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Quarantine Tanks: Manage Fish & Coral Health

Manage Fish Health with Quarantine Tanks

Effective aquarium health management involves proper care and sound husbandry practices. While many hobbyists devote their time and energy on their main display aquariums, very few invest in a quarantine tank. Regrettably, efforts spent on creating and maintaining a beautiful and healthy aquarium can be undermined with the introduction of disease-causing organisms. Prevent costly losses by having a quarantine tank on hand and employing routine quarantine protocols with every new aquatic life purchase.

A quarantine tank is an independent, supplementary aquarium used to temporarily house any aquarium inhabitant. Similar to conventional aquarium setups, a quarantine tank incorporates lighting, heaters, and filtration to maintain proper conditions for its temporary inhabitants. Its principle purpose is to isolate livestock before they are introduced into the main aquarium. As a fundamental husbandry practice, quarantine tanks offer hobbyists a means to ensure quality care for individuals as well as the entire aquarium community.

Yes, because quarantine tanks offer a means to prevent and treat illnesses without compromising the main aquarium system. Quarantine tanks are particularly useful as part of your acclimation procedure when conditioning new arrivals.

Fish kept in quarantine are usually newly acquired fish. However, quarantine tanks can also be used to house any particular fish of interest and keep them under careful observation. Quarantine tanks allow hobbyists to perform thorough physical and behavioral examinations. Detailed visual examination of coloration, fin development, and eye clarity offers great insight into the general health of the fish. Careful observation over an extended period also provides hobbyists ample time to detect any potential parasites or disease symptoms.

During quarantine, hobbyists can also monitor feeding behavior to make sure new arrivals are eating and are accepting prepared foods. More importantly, this observation period allows new arrivals to acclimate and recover from the stress of transport. These cautionary steps ensure optimum health of new fish and help prevent potential transfer of disease-causing organisms into the main aquarium. A minimum quarantine period of at least two to three weeks is recommended for new arrivals.

All new corals should be quarantined because there is always a chance they may be harboring pests and parasites. Pests affecting the reef aquarium hobby include certain Red Bugs, Nudibranchs, Flatworms, Snails, and Limpets. The best way to mitigate the spread of these pests is to prevent introduction into your aquarium. Follow proper quarantine procedures to keep your reef aquarium free of pests and pathogens. Be sure to quarantine and treat, if necessary, all new corals until you know they are free of any unwanted organisms and demonstrate good expansion and vigor.

When a quarantine tank is used to medicate sick fish, it is sometimes called a "hospital" or treatment tank. Removing sick fish from the main population and treating them in a hospital tank has many benefits. The most significant benefit is the prevention of unnecessary medication to the rest of your aquarium inhabitants. Many medications have strong antibiotic properties and may have the undesired effect of harming or compromising the health of non-target species. For example, ornamental invertebrates are sensitive to copper-based medications. These medications should never be used in any aquarium housing desirable invertebrates, especially reef aquariums. Biological filtration can also be affected by medication. To minimize stress and potential harm to the entire aquarium system, it is prudent to separate and treat only the affected individual in a hospital tank.

Limiting medication use to hospital tanks also means the need for less medication. Since hospital tanks are generally smaller than the main aquarium, you use less medication. Furthermore, having to dispense less medication allows better control and monitoring of dosage. By employing hospital tanks for treatment, you not only spend less money on medication but also reduce the potential of overdosing. It is prudent to have two quarantine tanks if you keep corals and fish. Dedicate one quarantine tank exclusively for corals and the other for fish. Separating usage in this fashion prevents unintentional harm to your corals especially if you use medications to treat sick fish.

An aquarium kit or an all-in-one system makes a great quarantine tank. Since it already includes a filtration system, setup is fast and easy. A quarantine tank should generally be about 10 to 20 gallons, but a 29-gallon aquarium or larger is preferable for bigger fish. In addition to the aquarium, you will also need to have an extra set of the same basic equipment that you have for your main aquarium. You always want to have dedicated supplies for quarantine tank use only to help prevent potential cross-contamination.

For optimum health, the quarantine tank and equipment should be disinfected between uses. A mild (2-5%) chlorine bleach solution works great as a disinfectant. Make sure all traces of chlorine are removed before re-use. Drying also kills many but not all aquatic pathogens.

Quarantining is a vital practice that should be employed by all aquarists. Get into the habit of using a quarantine tank and you will find it difficult to imagine continuing your hobby without one. The benefits of this process will help ensure the healthy and longevity of your aquarium inhabitants.


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