Monday, 16 February 2015 21:11

Quarantine Systems & Methods

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quarantinebanner Presented by Charles & Linda Raabe
Mactan Island, The Philippines
© 2008 All Rights Reserved

quarantine1  With the vast numbers of parasites and diseases that can be brought into our systems, our only real defense against any pathogens is through the use of a preventative quarantine procedure. Yet, I have not heard of a new hobbyist stating that his local fish shop is suggesting a quarantine set up to go along with any new aquarium purchases, or suggesting that a newly purchased fish or coral be quarantined. Is this because the local fish shops are not aware of quarantine procedures, or do they fear that by making such suggestions, they will imply that their livestock is not healthy and thus lose sales? I for one, would not blame a supplier or store for what a wild caught animal could be infected or infested with. Such is nature. I would however like to see the stores take a bit more action by having their own quarantine procedures in place and help us out a little bit more. As such, knowing that it is highly likely that your new fish is bringing home an unseen guest. It would be prudent to quarantine any and all new purchases.

  Please keep in mind also, that a good many stores do not understand diseases and parasites, which leads to a great many myths or treatments that they employ to "prevent" problems. A good example is a discussion I had with another hobbyists who asked me if it was true that by the store keeping the tanks at 83 degrees, it would kill the ich parasite? This is the kind of information that some stores still believe and thus give no further thought to the subject. In short, it is fully up to you to do the prevention and not rely upon others so called methods.

PLEASE NOTE: A quarantine tank should be used for everything, not just fish as I mention throughout this page, in any effort to prevent the Ich parasite from getting into your tank, you must be aware of its life cycle and understand that it can hitch a ride on and in anything, if any inverts, corals, sand, rocks...anything, has been exposed or kept with fish, they too must be quarantined for six weeks at normal salinity levels and with NO fish in with them. It is the only safe way to break this parasites life cycle and prevent it from getting into your tank.  Please see my Marine Ich page for a full understanding of what you can and will be dealing with.  Quarantine Everything!


  As you can see in the above photo, I quarantine all of my live rock for at least a few days to a few weeks which gives me time to remove any unwanted hitch hikers. I do on occassion find a good many creatures that would not be suitable for an enclosed environment. Each of the compartments holds about two gallons of water and are just large enough to contain an average sized rock. I keep this system up and running at all times since I do use it for other purposes. The left compartment holds my mated pair of harlequin shrimp. All compartments run on nothing but live sand and an air stone. To quarantine fish, I would only use a QT as a temporary set up since you do not want to keep possible fish diseases and parasites living in an established QT.

A Quarantine tank for fish, in my opinion should only be set up when it is about to be used. Therefore it will remain as bare bones and simple as possible to set up and take down to be put away for future use. Keeping another tank setup as a full time running bio system does not make sense to me since any treatments or medicine used if the tank is put to use as a hospital tank would destroy any biofiltration established, and who wants to maintain another tank which only gets actual use once in awhile and is not landscaped for show.

qpurpose    To prevent the transmission of any number of possible parasites and diseases into your aquarium. With the numerous holding and shipping tanks that the fish must pass through during their journey to your aquarium, they are subjected to any number of diseases and parasites. The stress of the journey also makes them much more susceptible as their immune systems are weakened. Having a quarantine tank set up and ready for your new arrivals will give them the much needed time to recover and regain themselves as well as learning what prepared foods are. This is also your time to observe them on a daily basis for any signs of infections or parasites and thus prevent them from infesting your main display aquarium.

qequipment    Tank Size - The tank size used will be dictated by what size fish you are planning to buy, if your main tank is only going to keep your basic 4 inch fish, then a 10 gallon tank will do just fine, but if you are going to buy adult tangs, angels or other large adult fish, then you would need to up the scale to match the size of fish. Since the majority of hobbyist buy and keep the smaller species or juveniles then I will assume to set up a 10 gallon quarantine tank for this discussion.

  All that is needed besides an empty tank, is:

1. A suitable cheap powerfilter (can buy them at walmart for 10 bucks) with a few extra packs of pads/cartridges, the reason for the extra pads is so that you can place a few of them into the main tank's sump or hidden behind some rocks out of sight to allow them to grow some biofiltering bacteria on them. When you set up the QT, you will have ready cycled pads to aid in filtration of the QT. But DO NOT ever return the pads back to the main tank once used in the QT since you could very well be transporting the very parasites or diseases you are trying to prevent with using a QT.

