment do I need? Recommended basics (two of each is required) * Tank or bucket/bin – this can be 5g, 10g, 20g, 30g, or however large you need considering the size and quantity of fish you are treating; DO NOT cram your fish into too small of a tank/container; remember that you still need to maintain good water quality during the process. Even a Home Depot or old salt bucket will work for smaller fish o While buckets, tubs and other plastic containers can be used, a glass tank at eye level is optimal for better visualization of symptoms.* Heater, plus thermometer – designed for the size of your tank/bin * Hiding places – can simply be PVC attachments of various sizes/shapes, or anything else non-porous and tank-safe you can think of. If treating fish such as gobies, jawfish and certain wrasses, a small plastic container filled with sand may be utilized, however, it must be thrown out and replaced with a new container with fresh sand in the next transfer (cannot reuse it!). * Airtube & airstone – it is recommended you buy tubing and airstones in bulk as it is generally considered best practice to throw these away after each transfer rather than trying to reuse them. This is because Airstones especially are very porous, making ensuring complete drying difficult to guarantee. You could just leave them out to dry for an extended period of time (ex. a month); however, they are so cheap, why risk it? * Tank cover – you don’t want your fish to jump out! However, consider that water splatters and or evaporates onto tank covers, so you will need two of these to swap out each transfer; you can simply use eggcrate as a cover as long as your fish aren’t so small that they could jump through the small holes (some may be able to) OR so big that they knock it off (weight it down) * Ammonia detox (such as AmQuel or Prime) – good to have on-hand in case ammonia starts creeping up in between transfers. 3 days generally does not allow ammonia enough time to negatively impact a fish, however depending on your fish-to-tank size ratio, you could potentially get there. The best thing to do is to simply add the Ammonia detox product at the beginning of the 3rd day of each transfer to neutralize any ammonia build-up to that point. Many people do this as standard procedure since it doesn’t negatively impact the fish to do so even if no ammonia is present. Is additional/other equipment OK? Up to you on if you do more. The primary item that people use in lieu of airtube/airstones is either a Hang-on-Back filter or Powerhead. Considering these points though: · Airtube/airstones – are cheap and low stress on the fish, providing for no major water current that newly added stressed fish have to fight against. · Powerheads – may provide excessive water current that newly added fish have trouble fighting against, especially considering most people use a small tank for TTM; Powerheads also have many parts that are exposed to water, many of which have small nooks-and-crannies that are difficult to completely dry and may lead to a parasite transferring over at the next transfer. If you are certain that you are cleaning and drying completely and that the pump is rated correctly for the size tank you are using, then Powerheads are OK; however, completely unnecessary for the fish during the short TTM period. · Hang-on-Back (HOB) filters – provides a gentle flow at the top of the water; however, you need to consider the same points made in above in the Powerheads commentary regarding cleaning/drying adequately and having a filter not rated correctly for the size of tank you are TTM’ing with. · UV Light or Ozone – Completely unnecessary since TTM is already eliminating Ich Standard Q&A for TTM procedures: How do I transfer the fish to the new tank? Plenty of options here, with pretty much no wrong answer. But things to consider: * By colander: Easy to scoop them up with, and probably the safest method of all. You can find rectangle ones to make it even easier (example from Bed Bath and Beyond: ). Cover it with your hand or something flat to ensure the fish doesn’t jump out in-route to the new tank. * By hand: Consider wearing non-powdered vinyl, latex, nitrile or rubber gloves, and you may not want to consider this for fish with excessive spines, especially toxic ones! Otherwise, this is perfectly OK, just be careful not to drop the fish or squeeze it to death! * By net: You will hear people instantly say “no” to this; however it is actually OK with some considerations. The risk of using a net for tank transfers has less to do with the parasite risk and more to do with the damage it could cause to the fish with fins getting caught in the net, etc. Now, where parasite risk does comes in to play is that nets don’t tend to dry very quickly – you must consider the ‘Drying’ rule above when dealing with nets – and for this reason I’d personally recommend going with by-hand or by-colander in transferring the fish. Incidental water transferred: Having very small amounts of water transfer over with the fish to the