Simply the easiest way to save money and heartache in the long term (and short term) of owning a saltwater aquarium is one word… Quarantine!
Just a few weeks ago when your new fish was swimming around the coral reef minding its business the balance between parasites/disease was on much more equal footing than in an aquarium setting.
Let me explain; most parasitic infections in the wild are pretty minor, the parasite just wants to reproduce and there are many many fish and a huge area on the reef which means that for the parasite/infectious organism to ensure its continued survival there will be low infection rates on any one fish.
But when the fish is captured it becomes very stressed – its’ body virtually shutting down functions like the immune system to devote energy to a potential escape – this is known as the fight or flight response.
Not only this but the stresses of transport and sub-optimal water quality begin to kick in further weakening its immune system.
Then you add it to a small closed system (your aquarium) which doesn’t naturally dilute out infectious organisms and parasites like the ocean and this set of circumstances stack the odds massively in the favor of parasites and disease.
This is where quarantine becomes vitally important.
For those that don’t know a quarantine tank (QT) is a small, basically set up (bare bones) stand-alone aquarium completely independent of your display aquarium. Its primary purpose is to “quarantine” all newly acquired marine pets to ensure they do not carry disease into your display tank potentially infecting your established pets.
Let me just tell you now; thousands of marine aquarists and experts all around the world will back me up here: Do not take the risk of not owning a basic, cheap, simple quarantine tank and using it properly, it is just not worth it!
The argument against them is that as long as you regularly maintain your aquarium and have excellent water quality fish can get by using their immune systems to fend off disease and parasites. And obviously the cost of buying one and time involved quarantining every marine species is way too much…umm no, I disagree, read on!
If I had a dollar for every email I have received over the years of hobbyist telling me about their painful fatalities that could have been prevented by quarantining I would be mega-rich!
The simple act of putting all newly acquired marine specimens into quarantine for a month (after acclimation) before putting them into your display tank will prevent disease outbreaks, stress and shock to the tune of approximately a 90% reduction in mortality across the board.
That is massive; imagine what that could do for your stress and sorrow levels not to mention your bank balance with disease and deaths wrecking havoc in your not-exactly-cheap aquarium.
Think of it as the most effective way to limit your loses bar none. Public aquariums and fish breeders ALL quarantine livestock. Have I sold you on this yet? If not keep reading…
Here is a list of the very basic requirements of your quarantine tank. You will need a bare bottom tank with adequate heating, aeration and filtration consisting of:
⪼ A small covered glass or acrylic aquarium of about 10-40 gallons depending on the number and also size of the fish to be quarantined and the number of fish your display tank contains.
⪼ A simple outside filter such as a hang-on canister filter or wet/dry filter that will give you combined mechanical and biological filtration in one. It is a really good idea to “seed” your new filter from water containing bacteria from your main aquarium.
⪼ A basic heater and thermometer appropriate for the aquarium size.
⪼ Some PVC piping cut at different lengths for fish to hide in.
⪼ Very simple fluorescent lighting to illuminate the tank (or if you intend to quarantine corals find a fluoro light around the same intensity as they are getting in the main tank).
⪼ No substrate, rocks or anything else that could possibly absorb treatment medication.
That’s it! It is also a good idea to get a net and a siphon that you use only for the quarantine tank. You will also need to purchase the appropriate test kits for any copper etc you will use for treatment.
The best way to set up your QT is simply to use water from your existing display tank (if it is healthy), this way you won’t need to go through the entire cycling process.
You can seed the filter material by placing it in the sump of your display aquarium for a few days, this way you can always ensure your filter is good to go on a moments notice.
Ensure your heater and filter are plugged in and test you water parameters (which should be on par with your display aquarium).
Simply maintain as per your display aquarium and use that water for top ups and regular partial water changes, too easy!
Here’s my super-simple quarantine procedure:
When you get your new fish home start with my acclimation procedure as per Eclass 5 then a freshwater dip for 3-5 minutes, which will kill, off a lot of the nasties.
Then simply place in the quarantine tank, turn off the lights, don’t feed for 24 hours and observe every day keep a careful eye out for any infection..
With your QT conduct maintenance and regular partial water changes as normal. And strive to siphon up any debris and uneaten food quickly.
Keep the fish in the aquarium for at least 30 days (the duration of marine Ich and Marine velvets’ lifecycles).
If at any time during this 30 day period you add another specimen to the QT you need to hold the original specimen for another 30 days (nothing should go into the display tank without being quarantined for at least 30 days).
If you spot any sign of disease or parasitism diagnose quickly and treat in your perfect treatment center feeling good about the fact that the disease is not spreading rampant through your display tank! After all signs of the disease are gone you will need to hold for an additional 30 days to make sure everything really is fine.
This procedure is so easy and will make such an unbelievable difference to your chance of success with your new marine pet!
If you are using your QT to medicate don’t forget to use water changes and chemical filtration at the end to get rid of every trace of chemical (if harmful) until it is undetectable using the test kit.
Then drain and clean all parts of the system thoroughly before using again. Remembering that the medication may have killed off your filters beneficial bacteria, in this case sterilize then place in the sump of your display tank to seed again.
The introduction of corals into your aquarium can easily result in adding flatworms, box snails, planarians and even worse to your aquarium. The procedure for their quarantine is very similar to marine fishes with a couple of differences:
Hopefully by now you will have realized the massive importance of quarantine and how having you own QT is massively useful, beneficial and not that expensive or difficult.
Seriously though by doing this you give your marine life the best possible chance to live happy, healthy long lives and give yourself the best chance to not have to shell out lots of money and breakdown your display tank and replace your beloved pets. Sounds like a logical choice to me!