To Quarantine or Not To Quarantine - that is the question. This topic comes about with confusion and complexity because many new hobbyists do not know how to quarantine fish. The video below discusses part 1 of my video series (stay tune for the next parts in the future!).Today's post is all about why we Quarantine and the various methods. See the video below and if you would rather read along, I have the post below for your reference:
I'm going to go off the cuff here and say that the primary reason for quarantine is recovery of your fish. Fish that you have picked up to from the local fish store or online have gone through a variety of channels to get to you. It is probably an understatement to say that if the fish has come to you and is wild caught it is within the top 25% of fish in the supply chain that made it out. Many fish die or get sick during capture and transplant.
Quarantining a fish allows the fish to destress and for you to have the fish adjust to your parameters, your food, and provides it a safe space for it to thrive away from more aggressive and established tank mates who can out compete it for food. Putting a fish directly into your display puts the fish in more stress and added stress events leads to our next reason for why we quarantine our fish.
A fish's immune system should be able to fight off more infections and diseases, however the shock of transportation compromises your fish's immune system leaving it vulnerable to any disease that gets shipped with it. Some of these diseases when they break out can be so deadly, they can wipe our your tank within days. So what are these deadly diseases? Well, I will tell you right now it's not ich. Ich is child's play compared to these three and they are becoming more and more common in the fish supply chain.
When you look up diseases, forum posts, or YouTube videos online you will come to MANY articles about ich. Ich this and Ich that. Now Ich is common and can kill your fish, but can be treated and in some cases your fish can simply recover from it. But these three diseases are 100% deadly, will wipe out your tank in days, and there are no known way to treat these disease with reef safe medications (Sorry Kick Ich, Ich Attack, Ich Guard, Paraguard --- this ain't working on them).
The common saltwater fish disease of the Deadly Three. It looks like ich, but it is far more deadly. Sometimes it kills fish before they are even able to display symptoms. Marine Velvet MUST be treated in a quarantine tank/hospital tank and requires your main display to go fishless for 76 days to remove it from the display. It is probably the #2 reason for tank crashes in the hobby with heater failures being #1. The go to treatments are Copper or Chloroquine Phosphate.
The least common of the deadly 3 but considered the worst and hardest to treat. Chromis and Anthias are unfortunately the most prone to this disease, but it can spread to other fish. This particular disease is resistant to Copper and Choloroquine Phosphate, requiring higher than traditional dosages. It can also go into the internals of the fish and damage it further requiring other medication like Metro to add in internal treatment. Uroema is also a free living parasite which means it can exist without fish present in the tank. Once a fish has Uroema one should assume that the disease exists in the system. Talk about scary!
Brooklynella is a nasty disease that Clownfish and Anthias are unfortunately prone to. This is how it got it's infamous nickname of Clownfish Disease. Brooklynella looks similar to velvet, which in my opinion is why it is safe safe to assume that your fish has either or when you observe it. Both Brooklynella and Marine Velvet can be treated with Copper and Chloroquine Phosphate. Further protect with Metro is recommended to protect the internals of the fish as Brook can also go internal as well.
So now we have discussed why we quarantine fish, now let's discuss the types of QT and rate each one.
All the power to you if you want to go this route. The hobbyists most successful with this method have stellar local fish stores (LFS) around them that they have strong relationships. If the store can hold a fish for you for 2-4 weeks, you will have better success. However, finding a local fish store this stellar for most of us is a needle in a haystack. Personally, in my location I have had difficulty finding a good local fish store. Literally every fish I have purchase came with something and QT has saved me tons of headache and thousands of dollars in losses.
Hyposalinity has been around for ages in the hobby. It's a tried and method that requires precision and constant monitoring. The reason why it doesn't make my list of preferred methods is because it will not treat against the Deadly Three. This disqualifies this method for me.
Tank Transfer Method or TTM is a very popular method among the forums and even by some online store who have suggested it as a reliable method. However, the supply chain has change since those times. 3 years ago I would say TTM was great, but with the increase commercialization of the hobby I am seeing more and more of the deadly 3 appearing and cannot recommend this method any longer. Tank transfer method will not protect your fish against the deadly three. You can however do a hybrid TTM with medications like Copper and CP, which I will explain in Part 2.
Now we are getting to methods that protect against the deadly three. Safety Stop is first up (Ruby Rally Reef can also be used if you cannot obtain Safety Stop). Safety Stop is a medicate dip of Formalin and Methylene Blue. Formalin is consider one of the hard drugs of the hobby, capable of wiping out various disease such as Marine Velvet, Brook, and Uroema. Melev's Reef has documented his process of how he added all his fish to his 400 Gallon tank with no quarantine over a 2 year period. That is proof that this method will work. Safety Stop will not prevent against internal parasite however and if your fish end up with a bacterial infection - there is no way to treat this in a display. This is why I recommend dipping your fish in Safety Stop before they go into Quarantine
Time to get into the good stuff! The next two method are ironclad and will protect against just about any disease in QT. The next two methods also have their uses depending on the fish you needing to QT. Chelated copper is considered more preferable over over type of copper because it is safe and has a higher therapeutic range. You have to maintain your levels throughout the process and I would recommend a precise tester like a Hanna Checker. People are generally scared of copper due to the fears from Companies selling "Reef Safe" medication and those who want to do natural remedies. I will tell you right now that both Copper and Chloroquine Phosphate are veterinarian choices when it comes to treating external parasites. Would you rather listen to a licensed vet or a Company that wants to make money off you selling subpar medication?
We have come to the pinnacle of Prophylactic treatments available in the hobby. Chloroquine Phosphate plus the combination of API General Cure is provides the simplest nearly full proof method of quarantine. Chloroquine Phosphate (or CP for short) is the preferred medication for Marine Velvet, Brooklynella, and Uroema. It is as close to a wonder drug as you can get currently. It is easy to administrator as long as you have a good digital scale to measure (these are easy obtained for cheap).
The main issue with Chloroquine Phosphate is that is it difficult to obtain outside of a Veterinarian's prescription. If you are like me, you probably cannot obtain Chloroquine Phosphate from a Vet and have to go of the route of obtaining it from a supplier. Getting it from a supplier can be risky as you may not know the source and the purity of the substance. I obtain aquaculture grade Chloroquine Phosphate so you can always purchase it from me and I have certificate of analysis available so you know the purity and can adjust accordingly.
Part 2 of this series is coming up. Part 2 of how to quarantine fish will concentrate on the parts lists to make your own quarantine tank and the exact battle plan on how to go about the quarantine process with a complete 32-35 day flowchart and outline. If you want to be in the know, subscribe to our YouTube Channel and sign up for updates to our blog. Stay Tuned!