new tank is perfectly OK. This water is low risk of transferring an infectious Ich life-cycle stage over because the Ich life-cycle stage that TTM is ‘tricking’ (for lack of a better term) is concreted hard to a surface somewhere in the tank, such as on the side of the glass, heater, hiding places, etc, and importantly NOT in the free floating water molecules itself or on the fish. You should however try to greatly limit how much water you transfer, especially for the ammonia risk. Can I do transfers more often (less than 72 hours)? Can I do transfers for more than 12 days? Yes and yes. As long as the 12-day minimum is met, and no more than 72 hours has passed between transfers, one can perform more than 4 transfers. For example, the standard protocol is 3+3+3+3, but 6 transfers every two days (2+2+2+2+2+2) would also satisfy the treatment requirements. Other combinations would work, provided the 72-hour rule is not violated, and the total treatment time is at least 12 days. Equally important is to ensure that all equipment is allowed to completely dry AND remain completely dry for 24 hours between uses (the ‘drying’ rule above). More frequent transfers may not provide for enough drying time, unless one has more than 2 sets of equipment. Treatment can exceed 12 days as well. A 5th transfer can be performed for additional peace of mind, but is not necessary provided the 72-hour/12-day requirements are met. Can I use Display Tank water instead of mixing new water? Yes. IF you are absolutely certain that your Display Tank is free of parasites and disease. Otherwise, you are just transferring over more Ich or other issues, nullifying the TTM protocol. Continuity of water parameters is crucial for reducing the fish’s stress. Temp, salinity and pH need to be the same from one transfer to another which is one more reason to use uninfected display tank water. It is advisable to set up the tank for the next transfer at least a day ahead and fully aerate the water. If the Display Tank is not free of Ich, all fish must be removed for treatment, and the Display Tank allowed to remain fallow (fishless) for 72 days to ensure no reinfection occurs. And in that case, you will need to use newly mixed saltwater that has not been exposed to Ich. Some people will advise against using Display Tank water due to heavier nutrient content causing ammonia to build up faster. However, if an ammonia neutralizer is used, any potential nutrient problems can be avoided. See the ‘If I may already have Ich in my Display Tank, what steps should I take?’ section below for more information on what to do in cases where your Display Tank may already be infected. How long after TTM should I wait to add them to the Display Tank? The general recommendation is at least 30 total days of quarantining your fish, which may include the TTM period. However, longer periods for observation may be beneficial, and is highly encouraged that you extend the quarantine period to at least 4 weeks following TTM. Because TTM only affects Ich, one must ensure more harmful parasites like Amyloodinium (Velvet) or Brooklynella (Brook) are not present. Typically, these parasites present within the 30-day time period, whereas you can treat as necessary at that point. Flukes (monogenean trematodes) are relatively easy to treat, and prophylactic treatment with praziquantel (PraziPro, a common shelf item at fish stores) should be part of a standard quarantine protocol. You can even couple TTM with PraziPro, as long as you follow the PraziPro instructions carefully. Can I couple TTM with Copper or Hyposalinity, or other treatments (formalin baths, etc)? Yes; however, combining TTM with chemical treatments is simply not necessary for the purposes of eliminating Ich, and may cause additional undue stress to the fish. Some fish (Angelfish, Blennies, etc.) do not cope well with Copper treatments. Similarly, formalin baths and freshwater dips are not recommended in conjunction with TTM. If other parasites appear during TTM, one should discontinue TTM and treat the new disease instead. Diseases such as Amyloodinium (marine velvet) and Brooklynella are much more virulent than Ich and should be treated immediately upon diagnosis. If you still choose to couple Copper with TTM, you will always want Copper levels staying at .35ppm or higher, never dropping below it. This is because there is evidence that non-therapeutic levels of Copper (less than .35ppm) masks symptoms of some parasites and disease and can potentially slow the process. How does TTM compare to Copper, Chloroquine Phosphate or Hyposalinity treatment? In a nutshell, the primary advantages and disadvantages: TTM: o Advantages: * Easy to perform * As close to 100% effective as treatment methods get * Low stress on the fish (no chemicals necessary or shifting in salinity) * Low ammonia build-up risk since doing frequent complete water changes * Can dose ammonia detox products while performing TTM * Takes only 12 dayso Disadvantages: * Somewhat time consuming and can be costly if