Aquarium Fish Quarantine- Why it is Important

Understanding the concept and importance of a quarantine tank should be the first step to fish-keeping. Many aquarists are not aware of the significance of the quarantine tank and keeping every new fish in it before the main tank. If you know the concept of a quarantine tank, you can easily avoid most of the uncertainties or conflicts coming on the way of fish-keeping.

Fish quarantine, as the name suggests, is all about keeping the fish under quarantine or in isolation for certain period for some specific reasons. Most of the expert aquarists implement the theory of quarantining the fish which the beginners fail to understand and end up with dead fish. So let us understand why having a quarantine tank is important and why quarantining the fish for some period could become the wisest decision.

What is a Quarantine Tank?

The excitement knows no boundaries when a new aquarist brings a new fish into its collection. People love to enrich their collection by adding new, exotic, and colorful fish. However, keeping them in a quarantine tank before adding them directly to the main tank is sensible.

A quarantine tank is a small tank that is used to rehabilitate a new fish. At the same time, it can also be used to treat fish that are weak, sick, or not feeling well. The aim of establishing a quarantine tank is to provide personal care to the small creatures and an environment that is less stressful to recover and not show the signs of illness.

A quarantine tank is useful for both- the new fish from the shop and the sick fish from your own tank. Also, whether you have a freshwater fish or marine water fish, quarantine is an essential process for both.

Importance of Quarantining a New Fish 

No matter how safe and hygienic the pet shop, the chances of your newly bought fish having germs are always high. Although, most of the time, shopkeepers use UV systems and even provide routine medication to eliminate the probability of diseases, why take a chance? When a number of fish share the same habitat in the shop’s tank, they may carry diseases silently. It is when the concept of quarantine tank comes in handy.

When you bring new fish at home, it should be kept in this well-established quarantine tank and monitor the signs of illness. The monitoring period is important to make sure that there are no symptoms of illness and the new fish is good to go in the main tank.

Furthermore, a quarantine tank will help the new fish to relieve their stress and get comfortable in the new environment. Just the journey of fish from the shop to the home could be stressful. It could make the fish stressed and weak that can affect its immune system. All this makes the fish prone to bacterial and fungal infections. Also, there could be a huge difference in the ambiance of the shop, and your home wherein fish need some time to adjust. Therefore, introducing them directly in the main tank is not a good idea.

Quarantine tank- hospital for a sick fish

There could be plenty of times when your otherwise vivacious and energetic fish seems lethargic. Also, the chances of fish getting injured while fighting back with other inhabitants are there. Likewise, the fish may catch certain diseases and get ill. In all such cases, you cannot give the treatment and special care to the ill, injured, and unwell fish in the display tank, right? It is when the quarantine tank comes to play.

In such cases, the quarantine tank becomes the hospital tank where you can transfer the infected fish and provide the best treatment. All you need is to remove chemical filtration, if it is there, before starting the medication. From providing the doses of medicines to feeding the medicated food, you can perform all these activities in the hospital tank. Since some remedies could become harmful for healthy fish and the aquarium plants, it is good to keep the patients separately.

Just make sure that you have removed the chemical filtration from the hospital tank. You can still have biological and mechanical filtration. In such conditions, using bacterial additives will also give good results and fight the ammonia spike during medication.

What are the essential equipment for the quarantine tank?

In general, an ideal quarantine tank needs to have every accessory, which is extremely important in the main tank. A high-quality filter, a water heater to maintain an ambient temperature, and a thermometer to read the temperature fluctuations are essential. The size of the quarantine tank could be small as compared to the main tank. You can easily make a well-functioning quarantine tank.

How to set up an ideal quarantine tank 

Size of the tank– A small tank of 10-gallon size will suffice the need for a quarantine tank. If you don’t want two tanks in the house, or money is the constraint, you can use any 40 liters container and set it up as a quarantine tank. Just make sure that the container’s material is safe for the fish, and it is strong and sustainable enough to take the weight of water. While using the container as a quarantine tank, cover it with a lid to prevent fish from jumping off.

Filtration system– A good filtration system is a must for the quarantine tank. A small power filter or the use of back filters with sponge media will be a good choice. Sharing the microbiome from the display tank is also a good idea. You can simply seed the quarantine tank with biological filter media from the main display tank.

Water heater– For a tank of 10-gallon, a small water heater of 50 watts will be sufficient. It is essential to maintain the right temperature, or else the chances of a bacterial and fungal infection increase. Always keep a digital display thermometer and keep an eye on the temperature to avoid high fluctuations.

Step 1: Rinse the tank or container thoroughly with pure potable water.

