The DOs and DON’Ts of Quarantine

Humblefish

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Just some stuff I thought up. I'll probably add more later. Please list any useful tips you might have in the comments below!

Quarantine DOs and DON’Ts

The purpose of this article is to offer useful tips and point out common mistakes made during quarantine (QT).
  • DON'T ever use a tank or piece of equipment until after it gets cleaned out with vinegar, bleach, etc. (This rule is dedicated to a beloved PBT I lost, because I didn't take the time to clean her temporary holding tank and unbeknownst to me it had come into contact with bug spray. :()
  • DO quarantine for a minimum of 4 weeks; longer is always better (in most cases.) DO house your QT at least 10 feet away from any other saltwater tank/vat, to avoid aerosol transmission. DON’T house corals/inverts in your fish QT.
  • DO float & release your new fish; DON’T drip acclimate if you can help it. One of the advantages of QT is you can set the specific gravity (SG) to match the bag water. This can usually be determined beforehand by asking the online vendor or local fish shop (LFS) what SG they keep their fish in. Knowing this, you can just float the fish for 20-30 minutes, to slowly bring the temperature of the bag’s water to match that of the receiving tank. Once that is done, open the bag and double check the SG. So long as the SG is within .001 (up or down) of the receiving tank, you can release the fish without further acclimation. If the SG in the bag is lower than the QT, you can quickly lower the SG of a QT by replacing some saltwater with freshwater. If the SG in the bag is much higher than that in the QT, then you are forced to drip acclimate. When doing drip acclimation use an ammonia reducer (ex: Amquel or Prime) if a fish has been in transit for more than a couple of hours.
  • DON’T add more fish to the one(s) you already have in QT. You risk introducing a new disease into your QT and having to restart the QT clock. Be patient; add more fish once the current occupants have graduated to the DT.
  • DON'T ignore your QT. DO spend at least 10-15 minutes everyday in front of it. In addition to obvious physical symptoms (ex. white dots), observe your fish for key behavioral symptoms of disease such as: Heavy breathing, scratching, flashing, head twitching. Fish with Marine Velvet Disease may never show visible signs, but they will usually swim into the flow of a powerhead and act reclusive (velvet causes fish to be sensitive to light).
  • DON’T cram too many fish or house incompatible species in a QT. If you are forced to, then create compartments within the QT by using eggcrate or some other divider. Ideally it’s best to QT just a couple of fish at one time. Speaking of eggcrate, DO use that or some other material to build a secure top for your QT - especially if housing known jumpers. Be aware certain fish (Diamond Goby immediately comes to mind) are capable of jumping or even wiggling their way through eggcrate, so a screen on the bottom of the eggcrate must also be employed to prevent their escape. Crazy, I know.
  • DON’T use rock or substrate in a fish QT. These absorb copper and other medications, making it difficult to maintain a stable level. There’s a reason so many go bare bottom and use PVC elbows for hiding places. And even without live rock, you can still have biological filtration in QT to help control ammonia (see below).
  • DO utilize biological filtration in QT; DON’T rely solely upon water changes (WC) to keep ammonia under control. We all have busy lives these days, so it’s tempting to put off that WC until tomorrow. In our display tank (DT) this is acceptable, but in a QT it can be fatal. What you need is an insurance policy… Most hang on back (HOB) power filters utilize some sort of biomedia (ex: sponge, bio-balls, ceramic noodles, bio-wheel). All these need to become a working bio filter is to be seeded with some nitrifying bacteria. You can accomplish this one of two ways:
  1. Seed your biomedia in a high flow area of your DT’s sump (or behind some rocks) for a minimum of 1 month before QT.
  2. Pour one of those “bacteria in a bottle” products (ex: Bio-Spira, Seachem Stability, Dr Tim's Nitrifying Bacteria) over your biomedia just prior to use.
  • DON’T use an ammonia reducer, such as Amquel or Prime, in conjunction with copper (ex: Cupramine, Coppersafe). The resulting chemical interaction turns copper toxic. There have also been some anecdotal accounts of fish wipeouts after mixing ammonia reducer with Prazipro, antibiotics, etc.
  • DO test for ammonia often (and pH if doing hyposalinity); DON’T worry about nitrates, phosphates, even nitrites in a fish QT. Ammonia is toxic to ALL marine animals, even at low levels. However, most other parameters only affect fish at extremely high levels; unlike with corals/inverts.
  • DON’T bother testing for ammonia if copper or certain other medications are present in the water. Copper renders most ammonia test kits useless; you will get nothing but false positives. The workaround is to use a Seachem Ammonia Alert badge, which works even in the presence of medications.
  • DON’T raise copper too quickly, especially when treating known copper sensitive species such as angelfish. Take 3-5 days to reach therapeutic levels instead of the usual 24-48 hours recommended on the labels. The sole exception to this rule is when treating for velvet.
  • DO provide plenty of gas exchange when using medications, as most will deplete the water of oxygen. This can be accomplished by pointing a powerhead towards the surface of the water or by using an air stone.
  • DON’T overdose medications; if in doubt always underdose. With copper, you need to buy a test kit to ensure you are treating within the therapeutic range. The dosage instructions on the bottles are notoriously inaccurate. DON’T mix medications without first checking to see there are no known negative interactions.
  • DON’T add medications directly to the QT. DO dissolve & mix all medications (including liquids) in a glass cup or beaker prior to adding them. You can use tank water to dissolve/mix, and then slowly pour the diluted medication into a high flow area or filter chamber.
  • DON’T run UV, ozone, a protein skimmer or carbon while using copper/medications. Be sure any filter pad you are using doesn’t remove medication.
  • DON’T cross contaminate! Nothing should ever go from your QT into the DT. Conversely, if you are going fallow in the DT to eradicate some disease… you must take care not to reinfect your QT with that same disease. The above also applies to water change vats.
  • DO keep your QT clean even if ammonia is zero. You can use airline tubing to siphon debris off the bottom without wasting too much water. DO replace the appropriate amount of copper when doing water changes (but not for top off water).
  • DO feed frequent small meals in QT; DON’T feed nori unless it’s very thin strips. The issue with nori is fish tear it apart, and tiny pieces get all in the water. Newly acquired fish and fish being treated with medications will typically have decreased appetites. Therefore, small feedings 2-3x daily are optimal to reduce uneaten food left on the bottom of the tank.
  • DON’T move a fish from QT to DT unless he looks perfectly healthy and is eating well. Whatever doesn’t look right about the fish isn’t going to get any better once he’s in the DT. But DO synchronize the SG/temp of your QT & DT before the fish gets transferred, so you can avoid having to do any acclimation procedure.
While not really a “DO and DON’T”, it is my personal belief that a fish QT should be kept simple. I prefer small QTs that I can quickly break down, sanitize and then re-start as needed. In my experience, newly acquired fish seem to do better in QT if placed in an almost sterile environment using freshly mixed saltwater. And if you ever happen to experience some unknown “Typhoid Mary”-like disease which wipes out your entire QT; you’ll want to completely break down & sterilize that tank before ever using it again.
 