using all new saltwater * You must pay for two of everything * It only works for Ich and not for other major parasites Copper: o Advantages: * Effective against Ich; * Does not require extensive handling of fisho Disadvantages: * Only targets the infective theront stage, which is highly variable and may require prolonged treatment generally of up to 30 days, but possibly of up to 72 days to be effective * Narrow range of effectiveness; requires daily testing to ensure therapeutic dose is maintained (always over .35ppm) * Some fish do not tolerate copper and may discontinue feeding; prolonged exposure to copper may cause liver damage and other long-term health problems Chloroquine Phosphate (CP) o Advantages: * Effective on other parasites, such as Velvet, Brook & Uronema * Single dose of 10mg/L is typically all that is required * Usually well-tolerated by fish, except as has been reported with some wrasseso Disadvantages: * Can be difficult to obtain; purity can be suspect unless acquired from a pharmacy and can be expensive * Targets only the infective theront stage, which is highly variable. May require prolonged treatment, generally of up to 30 days, but possibly of up to 72 days to be effective * Photosensitive; requires that aquarium lights be extinguished to ensure compound does not break down in solution * Concentration in solution cannot be measured with standard test kits; anecdotal evidence exists that CP may be broken down by some bacterial species present in the aquarium Hyposalinity o Advantages: * Lower salinity improves oxygen saturation, which may aid respiration in heavily infected fish * Targets both the infective theront and the protomont life stageso Disadvantages: * Some hyposaline-resistant strains of Ich have been identified * Frequent testing of specific gravity with an accurately-calibrated refractometer must be performed to ensure salinity does not exceed 1.009 SG, and likewise requires an auto-topoff setup on your treatment tank * Prolonged treatment of 30 days or more may be required * Raising salinity to normal levels post-treatment requires a slow process of up to 2 weeks to prevent excess stress and potential organ damage to your fish * It is difficult to maintain proper pH Others: o Freshwater dips: Ineffective against Ich; Trophonts (feeding stage) are embedded in the epidermis of the fish, protecting them from chemical or hyposaline treatments o Formalin dips: Formalin is not a recommended treatment for Ich. It does provide temporary relief for Velvet and formalin baths in between transfers can obviate Brook and Oodinium; however, there is no evidence it does the same for Ich. Will Tank Transfer Method work on anything else, such as shrimp or coral? No. TTM only works on fish! This is because a different Ich life-cycle stage is targeted when it comes to fish vs. non-fish. On fish, we are waiting for the Trophont feeding stage to drop off the fish, and then transferring the fish to a clean environment prior to the dropped-off parasite having time to reproduce (never gives the chance for new parasites to infect the fish). We know that with fish it is extremely rare for a parasite to encyst (Tomite/Tomont stages) on the fish itself, encysting instead on glass or other tank items, which can include hard creatures such as shrimp, hermits, coral, live rock, parts of macro algae, etc. (all bucketed in the “non-fish” category for this commentary purpose). Research has shown that the encysted stage of the Ich life-cycle can take up to 72 days to hatch, while generally taking only 5-8 days. Due to this unknown range of time (5 to 72 days), to completely ensure that the encysted stage has completed its life-cycle and died, you must keep non-fish fallow (in a fishless environment) for the full 72 days. Many people take their chances and move over non-fish earlier; however, like with anything, the risk is completely up to you on whether to accept or not. Many people get lucky, many people say this is where they went wrong. There is currently no known method to eliminate the encysted life-cycle stage from non-fish without killing the non-fish along with it. If I may already have Ich in my Display Tank, what steps should I take? If your ultimate goal is to completely eliminate Ich from your tank environment, then you will need to remove ALL fish (regardless if you see Ich signs on the fish or not), and treat them. You will need to leave your Display Tank fallow (fishless environment) for 72 days to allow time for the encysted life-cycle stages to complete their life-cycle and die due to not finding a host. ALL corals/inverts can remain in the display tank. Do not use Display Tank water for your TTM water changes while running fallow as you may transfer over a parasite. After TTM completes, you will need to house your fish in a separate environment for the remainder of the Display Tank fallow period. While TTM can use smaller tanks, you will likely want a larger tank for the remaining period. Many people have too many fish to TTM all their fish