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Quarantine Live Aquatic Plants to Reduce the Risk of Unwanted Hitchhikers

Quarantine Live Aquatic Plants

The quarantine of new aquarium arrivals is a fundamental part of proper aquatic life husbandry. While most hobbyists are aware of the importance of quarantining new fish and corals, many hobbyists either forget or do not quarantine live aquatic plants. LiveAquaria® highly recommends the quarantine of all new aquatic life, including live plants, to help ensure a healthy transition and to prevent any potential losses that can undermine your efforts spent on creating and maintaining a beautiful and healthy aquatic environment.

How to Quarantine Live Aquatic Plants
Setting up a quarantine system for your new aquatic plants does not need to be any more complicated or elaborate than setting up an independent, supplementary aquarium or container to temporarily house your plants. Be sure to provide appropriate lighting, heating, or filtration necessary to maintain ideal conditions for your plants. A minimum quarantine period of at least two weeks is recommended.

Why Quarantine Live Aquatic Plants?
With any new aquatic life addition, though uncommon, there is always the possibility of introducing unwanted hitchhikers or disease-causing organisms into your aquarium or water garden. Employing routine quarantine protocols with every new aquatic life purchase helps mitigate the potential introduction of these organisms. Utilize the quarantine period to devote some extra TLC to your new plants. Carefully examine your plants for snails, snail eggs, and other invertebrates. Be sure to remove any broken leaves and stems damaged during transit as it may become a site for potential rot or decay. These cautionary steps help ensure optimum health of your new plants.

How to Identify and Remedy Common Live Aquatic Plant Hitchhikers
The first thing hobbyists should do upon receiving their new aquatic plant is to thoroughly rinse each plant in water. Oftentimes, this initial rinsing dislodges most common hitchhikers. Following this preliminary rinse, carefully inspect the plant for hitchhikers paying special attention to the underside of leaves and within the root structure (especially in floating plants). Some of the most common aquatic plant hitchhikers include snails, snail eggs, parasitic or predatory invertebrates, and algae.

  • Snails: Most freshwater aquarium hobbyists have probably experienced the spontaneous appearance of snails at least once in their career as snails are regarded as one of the most common and adept aquarium hitchhikers in general. Though snails are typically benign and potentially beneficial, they are often regarded as pests because of their prolific nature. Under the right conditions, snail populations can quickly explode to an unmanageable number. To prevent the unwanted introduction of snails, be sure to rinse you new plants thoroughly to dislodge any potential hitchhikers. Continue to observe your plants during the quarantine period and manually remove any snails still attached to your plant.
  • Snail Eggs: In contrast to their developed form, snail eggs are much more difficult to detect as they are significantly smaller in size and often transparent. Many species also produce a gelatinous casing that protects the snail eggs. Snails typically lay their eggs in a single cluster, often depositing the eggs on the underside of leaves or on the stems of plants. Manually remove any snail egg you find using your fingernails.
  • Parasitic or Predatory Invertebrates: Though uncommon, you might encounter dragonfly or damselfly nymphs as live aquatic plant hitchhikers. These predatory invertebrates are capable hunters that can prey upon small fish and desirable ornamental shrimp with great efficiency. Fortunately, these predators are quite conspicuous and can be manually removed during the initial rinsing protocol. Be sure to carefully inspect and thoroughly rinse the root structure of floating plants as it is a prime hiding spot for many hitchhikers.
  • Nuisance Algae: While nuisance algae may not initially come to mind as a typical hitchhiker, the inadvertent introduction can result in an unnecessary and long-term battle to keep it under control. To prevent the introduction of nuisance algae, carefully inspect your plant. Nuisance algae will typically grow on the leaves of your aquatic plant. If you find a leaf covered or partially covered in algae, carefully trim or remove the affected leaf. In suborn cases, you may need to disinfect or sterilize your plant in a plant dip (bath) preparation.

General Disinfection
Because general disinfection requires the use of chemicals that are often considered harsh, it is often reserved for experienced hobbyists. The three most common chemicals used to disinfect or sterilize live aquatic plants include bleach, potassium permanganate, and hydrogen peroxide. As such, general disinfection should only be considered in extreme cases as inexperienced or improper execution may ultimately damage rather than disinfect your plant. If you choose to disinfect your live plants using a plant dip preparation of bleach, potassium permanganate, or hydrogen peroxide be sure to take all the appropriate safety precautions including the use of gloves and safety glasses and having a neutralizing rinse solution prepared with Seachem Prime or any other concentrated dechlorinator.

Potassium Permanganate Plant Dip
Potassium permanganate is a strong oxidizing agent often used in the aquarium industry as a disinfectant. It is available in both liquid and crystal forms in varying concentrations. Be sure to use gloves as the potassium permanganate will stain your skin. Also, NEVER combine potassium permanganate with solutions or medications such as Formalin, which contains formaldehyde, as it will result in dangerous chemical reactions including combustion and the formation of noxious gasses. Effective against snails, parasites, algae, fungus, and bacteria.

  • When using potassium permanganate crystals, prepare a plant bath solution by filling a bucket half full of warm water. Slowly mix in enough potassium permanganate crystals until you achieve a solution that is dark pink/purple in coloration (or roughly 4mg per liter of water). If you are using liquid potassium permanganate (often sold under aquarium or pond clarifier), create a potassium permanganate plant dip solution at double the recommended aquarium strength.
  • Dip your plant in the potassium permanganate plant dip solution for approximately 10 minutes, but no longer than 15 minutes.
  • Using gloves, remove the plant from the solution and gently and thoroughly rinse your dipped plant in a neutralizing rinse solution prepared with a concentrated dechlorinator at 3x the recommended aquarium strength.

Hydrogen Peroxide Plant Dip
Hydrogen peroxide is another strong oxidizing agent commonly used as a bleaching or antiseptic agent often used to disinfect superficial wounds. When preparing a hydrogen peroxide plant dip, be sure to use 3% hydrogen peroxide. Effective against algae, parasites, fungus, and bacteria.

  • Mix 2-3ml of 3% hydrogen peroxide to 1 gallon of water.
  • Dip your plant in the hydrogen peroxide plant dip solution for no longer than 5 minutes.
  • Using gloves, remove the plant from the solution and gently and thoroughly rinse your dipped plant in a neutralizing rinse solution prepared with a concentrated dechlorinator at 3x the recommended aquarium strength.

Bleach (Chlorine) Plant Dip
Bleach or sodium hypochlorite is a strong oxidizing agent that most hobbyists are familiar with as it is a common household cleaner. It is a caustic substance so be sure to take the appropriate safety precautions when handling bleach. When preparing your bleach plant dip, use unscented household bleach. Effective against algae, parasites, fungus, and bacteria.

  • Mix unscented household bleach with water at a 1:19 ratio (1 part bleach to 19 part water) to create your bleach plant dip.
  • Dip your plant in the bleach plant dip solution for no longer than 2 minutes.
  • Using gloves, remove the plant from the solution and gently and thoroughly rinse your dipped plant in a neutralizing rinse solution prepared with a concentrated dechlorinator at 3x the recommended aquarium strength until it no longer smells like bleach.

 

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