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Oscaror

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This was definitely helpful :) Thanks for ssharing! Thing about the 10 feet thing, I want to quarantine fish individually, and don't want to have the tanks scattered about, I want to have multiple tanks next to eachother, is there a way to do this (each with individual filtration btw)
 
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Humblefish

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This was definitely helpful :) Thanks for ssharing! Thing about the 10 feet thing, I want to quarantine fish individually, and don't want to have the tanks scattered about, I want to have multiple tanks next to eachother, is there a way to do this (each with individual filtration btw)
You can, but everything would need to be synchronized. Basically, just pretend like the fish are all in the same QT together. For example, if you discover one fish has ich then all QTs must be treated as well. Because you must assume free swimmers have gone airborne and infected all adjacent aquaria (within 10 feet). You should also QT fish in batches; if you add a new fish to a QT within 10 feet, then the "QT clock" restarts back to Day 1 for all fish in adjacent systems...
 

4FordFamily

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How realistic is it for ich or other parasites to go airborne? That just seems so outlandish to me!
 
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Humblefish

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How realistic is it for ich or other parasites to go airborne? That just seems so outlandish to me!
This study proved it was possible with velvet dinospores: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0044848606001785

Here's the abstract:

Amyloodinium ocellatum, a frequently encountered parasite in marine aquaculture, was investigated to determine if infective dinospore stages could be transported in aerosol droplets. We used an in vivo model incorporating static and dynamic airflow systems and found dinospores of A. ocellatum could travel in aerosol droplets (up to 440 mm in a static system and up to 3 m in a dynamic one). This is the first record of this transmission pathway for a marine protozoan parasite. It is possible that other marine protozoans can transfer via the aerobiological pathway. Management of A. ocellatum infections in aquaculture facilities could be affected, particularly where tanks and ponds are situated in close proximity.
Dinospores are "free swimmers" akin to ich theronts. One of the Marine Biologists who posts on RC has also experienced aerosol transmission in his lab.
 

