You can’t prevent your fish from falling ill but setting up a quarantine tank can prevent the spread of disease.
No matter how careful you are, your fish are likely to get sick at some point during your time in the hobby. Having a quarantine tank running is a great way to prevent an illness from becoming a crisis or from introducing unwanted pests or problems to your tank. The quarantine tank is also known as a hospital tank. Whatever you like to call it, the purpose is the same – to protect your current fish/ coral/ rock (aquaria) and to treat your fish for disease.
Benefits of a Quarantine Tank
A quarantine tank is essentially a back-up tank that you can use to quarantine fish. This tank should be set up to mimic the conditions in your main tank so that transferring aquaria from the quarantine tank reduces the stress on your aquaria. The main benefit of the tank is to separate sick fish from healthy fish or remove items the have pests on or in them, thus halting the spread of disease/ pests throughout the tank. Of course, some diseases can spread very quickly and may be transmitted through tank water – in cases like this you may not be able to completely stop the spread of disease but moving sick aquaria to the quarantine tank as early as possible you may help to lessen the spread.
When purchasing new aquaria or a potentially sick fish. It best to quarantine as most fish death occurs within the first 2 weeks of the purchase. The leading cause for illness is extreme stress and poor environmental conditions during the shipping and transportation. Therefore quarantine and observed for illness for at least 7 days (preferably two weeks) before moving into your healthy main tank.
The main benefit of having a quarantine tank is when you bring home your new addition to your display tank you can observe it to ensure it eats, it allows the fish to settle with out being harassed by existing fish. Quarantining new corals and rocks will reduce the chance of introducing unwanted pests, by careful observation you will see what crawls out of the holes and crevices before.
Another benefit of having a quarantine tank is that you can treat the aquaria individually without medicating the entire tank. Many aquarium medications are harmful to invertebrates and may also affect beneficial bacteria – if you dose the entire tank with medicine, you could end up doing more harm than good. By quarantining sick aquaria to a quarantine tank, you can limit your treatment to only items that require it. When fish fall ill, they may fall victim to bullying by other fish. Removing sick fish to a quarantine tank is the best way to ensure that the fish has time to recuperate and to fully recover before being re-introduced into the main tank.
Setting up a Quarantine Tank
Setting up the quarantine tank is easy and fairly inexpensive. In most cases a 30L tank will do just fine. Consider buying a kit which includes everything from filtration to heater and light. Of course an old aquarium sitting around the house will do just fine.
While a quarantine tank water conditions should mimic the main tank, the rest of the contents don’t need to be identical. There is no reason to decorate your quarantine tank except to provide your fish with a few places to hide. Substrate is not necessary in a quarantine a bare-bottom tank is much easier to clean. To set up your quarantine tank, start by filling it with water as close to the temperature of your main tank as possible. You may need to install an aquarium heater to maintain the tank at a stable temperature and you should also place an aquarium thermometer in the tank to keep an eye on things.
In addition to maintaining a stable water parameters & temperature in your quarantine tank, you also need to maintain high water quality (water changes). Not only is water quality important for keeping your inhabitants healthy, but it is also important in helping sick fish to recover quickly.
To keep the water quality in your tank high you will need to install an aquarium filter. You should, however, be careful when selecting a filter because you do not want to install something that will produce enough suction or water flow to put sick or injured fish at risk. One of the best types of filters to use in a quarantine tank is the sponge filter. This type of filter offers mechanical and biological filtration, helping to keep tank water clean without producing a great deal of flow. Because most medications require you to remove activated carbon from the aquarium filter, chemical filtration is typically not necessary in a quarantine tank.
- Heater (if needed)
- Filter (corner filters are cheap and efficient)
- Air pump & air stone
- Cover glass
- Hiding place
Other Tips for Quarantine Tanks
After you have set up your quarantine tank you need to maintain it just as you would your main tank. Even when you have fish in the quarantine tank, you should still perform routine water changes to keep the water quality in the tank high – this is especially important if you are not using a filter that has a chemical filtration component. After using your quarantine tank, be sure to give your fish plenty of time to fully recover before re-introducing them into the main tank. The last thing you want is to spark a recurrence of the disease. It is also wise to clean and sanitize the quarantine tank after each use to prevent the spread of disease. After cleaning refill the quarantine tank so it is ready to use at a moment’s notice. The sooner you begin treatment of new items or when you see something fall ill, the better their chances are for making a full recovery. For this reason, it is important that you set up and maintain a functioning quarantine tank.
If you need to setup in a hurry you can take the water from your main tank to aid in the biological filtration process. If the tank is a nano or a small tank you may want to take some substrate and put it into a stocking and place in the quarantine tank.