at once. If this is your case, you will need to consider other options, such as Copper, CP or Hyposalinity in a larger treatment tank environment while your Display Tank runs fallow. Why/how does it work? The bulk of our industry knowledge of the Ich life-cycle comes from research conducted by Roy P. E. Yanong, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fa164. Reading this research is the best way to get a full understanding of what you are dealing with. Another great study conducted was by Peter John Burgess in 1992, which can be found in the following link of the short 331 page research document: http://pearl.plymouth.ac.uk/pearl_jspui/bitstream/10026.1/2632/1/PETER JOHN BURGESS.PDF. These studies are the best research conducted on the Ich parasite, providing us with the know-how to combat it. Everything below comes from understanding the research from these two individuals and the different Ich life-cycle stages. First, it is important to know the lingo of the various life-cycle stages and what we know about the timings of each stage: · Trophont / when attached to the fish / 3 to 7 days attached to the fish · Protomont / crawls on substrate / 2 to 18 hours · Tomont / begins to encyst on a hard surface / hardens in 8-12 hours · Tomites / while a cyst, it splits into daughter parasites / 3 to 72 days inside cyst, however most take 4 to 8 days · Theronts / new parasites hatched from the cyst / 24 hours to find a fish host or die With TTM, you are simply waiting for the Trophont stage parasites to drop off the fish, which as noted above will complete in 7 days. Given TTM recommends 12 days, there is plenty of buffer to ensure any late stragglers all jump off as well. Once a parasite jumps off the fish it begins the stages required to multiple and then release new parasites to further infect the fish. So goal number two is to prevent this from ever happening. The minimum amount of time that this takes is 82 hours (2 hours for the Protomont stage, 8 hours for the Tomont stage, and 72 hours for the Tomite stage). As long as you do your transfers sooner than this amount of time then you prevent reinfection of your fish. However, you wouldn’t want to just squeeze by with that time; which is why with TTM it is preferred to do transfers every 72 hours or sooner to give you a reasonable buffer of time before new parasites are released. If you miss the window of opportunity and even a single parasite finds a fish host, then the life-cycle begins all over again and you must go back to the beginning of the TTM process. Although there is some risk of a Tomont forming on a fish rather than on a hard surface somewhere in your tank (glass, heater, hiding places, etc.), research has shown this to be very rare. However, this also means that someone is going to get unlucky at some point in time. A reason why quarantining your fish for inspection for a period of time following TTM is highly encouraged. Following proper cleaning protocol of the equipment and tank between uses will ensure that the parasites left behind all die; which would be in any of the Protomont, Tomont or Tomite stages at that point. I heard that you must do the transfers in the morning, is this true? No. Time of day does not matter even slightly. As long as you are following all the rules (12-day and 72-hour) set above, by the time that the 12 days is up all Trophonts (feeding Ich life-cycle stage) will have dropped off the fish and been eliminated through a transfer. The point of ‘morning’ comes from the time of day that Tomonts (cyst stage) have been documented to hatch. They do this because it is easier to find fish in the early hours since fish tend to stay close the substrate or rocks while sleeping; increases the chances of a parasite finding a host. Time of day of your transfers should be selected solely based on convenience for your schedule to give you the maximum chance of consistency. For example, many people prefer to do transfers in the early morning hours because they know they will be home at, for example, 6am every day; whereas, sudden late night work deadlines or happy hours with friends might get in the way of setting transfers at 7pm. Parasite infection via tank proximity: Be careful of how close to your Display Tank you house your TTM setup. It is possible for parasites to transfer via the air from flinging water when air bubbles burst at the top or through simple evaporated water moving through the room. Below is an abstract from this study (Roberts-Thompson et al 2006): http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0044848606001785 What is Ich and why should I worry about it? For more info on Ich look here: https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/ich-cryptocaryon-irritans.191226/ If reading this post, you likely already understand that Ich is no fun at all, and you are looking for answers as to how TTM can help; however, having a complete understanding of what the Ich parasite is, what causes it to flare up, and how it impacts fish is very important.