The Other Way to Run a Reef Tank (no Quarantine)

MnFish1

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What almost everyone is not getting is that a natural tank is not just throwing fish into a tank and hoping for the best. That won't work. It will never work in a new tank because those are never healthy.
For a natural, Immune tank to work the fish must be in excellent condition and the fact that they are swimming around, not dying and displaying no spots does not make them healthy.

Far from it. We see people walking around all over the place and most of them look healthy, but we can only see the outside of those people.

Many of therm have diabetes, cancer, Lupus, hardening of the arteries, nose rings, etc.

One of the best ways to tell if a fish is healthy is if it is filling with eggs as all female fish fill with eggs. You can't stop a healthy fish from filling with eggs.

Fish not in optimal health will not do that and will be susceptible to everything.
A Noob will not be able to see this, I am sorry.

Of course if you have a pair of fish, they should be spawning, and if they are not, they are not healthy.
(Of course they need to be old enough to spawn)

Virtually all my pairs of fish spawn, every one of them all the time.
That only will happen with the proper food. And I have said it too many times but dry foods will not do it.


In some fish like clowns it will because they are the hardiest fish and very hard to kill, They also have some thick slime on them which is one reason they can live in anemones.

Fresh or better, live foods should be given occasionally for the bacteria in their guts.
Everyone can get either fresh or freshly frozen clams or if not grow some worms.
If you can't get those foods, quarantine.

To get fish in spawning and immune condition, the tank shouldn't be to clean.
(Yes Mn, thats where my Long Island Sound water can help)

There should be a little algae growing and some "mulm" on the rocks. In a healthy tank you should see tube worms and multiples of tiny arms sticking out of the pores in the rock. There should be pods all over the rock.


New tanks will get all of that eventually but not is you quarantine everything, treat with copper and God Forbid, antibiotics.

See if you can find any fully quarantined tanks, especially where drugs were used that are old and the fish only die of old age and never ever get sick.
Old is not 5 years.

There is a reason for that. Those tanks are short circuiting the system and those fish have almost no immunity and anything that enters will kill those fish.

I can't help it and I can't change my beliefs as I didn't come up with this last Tuesday. It is what it is and if you can keep drugged fish long term without them getting sick, go for it.

But I started this thread about my system. Anyone can make a thread about a quarantined system. But lets hear how old it is with no problems.

I am old so I can't keep saying the same things and I hear all the time that my system can't be duplicated.
My tank ran for decades on ASW and it was just as new as any one elses tank.
Fish in the 70s were all sick with ich and velvet rampant.
That is not a new thing. I overcame it with at first, copper. But I gradually learned that I needed food with living bacteria in it and overcame all diseases.;

It is what it is.
I disagree - most people dont have spawning fish (except clowns) - because most people have only one member of a certain species. But we've been down this road before - and it never ends anywhere
 
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MnFish1

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Harrr yes when all else fails it's just good luck of course. We are both the luckiest reefers in the world.
Of course - the key issue is I down QT - I dont use any medications. What are we disagreeing about - - - the fact that you insist that adding mud to your tank makes a difference. The comment that you suggest that not feeding cut up mussels (or whatever)- makes a difference. IMHO it doesnt.
 

atoll

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I understand your concern, and medicating fish correctly is not easy. Most current guidelines are based on anecdotal evidence. To assume medicated fish are unhealthy or have a compromised immune system is incorrect. I do not know of any long term side effects with medicating marine fish with cholorquine phosphate, which is what I use.

One study showed 80% of ornamental fish have internal parasites, so we are not treating completely healthy fish, we are treating diseased fish. To my knowledge I don't beleive there are any long term detrimental effects of using praziuantel, which directly treats internal parasites.

To assume the entire biology of the fish is changed by any and all medications would not take a marine biologist to dispel.
Most animals at least from the wild have parasites but that doesn't make them sick. It's only when the animal is weakened that the parasites get the upper hand and the animal suffers. Animals have evolved different ways to deal with parasites and fish are no different. I am sure like Paul I have parasites in my tank, why wouldn't I, but they don't represent a problem because my fish are healthy and can deal with them. I cited above Royal grammas as being often itch magnets when first introduced into a new tank
However, within 36 hours there is no sign of them and no other fish show signs of them. How can that be when I have other fish like damsels, fox face, wrasses etc etc that are all more than capable of being infected each time I introduce a new fish or even a coral? If there is no answer, fine. People can tell me why my way of keeping fish can't possibly work for 30 years but they don't seem to have an explanation as to why it works and works so well for the 30 years I have not medicated or QTd. Something does not add up in most peoples minds but it does in mine and a few others who aren't on here so it's not just the 3 of us I can assure you who practice similar methods.
 

