Part One: Quarantine
So you hear everyone talking about this whole “quarantine your fish” thing… Your first thought, “I have to have another aquarium for my fish before I can put it in the main display? Ugh.” Even though it seems like a pain or a hassle, quarantining is vital and completely worth it.
Can you imagine being netted, bagged, put in the dark, shipped, unbagged, then netted again, bagged, put in the dark and shipped again? What a stressful process. Even though wholesale facilities have mastered this task and have procedures that greatly reduce the trauma of the shipping process on fish, it is still an extremely stressful journey. Naturally, fish need some time to adjust to aquarium life, processed foods and new tank mates. This is why quarantining your new fish is so important.
Quarantine systems don’t need to be fancy or expensive, they just need to properly house your new fish for a bit to let them adjust and settle before adding them to their final destination.
What you need:
- Aquarium: Of course it depends on the size of the fish you are adding, but a 20-29 gallon aquarium should provide ample space for your new fish to rest, recover and rejuvenate.
Glass or Screen Top: Protect your new fish from jumping out and becoming a “fish chip.” Most quarantine systems are pretty bare so fish can be easily spooked with minimal places to hide causing them to jump out.
- Heater: Make sure you have a functional heater for your system. Temperature swings can cause serious stress on your fish and contribute to outbreaks of ich and other health issues.
- Filtration: Many people use a sponge filter or hang-on-the-back filter. It is best to use a “seeded” sponge to prevent your quarantine from cycling. **article on “seeding” and care of quarantine.
- Hiding Spot: New fish need a place they can rest without feeling threatened, a proper hiding spot allows them to do this. A simple PVC section can be used, making sure that it is sized appropriately so that the fish can fit inside without getting stuck. Plastic plants and other décor can be used if desired.
- Lighting and Timer: It is important that your new fish adapts to the lighting cycle of your main aquarium. You may want to leave the light off for the first day to allow it to adjust to the quarantine tank but avoid extremes: too much light or too much darkness can further stress out your fish.
Set up your quarantine system several days before adding your new fish, this allows for the water to be properly aerated and the temperature to be stabilized. You can use water from your current aquarium to start your quarantine, newly salted water or a combination of both. Many people reduce the salinity of their quarantine systems to 1.016-1.020. If you are doing this, make sure to slowly adjust the salt levels over the course of a few weeks while your fish is in there, matching it to your main display. Avoid fluctuations, stability is key!
Once you have properly drip-acclimated your new fish to the quarantine tank, take some time over the next few days to make sure it eats, is swimming normally, and shows no signs of disease/parasites. Many people make the mistake of dumping a bunch of different foods in the quarantine tank the first couple days thinking that the new fish will pick a favorite and/or eat more than it normally would. Ask your LFS what (and if) the fish was eating to avoid guess work. This causes stress as it can trigger an ammonia spike in the system so remove all extra food that is uneaten to avoid spikes. If your fish shows signs of stress or disease, treat appropriately.
It is largely debated on the length of time a fish should be quarantined. Suggestions range from 3-8 weeks. It is dependent on the species, the diet, and the maturity of your main system and if medications/treatment was needed. It can take up to 3 weeks for certain diseases to show visible signs, so you will need to watch your fish closely to determine the appropriate amount of time needed.
Signs of Stress or Illness: A Quick Look
- Twitching, itching or rubbing against rocks or décor
- Cloudy eyes or fins
- Visible spots on the fins, eyes or body
- Red streaking on fins or body of fish
- Lethargy, lack of interest in eating, laying on the bottom
- Color changes, dull coloration or grey looking
Part Two: Dip It BEFORE You Stick It, Coral Quarantine
One of the most overlooked aspects of the reef aquarium is the quarantining of corals. Many hobbyists spend tons of time, energy and money quarantining their reef fish but forget that corals should be quarantined and treated before being added as well. Why you might ask? No, corals can’t transfer diseases to your fish but adding new corals without proper dipping and quarantining procedures can be devastating to your reef aquarium!
Many coral pests can lurk in the smallest of coral crevasses or the bases they are attached to. Flatworms, red bugs, pest crabs, nudibranchs, filamentous algae, sundial snails and other pests may not be visible by the naked eye, so visual inspection just isn’t good enough. There are several Coral Dips available to aid in pest prevention; we use Coral Rx for the initial dipping process of our corals.
Dipping is a great first step, however…..to truly prevent coral pest infestation and devastation, newly acquired corals should be quarantined in a separate system as Coral Dips do not eliminate pest’s eggs. Other precautions can be taken as well to minimize pest risks.
- Acquire new corals from a trusted source
- Remove bases that the corals are attached to
- Look for dead spots and bite marks. Dead tissue is a haven for pest eggs to be laid
- Ask questions!