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Humblefish

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That's nuts! I had a velvet outbreak less than ten feet away from the wrasse tank I guess I'm lucky it didn't jump
IMO; it's more likely to happen if you have a fan or AC vent that blows in the direction of an infected tank to another aquarium less than 10 feet away.
 

4FordFamily

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IMO; it's more likely to happen if you have a fan or AC vent that blows in the direction of an infected tank to another tank less than 10 feet away
I have a fan but it blows the other way
 

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Thats unfortunate... I was really looking forward to having my QT system adjacent to my Sump/frag tank in the basement. It was going to be 4-5 feet away. I guess its staying in the next room.
 
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Humblefish

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Thats unfortunate... I was really looking forward to having my QT system adjacent to my Sump/frag tank in the basement. It was going to be 4-5 feet away. I guess its staying in the next room.
Yes, when I first learned about aerosol transmission it was a game changer for me as well. Made it hard to plan my fish room. :( But it also explained how ich got into this one DT where I had QT'd all livestock.
 

Kworker

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Yes, when I first learned about aerosol transmission it was a game changer for me as well. Made it hard to plan my fish room. :( But it also explained how ich got into this one DT where I had QT'd all livestock.
Man thats rough. After doing the Fallow/QT process within the past year I don't even want to think about that happening. I've actually been having a rough time with QT lately after so much success. It's time to take a break from new additions.
 

booth2010

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Yea thats a bummer I was gonna have my QT within a foot from my DT, I guess it can be the Seahorse tank my wife really wants lol.
 

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What is the 4 week QT minimum time based on? My experience is that the big two, ich and velvet will manifest themselves within a week (78-81 F) if the fish received is infected. Obviously 4 weeks is better than 3 or 2, but 20 weeks or 52 weeks is even better in terms of transmitting a disease. 3 weeks seems to be a reasonable time assuming that the fish were received healthy and remained healthy in QT. In short: When do you reach the point of diminishing returns?
 

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Great job on this thread!!!
 

4FordFamily

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What is the 4 week QT minimum time based on? My experience is that the big two, ich and velvet will manifest themselves within a week (78-81 F) if the fish received is infected. Obviously 4 weeks is better than 3 or 2, but 20 weeks or 52 weeks is even better in terms of transmitting a disease. 3 weeks seems to be a reasonable time assuming that the fish were received healthy and remained healthy in QT. In short: When do you reach the point of diminishing returns?
2 weeks is technically all that's necessary assuming you're properly treating all fish as if they have ich. However, 4 weeks gives you a much smaller margin of error, and more time to get the fish feeding before dt. In my case, releasing a fish that wasn't treated as if it had ich and flukes (cupramine and prazipro) in to my dt's puts thousands of dollars of fish at risk, causes so much time and stress involved in catching them, the expenses and frustrating of running the dt fallow (my recent experience with this has cost me 75/week in salt and other chemicals during the process for 10 weeks), and of course running fallow 72 days sucks.

Because a fish doesn't show symptoms of ich does NOT mean it does not have it. Even after 4 weeks of being monitored. This is a lesson many learn the hard way, myself included.

I would rather treat all incoming fish than risk the above.
 
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Humblefish

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What is the 4 week QT minimum time based on? My experience is that the big two, ich and velvet will manifest themselves within a week (78-81 F) if the fish received is infected. Obviously 4 weeks is better than 3 or 2, but 20 weeks or 52 weeks is even better in terms of transmitting a disease. 3 weeks seems to be a reasonable time assuming that the fish were received healthy and remained healthy in QT. In short: When do you reach the point of diminishing returns?
If a fish has been exposed to a non-therapeutic level of copper somewhere along the way, that can mask symptoms of velvet (and possibly even ich.) In that scenario, it can take up to 4 weeks for symptoms to show. Even if your LFS doesn't use copper, there is the wholesaler, collector, etc. to consider.
 
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Humblefish

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Because a fish doesn't show symptoms of ich does NOT mean it does not have it. Even after 4 weeks of being monitored. This is a lesson many learn the hard way, myself included.
^^This. Ich can harbor inside the gills, out of sight. Although in the confines of a small QT, it will usually manifest itself with visible physical symptoms. You see... fish being "stressed out in QT" is actually a good thing because you then get to find out what disease(s) they may be harboring.
 

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