Mortie31

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To assume medicated fish are unhealthy or have a compromised immune system is incorrect
Copper is an immunosuppressant for a start, how long it suppresses in fish is unknown. It also accumulates in tissue, again is this an issue I don’t know.. but I think to assume all post-quarantined fish are healthy is incorrect...
One study showed 80% of ornamental fish have internal parasites, so we are not treating completely healthy fish,
Was this on marine fish or fresh water? And are the parasites fatal to the fish and if found in these numbers how come we still have fish in the ocean? Maybe it’s a natural immunity?
 
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4tanks

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The other way to run a reef tank (No Quarantine)


I was asked by my friend Humblefish to start a thread on my practices of running a tank with no quarantine, hospital tanks, medications, dipping or almost anything else.

It is "not" just to take a fish from a store and drop it in your reef because that fish will probably die. You may not see many spots on fish in a store because just about all stores use medications in their tanks to suppress the parasites. They have to because they get new fish all the time from all over the world and they can't change all the water and sterilize their tanks in between shipments. But all fish are infected in a store and even in the sea. They swim in a soup of parasites, viruses and bacteria, some good, some not so good.

In the sea those pathogens are kept in check by each other as viruses prey on parasites and bacteria and other forces such as things exuded from corals and tend to keep everything in check. Of course they all prey on fish.

But fish have been around almost as long as those things and they evolved long ago to live in harmony with all of them. Fish eat parasites with every meal and those parasites are processed in the fishes kidney among other places and that causes the fish to exude antiparisitic and antibacterial properties in their slime. They constantly do this and it keeps parasites and bacteria from killing the fish even though some parasites will get through to sample some fish flesh.


Anyway, that is the basis for my method that I slowly learned starting in about 1973 when I had to keep fish in copper continuously as we all did. (20 pennies to the gallon) Our tanks were not reefs, we fed flakes, changed the water to much and took out the rocks and dead corals to bleach them whenever they turned green which was almost weekly. The fish were always stressed and it was hard to keep even damsels.

Then I started feeding things other than flakes, things like frozen clams, pieces of fish and live blackworms. In 7 weeks my blue devils spawned and kept spawning for 7 years. Spawning damsels is no great Whop but in those days few people could keep them alive for a few weeks.

I gradually learned that bacteria and parasites would not kill my fish as long as I didn't medicate them. It was backward thinking but remember there was no internet and I didn't even know anyone with a salt tank so I was on my own.

When I added a fish it normally would get spots and sometimes die, but most of the time the spots receded and the fish was fine and didn't get sick when I added a new fish.

That was how I learned my method which is not really a method but a lack of a method.

With my method you can not quarantine because that short circuits the process. I actually want parasites and bacteria as that is what the fish was swimming with in the sea a week before.

I just put the fish in my tank and normally the fish starts eating right away and is fine. About half the time the fish will show a few spots but they are very few and disappear in a day or two. Yes they finished their life cycle on that fish and dropped off to infect something else, but they can't because those fish are constantly exposed to parasites so they are immune.

The things I do “not” do is quarantine.

I do not ever feed dry foods such as flakes or pellets as those foods are sterile.

I do not suck every bit of detritus out of my tank


I do however always feed something with live bacteria in it such as frozen foods.

I feed whole foods with guts such as clams, mysis, mussels and I use LRS foods which is a commercial food which I consider the best. But I still want to give the fish something that I know has living bacteria in it. I try to feed a few times a week some live worms but sometimes I can’t. Where I live now I can’t get them but I do raise live whiteworms which live in dirt. I bought a few of them years ago and that batch is still living and reproducing. I like the worms because of the living bacteria in their guts and the dirt they are living in. Some people that have immune tanks never use live worms so they may not be necessary, but I use them when I can. These things need not be fed every day, but at least occasionally. But all foods should have bacteria in it and if you feed nothing but commercial food, I am not sure how much living bacteria is in that because you don’t know how old it is or what temperature it was stored at.