2. A water heater of suitable wattage for the size of tank you will be using.

3. A thermometer for obvious reasons, I recommend not using the same one you use for your main tank since all it takes is a single drop of water containing a contaminant (ich) to transfer back to your main tank. Unless you are going to take the trouble to sterilize it after each use, but lets not kid ourselves on our ability to always remember to do that.

4. A refractometer, since hyposalinity levels are below what a normal hydrometer can read / test. While a bit more expensive, a refractometer will give you much more accurate salinity readings for use on any of your saltwater tanks.

5. An ammonia alert badge, this will give you constant readings on your ammonia levels which need to be monitored frequently, the QT is not an established bio system and you will see ammonia levels creep up on ya.

6. A bottle of amquel, this will lock up ammonia and keep it from becoming deadly until you can make up some new salt water for a water change to reduce the ammonia levels.

7. A small cheap air pump with airstone, you may not need this if you feel the little hang on power filter is providing enough aeration as the water falls back into the tank.

8. Enough salt mix on hand to be able to do small water changes on a frequent basis if need be. Since this is a small tank, the amount of a partial water change is not going to break the bank.

9. Some large diameter plastic PVC pipes for hiding areas, do not use rocks as they are abrasive and can cause damage to a fish that is easily startled and not familiar with the tank's "landscape", a fish diving for cover into unknown rock work is asking for wounds. Rock can also absorb any treatment chemicals if their use is required.

  I would also like to suggest that you also keep on hand, a product called Right Now, or Bio Spira, both will provide an instant biofilter which would solve a big issue that newly setup quarantine tanks tend to have, and that is, one of ammonia levels. I feel that by using either of these products, it would make everything much easier and less stress full for both you and the new fish.

    A word of warning about the use of any new carbon - Anytime new carbon is submerged into water, it will quickly drop the oxygen level. While this may not be an issue for larger tanks using commonly small amounts, a small tank can quickly become oxygen depleted almost instantly and will kill your fish. Of course this effect is all relative to the amount of new carbon used. If you are changing out a power filter pad that holds a few tablespoons of carbon, then you have nothing to worry about. But if you are changing out a carbon tube or cannister filter, I would first soak the new carbon in a container of aerated water (use an air stone) and let it sit for an hour or two before adding it to your system.

  Thats it! You may have noted that there is no mention of a sand or gravel bed, thats because there is none. With a bare bottom you will and should be able to siphon out any uneaten food or any fish waste (poop). This will prevent anything from rotting into ammonia, and remember, this is not an established bio system, a sand bed would be pointless and a waste of effort and sand when its time to clean out and store the QT.

 qprocedure  Now that you have everything bought and set up, you will need to :

  - Acclimate the fish to the quarantine tank

  - Give the fish a night to settle in. Keep the room the quarantine tank is in quiet, having a lot of foot traffic in front of the tank will only add more stress to the fish.

  - Wrap the sides and back of the tank in a dark paper, this will create an enclosed feel for the fish giving it a better sense of security and not feeling as if it is out in the open as much and will keep its stress / fear levels down.

  - The next day, using your refractometer, start to drop the salinity as per this Hypo Salinity Link. You will need to closely monitor the PH levels since it will drop dangerously low at the lowered salinity levels. This can be buffered against with the use of baking soda, or any commercially available buffering product.

  - I would also treat the quarantine tank with Maracyn 2 as a prevention against secondary stress related infections.

  - Each and every day you should monitor the fish and the tank's water parameters closely, watching for any signs of diseases or parasites. Becoming familiar with the various diseases and their initial signs is a good idea and will make you a better hobbyist. My Fish Disease ID page is a good place to start. Do not be surprised if the fish does not eat right away, it may take it a couple of days to feel comfortable enough to want to eat.

  - Remember, the fish is to remain in the quarantine tank for no less than six weeks. Any thing less will risk introducing parasites into your main tank, most notably the Ich parasite. Which by keeping the quarantine tank at hypo salinity levels will ensure you do not. Any other parasite species that are not effected by hypo salinity will manifest themselves within the six week period and can then be dealt with as well by other means.

  - Do not use the same equipment between your quarantine tank and your main tank, all it takes is a single drop of water to transfer any given problem.

  - Be patient!! To rush any aspect of this hobby always results in expensive failures.


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Used by permission.  Many thanks to Charlies and Linda Raabe for their support.

Read 1326 times Last modified on Tuesday, 16 June 2015 00:23
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