Quarantine has long been recognised as the most appropriate method of preventing (or at least limiting) the introduction of exotic or otherwise unwanted organisms from entering a controlled environment. It is a scientific protocol and countries use quarantine to prevent pests and disease from entering a country or areas within the country.
Quarantining all livestock introductions to your aquarium is highly recommnended. Sadly, too many people don’t realise the importance of quarantine until AFTER they have introduced a problem to their main display tank, with often tragic results.
Historically, most aquarists have considered using a quarantine process mainly for new fish introductions, but there is a growing trend for the quarantine of corals and other invertebrates.
A quarantine tank won’t actually prevent the introduction of diseases or parasites into the display tank, but significantly reduces the chances of it and so can be considered effective.
The main idea behind a quarantine tank is to provide sufficient time for any parasites that may have been present on the fish at the time of introduction to have reproduced so that their presence becomes obvious and then appropriate treatment can be commenced. Six weeks should allow for enough time for detection of most problems but if the fish can be kept here for longer, the margin of safety is increased.
In the unhappy circumstance where a fish is observed to have a disease or parasite during its quarantine period, a quarantine tank may be used as a hospital tank, or at the very least will be much easier to catch for transfer to a specialty hospital tank, without the need to pull your full display tank apart. Note that a hospital tank is not necessarily the same thing as a quarantine tank.
Many disease and parasite treatments cannot be used in a tank containing corals, invertebrates or calcareous decorations. Removal of a sick fish from a full reef tank is not always an easy task.
Apart from preventing introduction of diseases and parasites into the display system, quarantine also serves a number of other useful purposes.
- Fish time to recover from the stress of the transportation chain.
- Opportunity for new fish to become accustomed to tank life prior to entering a competitive environment.
- Gives the aquarist plenty of time to observe the new arrival and ensure it is in good health.
- Gives the fish time to learn to accept prepared foods before having to compete for it’s share.
Quarantining coral allows the aquarist time to observe a coral for health and visible pests. Combined with one or multiple coral dips this reduces the chance of coral pests and nuisance algae being introduced into the aquarium.
Setting up a Quarantine Tank
Setting up a quarantine tank is a very simple task, it does not need to be an expensive or complicated system. Using basic equipment such as a large plastic storage container, a powerhead with a sponge filter attachment and some pvc fittings and pipe sections for habitat, there really is no excuse for not using a quarantine tank.
Begin setting up by choosing a low activity area, install the equipment as you would a normal aquarium, bare bottom is preferred as it will help in cleaning. Fill using water from the display tank. If using a powerhead and filter combo this can be cycled in the display tank to establish its beneficial bacteria before adding to the quarantine tank. Provide habitats for fish to hide in, a great help in minimising stress, do not use live rock.
Once the quarantine period has lapsed and the fish is safe to add to the aquarium the quarantine tank can be disassembled and stored until required again. This way there is no excuses for not using a quarantine tank on that new spur-of-the moment purchase.