If you have access to a salt water beach, collect a little mud and sprinkle it around the tank. That is for bacterial diversity. If you can’t get that, you can use garden soil with no pesticides or fertilizer.

(I did not invent that, it was “Robert Straughn” The Father of salt water fish keeping.)

The idea is that I want parasites living in the tank along with the fish. They will keep reproducing and trying to infect fish but they will fail.

I know the argument that there is much more water in the sea than in a tank and the parasites are more numerous. But that is of no consequence because the fishes immune system will get as strong as it needs to be to repel parasites and the more parasites there are, the stronger the immune system.


If you quarantine fish, there will be nothing for the fish to become immune to and any slight infection will crash the tank. Fish are not delicate creatures that need coddling and they almost never get sick. They have a fantastic immune system as long as we don’t try to short circuit it.

I can’t remember the last time I lost a fish to disease but it was probably in the 80s. Virtually all of my fish only die of old age or jumping out. I do lose fish due to my stupidity like if I buy something that I can’t properly feed like shrimpfish, twin spot gobies, orange spotted filefish etc. My tank is not set up for those fish and I should not buy them. But everything else, with no exception live long enough for me to get tired of them and I give them away or they die of old age.

I do not like clownfish but one day about 27 years ago I bought a baby of what I thought was a red hawkfish. It turned out to be a Fireclown and I still have it. She also spawns a few times a week as all my paired fish do as all healthy fish carry eggs all the time.


If you have a tank full of quarantined fish, I am not sure how you could get those fish immune because that quarantining may have destroyed the immune system of those fish. It would be a long process because the fish would have to be infected, and then cured for them to become immune and you may lose some fish.


It would be much easier to start an immune tank from the start. Remember, if you see some parasites, think of that as a good thing and not something that you need to dip or treat. Yes, you may lost some fish in the beginning but your fish will become immune to just about everything and you will never need medications or disease forums. Many fish die in quarantine or right after so that is also not a panacea.
I did not mention parameters because IMO they are not that important for fish health. Corals, yes, but not fish. My nitrates were 160 for years and I never had a fish die and they continued to spawn.
This is my method which has worked well for decades and I never lose fish to disease which is something I think we all strive for.
Really good article I have had great success not qt with my fw and am new to sw and carried on without qt and not lost anything since starting 6 months ago I was wandering do you still dip your corals or not
 

Halal Hotdog

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Copper is an immunosuppressant for a start, how long it suppresses in fish is unknown. It also accumulates in tissue, again is this an issue I don’t know.. but I think to assume all post-quarantined fish are healthy is incorrect...

Was this on marine fish or fresh water? And are the parasites fatal to the fish and if found in these numbers how come we still have fish in the ocean? Maybe it’s a natural immunity?
The problem is you cannot lump all medications together, they do wildly different things, and work very differently. Some fish cannot tolerate CP but can copper, and vice versa. I definitely understand your sentiment about trying to not use anything foreign. The only problem is we cannot accurately provide the same environment that could be found in the wild. There might be specific micro-fauna that is targeting parasites in the wild that we are not able to replicate within our systems. I personally do not care for copper as I feel it is treating in more of a chemotherapeutic way, but definitely understand why people use it.

Too be honest, if just a healthy diet and diversity worked every time time then none of us would be medicating.

We could survive with ticks, lice, internal worms and a whole host of things. But no one would describe that as thriving. I view fish parasites in the same way.

Personally I am going to start testing hydroxychloroquine on fish known to have external parasites and see if it shows the same efficacy as CP. In humans hydroxychloroquine tends to have fewer side effects, and lethal dose is further from therapeutic dose. If we can get to a point of having medications at our disposal that are almost side effect free, but just as effective, then we will all be in a much better situation.
 
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Paul B

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Really good article I have had great success not qt with my fw and am new to sw and carried on without qt and not lost anything since starting 6 months ago I was wandering do you still dip your corals or not
I have never dipped a coral in my life.

To see if your tank is successful it kind of needs to be at least older than the lifespans of the fish. If you keep a tank 5 or 10 years that is not even the life span of a hermit crab so how can you know if it is healthy enough for the fish to live out their lives disease free?