Step 2: Pour water inside the tank or container and keep it as such for a few hours to make sure that it is not leaking.

Step 3: Install the filter and water heater inside the tank and keep the thermometer with the desired settings. Check the temperature and make sure it is matching the set point of the water heater.

Once the setup is complete, and everything is functioning properly, your tank is ready to quarantine your new fish and be the hospital tank for the sick ones. The bottom of the quarantine tank needs to be bare as it is used for special reasons and not for display. Putting the substrate will only make things worse and burden you with cleaning all the time. You must clean the quarantine tank after every use for the best result.

Now that the tank is ready and the devices are working properly, you can unplug the heater and keep it with the thermometer somewhere safe to use later. The quarantine tank is used only when you bring a new fish or want to treat a sick one. If you are using sponge filter media, keep it inside the main display tank so that beneficial bacteria can grow there.

Using a quarantine tank 

For New Fish

So now that you are planning to get a new fish for your display tank, it’s time to prepare the quarantine tank first. Take out your container or tank and fill half of it with pure drinking water and the rest with the mature water from your display tank. Now add filter and filter media into the tank and run it for at least 45 minutes before adding a new fish.

Maintain the temperature as per the fish’s specific requirement or else around 24 to 25-degree centigrade, which is optimum for most of the species. Once the temperature is maintained, you can add the newly bought fish for a certain period to quarantine in this temporary home.

For Sick Fish

If one of your fish in the display tank gets sick or injured and you want to treat it, transfer it into the quarantine tank (in this case, hospital tank). First of all, add fresh and pure water to the tank, place the filter and water heater and maintain the desired temperature. The temperature should be similar to that of the display tank to avoid sick fish coming under stress. Now add your unwell fish and provide the required medications.

If you are not sure about the medicines, take help from the experts. However, to boost immunity, you can simply give medicated fish feed. At this time, anti-protozoan flakes and Deworm flakes work wonders in improving the condition of the sick fish.

Adding bacterial additives will be a good decision to help your new fish become accustomed to the new environment. You can also go for a seeded sponge or biofiltration in the quarantine period. It will promote the nitrogen cycle and ensure a healthy environment inside the tank.

What should be the quarantine period?

Ideally, the quarantine period ranges from 2 to 6 weeks. However, for how many weeks the fish needs to remain in the quarantine tank will depend upon its symptoms, activity, and behavior. If the fish seems bubbly and lively, two weeks of quarantine is enough, or else you can extend it accordingly.

Ensure that you are maintaining the feeding and medication schedule in this period, just like you do in your main tank. In this way, the fish will bend to the new routine as well as the new environment. Once your new fish is adjusted, everything becomes easy and manageable.

How often should you change the water of the quarantine tank?

A new fish in a new environment is just like a newborn baby in the outside world. It is susceptible to pathogens present in the water. Therefore, a regular change with fresh and clean water is essential. Frequent water changes ensure that the water quality is up to the mark and suitable for the delicate fish.

If the quarantine period is two weeks, change the water daily for the first week. For the second week, you can change the water after every alternate day. 90% water change for the first week and 75% for the second week is considered ideal. However, if you use a biological filter or seeded sponge filter, 50% water change on every alternate day throughout the quarantine period is advisable. Make sure you check the water parameters daily with the test kits.

Things you should not do with a quarantine tank

Fish are kept in isolation in a quarantine tank for a few weeks with the intentionin to keep the potential problems away. Therefore, you must keep all the items associated with the quarantine tank separate. Never pour the water from the quarantine tank into your main tank.

Likewise, keep all the equipment like fishnets, jugs, glass scrubber, etc., away from the main tank. Germs and pathogens can make a way through these equipment into the main tank and cause a bigger problem by infecting fish in an established tank. Similarly, filters, heaters, and thermometers should be separate for the quarantine tank and main tank.

Final words

While some people feel quarantine tank and its entire concept a burden, some find it highly useful. If you are a beginner and bringing a shoal of fish from the same source, you can directly proceed to the main tank. However, if your fish come from different sources, it is always better to quarantine them beforehand as shops can be the origin of different types of fish diseases. Do not mix the fish from different sources in one tank as pathogens from a diseased fish may pass to a healthy fish and could be detrimental for the entire shoal.

The best part about the quarantine tank is they are easy and affordable. There is no need to buy fancy or expensive items. You can simply convert any sturdy and spacious container into a quarantine tank with the right set up. However, you need to follow special measures while bringing a new fish and provide proper care, feed, and medication along with regular water changes.

When you provide good care to your new fish, its survival rate improves, and it performs much better. So, don’t rush with the main tank. Give your fish some time to remain isolate and get adjusted to the new ambiance.

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