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Fish, Shrimp & Corals


December 13, 2018 | By Neale Monks

Fish are exposed to a wide range of diseases and parasites as they journey from the retailer or wholesaler to your aquarium, so it’s extremely important to quarantine these new tank mates prior to placing them among your existing fish. A separate quarantine tank can easily be used to temporarily house, observe and condition new fish, however, research indicates that less than 5% of all aquarium owners actually have one.

Not having a quarantine tank is a bit like gambling. Sometimes you can hit a hot streak, but the odds will likely catch up to you before long, potentially costing you the lives of all your fish.

In addition to preventing the spread of infectious disease, quarantine tanks also allow fish to get adjusted to a new type of water and food. When they are not being used for quarantine, these tanks can double as treatment tanks. Treating the entire display tank for a problem that only infects a few fish is not good practice, not to mention it stresses the entire aquarium population.

How do you know what kinds of diseases and parasites to treat for?

It’s difficult to identify many types of fish diseases and parasites, so you should prophylactically treat every fish that you bring home. Prophylactically treating a fish essentially means you’re putting the fish through a medication routine, even if they aren’t showing the typical signs of disease. The most common ailments you should prophylactically treat against are:

  • Marine Ich/Cryptocaryon irritans
  • Brooklynella hostilis
  • Marine Velvet/ Amyloodinium ocellatum

These diseases are the most common in a saltwater environment, and also the ones that can cause the most damage.

How to quarantine and prophylactically treat your fish

If you are going to prophylactically treat your fish, you should commit to doing so for the entire suggested period. That new fish might very well be disease-free, but it also might not. Marine diseases and parasites can spread incredibly quickly and with little prejudice. However, since illness can spread quickly, the health of your most recent fish becomes the new baseline for you entire fish population.

Since dosages vary depending on brand, it’s important to read and follow the instructions on the specific type medication you’re using. Copper is the most common medication used in the prophylactic treatment of aquarium fish. It’s widely available, inexpensive and has been proven effective to treat both Ich and Marine Velvet. However, be careful as some animals cannot tolerate copper treatment (i.e. sharks, rays and all invertebrates).

After you complete the prophylactic treatment, you should keep the fish in the quarantine tank for an additional 30 days to observe them for any signs of illness. All that said, the total minimum time required before placing new fish into your display tank is typically 40 days, minimum.

Here is a basic quarantine tank checklist to get you started:

  • 20 gallon glass tank
  • Basic Filtration like a Fluval AquaClear (without carbon or chemical filtration) or an air driven sponge filter.
  • PVC pipe (to provide a hiding place)
  • No gravel
  • Heater
  • Thermometer
  • Copper test kit
  • Copper medication

Please keep in mind that this information is meant only to introduce you to standard quarantine procedure. We recommend that you research additional resources for more detailed information before getting started.

Source: “Quarantining New Aquarium Fish” by Neale Monks,
Ph.D., fishchannel.com, http://www.fishchannel.com/fish-health/healthy-aquariums/quarantining-fish.aspx


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