Most of our fish live longer than that, many much longer.
This hobby has been in the US since 1971. I am still waiting to see any old quarantined tank where the fish only die of old age and have never been sick.

Where are they? There are millions of tanks in the US. What happened to them?

People keep asking for scientific evidence. OK find me a scientific study that has been going on as long as my tank has been up. Scientists don't study ornamental fish so all we have is anecdotal evidence and we have to live with it.

My fish die of old age and I have posted too many pictures to prove that. That is my proof.
Show me any proof that quarantined fish are healthy enough to only die of old age.

Are they spawning? Do they ever get sick? These are things we need to know and see.

I am standing on my head now waiting and I am getting tired.
This discussion has been going on on this forum and numerous other forums for decades with not only no end in sight, but also no old quarantined tanks like I mentioned.

Why Not?
 
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Paul B

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We could survive with ticks, lice, internal worms and a whole host of things. But no one would describe that as thriving. I view fish parasites in the same way.
Besides these things humans are loaded with parasites. We have specific parasites that live in our hair follicles, our nose, our ears our pores and our intestines. The vast majority of human parasites do no harm and as long as we are living, our immune systems keep them from hurting us.

If we go to a place where we have never have been, like a jungle we could get things like malaria. But if we lived in that jungle all our lives, our immunity, providing we are otherwise healthy, will protect us.

Fish were built to live with the things in the sea and they do not harm them in any way. But fish in the sea eat correctly.
 

robbyg

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Yeah I am at the 35 year mark and I have also never Quarantined any fish or coral. I honestly do not think it is for everyone but it has worked for me. Only difference between me and Paul is that I feed mostly pellets and some shrimp and that has also worked for me.
 

Lasse

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One study showed 80% of ornamental fish have internal parasites, so we are not treating completely healthy fish, we are treating diseased fish.
A link to that study please. As working in healthcare you should know by your backbone that it is a huge difference between an infection and a disease.

I do not know of any long term side effects with medicating marine fish with cholorquine phosphate
Can you please make a link to a study that shows that

Some fish cannot tolerate CP
oops - wonder why?

In humans hydroxychloroquine tends to have fewer side effects, and lethal dose is further from therapeutic dose.
That´s have been said lately - but the question is - is it true?

Sincerely Lasse
 

4tanks

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I have never dipped a coral in my life.

To see if your tank is successful it kind of needs to be at least older than the lifespans of the fish. If you keep a tank 5 or 10 years that is not even the life span of a hermit crab so how can you know if it is healthy enough for the fish to live out their lives disease free?

Most of our fish live longer than that, many much longer.
This hobby has been in the US since 1971. I am still waiting to see any old quarantined tank where the fish only die of old age and have never been sick.

Where are they? There are millions of tanks in the US. What happened to them?

People keep asking for scientific evidence. OK find me a scientific study that has been going on as long as my tank has been up. Scientists don't study ornamental fish so all we have is anecdotal evidence and we have to live with it.

My fish die of old age and I have posted too many pictures to prove that. That is my proof.
Show me any proof that quarantined fish are healthy enough to only die of old age.

Are they spawning? Do they ever get sick? These are things we need to know and see.

I am standing on my head now waiting and I am getting tired.
This discussion has been going on on this forum and numerous other forums for decades with not only no end in sight, but also no old quarantined tanks like I mentioned.

Why Not?
Totally agree a guy I knew I helped make a huge pond massive and he had no end of trouble with fish getting sick I always said it was too clean he set it up way way over filtered 2x filters the size of large washing machines it's true there needs to be a way of building an immune system just like we do
 

Difrano

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@Paul B I found this post and cannot agreed more with you, I am fairly new to the hobby, ran a Biocube 32 for 5 years, it was not a real reef tank with some zoas and lots of macroalgae , but I decided if this is a hobby you should enjoy it so I went the natural way, never had a QT and never had a lost due to illness, my tank was full of macroalgae and for years harvesting lots of it every month, just a few 5 gal water change year, and some manual dosing from time to time, tons of critters and every time I was going to the beach was bringing live sand rocks with hitchhikers, I had 2 clowns, 2 firefish 1 YWG and 1 tiger pistol, they were always happy and spawning.
 

Halal Hotdog

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Besides these things humans are loaded with parasites. We have specific parasites that live in our hair follicles, our nose, our ears our pores and our intestines. The vast majority of human parasites do no harm and as long as we are living, our immune systems keep them from hurting us.

If we go to a place where we have never have been, like a jungle we could get things like malaria. But if we lived in that jungle all our lives, our immunity, providing we are otherwise healthy, will protect us.

Fish were built to live with the things in the sea and they do not harm them in any way. But fish in the sea eat correctly.
You are comparing apples to oranges. We are not talking about gut flora that helps our absorption of nutrients. We could compare internal parasites in fish with intestinal worms in humans, and neither is a good thing, and both can lead to death (generalizing internal parasites). We could do the same with external parasites. If you contracted a nasty parasite then you would seek treatment rather than allowing your immune system an attempt to fight it off.

A link to that study please. As working in healthcare you should know by your backbone that it is a huge difference between an infection and a disease.
Don't have it off the top of my head but will message it to you when I get a chance to look through my saved files.

Can you please make a link to a study that shows that
As I stated previously there isn't long term studies of biological effect of chloroquine phosphate on all species of marine ornamental fish. Also as stated, most of the information provided about the use of chloroquine phosphate in marine fish is anecdotal (meaning lack of scientific study).

I could flip the question and ask you to provide a study to the contrary.

oops - wonder why?
Because literally every medication has a therapeutic dose and a lethal dose. If you drink enough water in a short enough time you would kill yourself, that doesn't mean water should be completely avoided.
 

Lasse

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You are comparing apples to oranges. We are not talking about gut flora that helps our absorption of nutrients. We could compare internal parasites in fish with intestinal worms in humans, and neither is a good thing, and both can lead to death (generalizing internal parasites). We could do the same with external parasites. If you contracted a nasty parasite then you would seek treatment rather than allowing your immune system an attempt to fight it off.
Nope - he does not. Every microorganism in our intestinal tract can kill us if it comes in the wrong place, wrong time and can grow without our immune system control them. As a person that have lived the last 35 years with constant risk to have a deadly volvulus - I know this for sure. Further one - there is a growing amount of evidence that early exposure of microorganism will trigger the development of our immune system.

As I stated previously there isn't long term studies of biological effect of chloroquine phosphate on all species of marine ornamental fish. Also as stated, most of the information provided about the use of chloroquine phosphate in marine fish is anecdotal (meaning lack of scientific study).
Exactly. That's my point. You have no clue at all if this dose, in this situation with this species cure, kill or if the treatment is sublethal for your fish. You just doing an animal experiment and note the outcoming - if it is alive or not. No idea if you cause sublethal damage or not. And this without any signs of disease - just in case of. Would you recommend a drug for human use that have shown to be effective in fish but not tested and evaluated on humans? Chloroquine phosphate is known for severe effects in humans if it is used in the wrong way - and it is also known for causing resistance in the parasite if it is overused for a prolonged time.

We could do the same with external parasites. If you contracted a nasty parasite then you would seek treatment rather than allowing your immune system an attempt to fight it off.
I´m not against medication if there is indication (as a person working in the healthcare - you know what the medicinal term "indication" means) for a certain disease - if it is life or death for my fish. However - I´m strongly, strongly against using medication of any type just in case of, as a prophylactic drug.

About fish parasites and immunity - there is growing evidences that vaccine against marine white spot works, the only thing that have stop a 100% effective vaccine for the fish farming industry is that there are very much of local strains of the parasite - you need to modificate the vaccine for every strain.

Someone mentioned herd immunity and IMO - it is the main reason why systems like mine, atolls, Paul B:s and others works in such an effective way. If you quarantine your fishes and other animals the way that´s common in the US today (with prophylactic treatment for what ever can cause a disease) - it is like introduce a new version of coronavirus every time you add something to the tank. I have nothing against QT - if it is an observation QT and treated on indications - that´s OK for me. But all this prophylactic treatments just destroy our hobby.

I could flip the question and ask you to provide a study to the contrary.
In an earlier thread - @MnFish1 refer to a study from India according sublethal effects of chloroquine phosphate on common carp. In this study - it was shown that serve sublethal effects in gills, liver and kidneys in concentration 1/3 of the common used prophylactic dose in the US. The article - the tread about CP,

There is a typo in the article - they write mg/ml in many places - it should be mg/l. I have a private conversation with the main author and he confirm that typo.

About to be honest. You was very active in that thread @Halal Hotdog after @MnFish1 submitted that link and after I published the comments from the author. You know this but does not admit that it exist (and probably the only sublethal study of chloroquine phosphate and fish that exist.) you still recommend people to use it without warnings about that at least one study on fish show serve sublethal damage. And that in concentration that you have adapt your protocol to - after the publishment of that article.

Once again - use QT if you want but do not recommend people to use prophylactic treatment just in case of without mention the risks of these treatments according sublethal damage.

Sincerely Lasse
 
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atoll

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Of course - the key issue is I down QT - I dont use any medications. What are we disagreeing about - - - the fact that you insist that adding mud to your tank makes a difference. The comment that you suggest that not feeding cut up mussels (or whatever)- makes a difference. IMHO it doesnt.
Ermmm I said what? Please show me where I said those things and I will apologise if not you do. Fair enough?
 

atoll

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A few years back there was a plague of flat worms going round with the finger firmly pointed at a particular well know wholesaler. My tank got them as well. Some weeks later there wasn't any sign of them. I never medicated and I didn't have any fish known to eat them at the time. It seems they burnt them selves out. Perhaps it was they way I kept my tank, I don't know. What I do know many people struggled to cope with them medicated, some lost corals and so on.
 

najer

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You old guys still at this?! ;)
I know I'm only a 10 year noob, I still feel stress plays a part in diseases, my fish have never had a disease show itself and I have never qt'd fish.
England also here, I have never had a fish shipped to me and I have a very good lfs, I acclimate using a cup with the bag floating and when ready I up end the bag and the fish swim out, I really do trust my lfs that much. They know I do this and would tell me if anything was odd with the fish system.
I don't know anything about the potential poisons people inflict on their new inmates so won't comment.
 

atoll

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You old guys still at this?! ;)
I know I'm only a 10 year noob, I still feel stress plays a part in diseases, my fish have never had a disease show itself and I have never qt'd fish.
England also here, I have never had a fish shipped to me and I have a very good lfs, I acclimate using a cup with the bag floating and when ready I up end the bag and the fish swim out, I really do trust my lfs that much. They know I do this and would tell me if anything was odd with the fish system.
I don't know anything about the potential poisons people inflict on their new inmates so won't comment.
Think we all agree stress is a factor in fish health esp initially.
My pair of Fiji damsels still chace my yellow wrasse around the tank when they feel like it but no harm done. I suspect back on the reef they would still do the same. My reefscape I believes helps reduce stress as the fish know they have plenty of hiding places should they need it and most of my fish are close reef inhabitants never straying far from bolt holes on the reef or in my tank. Everything helps IMO and it's not one thing but a combination of what we create and do for our animals.
 
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Paul B

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Robbyg, Lasse, Atoll and myself all have what can be considered older systems and none of us have ever quarantined. None of us had sick fish.

Lets hear about older systems with fully quarantined fish. I am not trying to argue, I really want to know how those tanks work out as I don't even know anyone near me with a reef tank so I don't know.

All I can go by is what I read on these forums. I know Humblefish has a somewhat older system and he quarantines and medicates everything but how about anyone else.

I feel fish in such a system would be a constant source of work for us to try to keep them healthy with no functioning immune system

I would also like to know the lifespans of those fish and if they are spawning because I doubt such fish will readily spawn except for something like a clownfish which are like guppies and will spawn on a damp sponge.

I keep hearing about the Russian Roulette thing but I feel that is for quarantined and certainly fish that are pre medicated for no reason what so ever except maybe insurance that seems more of a risk to me.

But what do I know. :rolleyes:

Arguing about parasites and diseases doesn't mean anything if the fish are getting sick, not getting sick or living out their lives long enough to live to their perceived life span.
To me spawning is the biggest gauge of health as only healthy fish will spawn.
 

MnFish1

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Ermmm I said what? Please show me where I said those things and I will apologise if not you do. Fair enough?
In your post you said: "Harrr yes when all else fails it's just good luck of course. We are both the luckiest reefers in the world."

That referring to you and Paul. Paul recommends feeding live mussels, adding mud, etc. Thats part of Paul's method to boost the immune system. Since you mentioned him - it makes sense that you 'use the same method that he does. So I apologize - I thought you used Paul B's method and that was what I was referring to.
 
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