Warning - Marine Aquarium Quarantine Area

Why You Need a Quarantine Tank

Most of us invest a lot into our aquarium systems. Some of us invest a whole lot. The best
means of protecting your growing livestock collection (i.e. investment) is a rigorously maintained
and monitored system of quarantine. But we all already know that, right?

A quarantine (QT) tank is that one thing we should have. And easily could have… Yet we
somehow never find the time or space. We could definitely think of things that would be more
fun to do with our money…

Yes, a properly set up quarantine tank will cost plenty of time, space and money. And it will not
be particularly exciting to operate it. In fact, most of the time, it might not even have anything of
note in it. Yet, it can pay for itself in a single instance.

Better safe

Imagine the first time you bring home that little wrasse for your reef aquarium. It looked so
healthy, had been at the shop for a while, was eating so well… and it’s a such a great store.
You hardly ever see sick fish there.

But, a few days after bringing your new acquisition home and putting it in quarantine, you notice
a few small dots on the fins. Marine ich! Shouldn’t be a surprise, since so many aquarium fish
are exposed to it as they move along the supply chain.

The first thing you’ll do is high-five yourself for having the wisdom of using a quarantine system
instead of just dumping the animal straight into your large and mature reef tank. You might not
have even seen the parasite so soon if the fish had not been in QT where it was so much easier
to look at closely. Now you can jump on treatment immediately!

Because this requires a medication that is not safe with corals, you are lucky enough just to
have a QT tank ready and on hand to use. But you can breathe an extra big sigh of relief
because you won’t have to somehow net that two-inch wrasse from a huge tank full of live rock.
By putting your new fish straight into QT, you avoided an enormous amount of stress for both
yourself and the animal. Oh, and let’s remember also that because you did not expose the sick
specimen to healthy specimens, you only need to treat this fish instead of all the fish in that
tank. Lastly, being as the quarantine tank is a tenth of the volume of the main tank, you do not
need to purchase nearly as much medication.

Your quarantine system doesn’t seem so much like an “extra” or a frivolous luxury right now,
does it?

Making quarantine work

The first question one might ask is, when is the best time to set up a quarantine system? The
answer is simple: Right away! It will need to be ready and cycled sooner than the main tank
(everything is going into QT first, right?). Your quarantine might be up and running–and holding
livestock–before you even haul the main tank home! We know what you’re thinking: Nobody, as
in nobody ever, buys a quarantine set-up before buying their first display tank. Just doesn’t
happen in the real world.

Fair enough. But just consider this before embarking on your next aquarium project, even if it’s
just a modest one. It is a plain fact that there are lots of aquarium diseases out there. There is
always one just lurking around the corner. Some of these are quite devastating. These
pathogens do not care how much you spent on that fish. They couldn’t care less about how long
you’ve been patiently growing that mother colony.

For sure, the best way to deal with these maladies is to avoid them altogether. Here, the old
saying that “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” holds so very true. It is never
too soon to build and establish a quarantine system!

In fact, the best thing to do is set up two systems, particularly if you plan to build a large, well-
stocked reef aquarium. In this way you can evaluate (and treat, if necessary) your fish and
invertebrates separately.

The quarantine tank does not have to be massive. It does, however, need to be big enough to
comfortably house each animal physically as well as remain stable chemically. It could definitely
be said that QT tanks are frequently undersized. But the real issue is usually with quality. The QT
is a place to rest and heal. If it is dirty, weakly aerated and of poor water quality, then what’s the
point? Yes, the QT tank should be roomy, but even more importantly, it should have excellent
water quality always.

On the other hand, a quarantine system should be sparsely “decorated.” This often means no
sand or rock. Simple, inert, easily removed/easily cleaned objects like PVC pipe or flower pots
are instead provided as hiding places. An egg crate rack works best for situating sessile
creatures such as corals or tube worms. This ensures that the system is always easy to
maintain and the inhabitants are always easy to observe.

One other consideration is proximity to the main system. The further the QT is from your display
tank, the less likely it is that a drip or splash will result in contamination. While it may indeed be
most convenient to keep all the tanks together (in a dedicated fish room, for example), keeping
your QT in the same general area just increases the risk of salt spray reaching the other tank, a
fish net going into the wrong tank, etc.

Easy in

When a quarantine system is properly set up and maintained, there is never a rush to move
animals into the main system. The QT has excellent filtration, lighting, circulation, etc. and can
house the specimens indefinitely.

Think of the entire quarantine process as peace of mind rather than a pain in the butt. Caring for
your quarantine tank might not be the most fun part of aquarium keeping. But the first time you
discover a disease in QT–rather than in the display tank–you’ll be quite glad you went through
the trouble!

51 thoughts on “Why You Need a Quarantine Tank”

  1. I’m guilty of not using a qt as often as I should. It really does save lives to use one though. It’s definitely a good idea to keep them a good ways from the main display. Cross contamination happens easily.

  2. I need a qt tank to keep my main tank disease free or to treat fish without risking the health of my reef

  3. I keep a 15 tank not only for fish, but for corals. If there are flatworms after dipping a new coral they go into qt to be dipped again after any eggs have had time to hatch 😁

  4. Nothing worse than seeing the fish you’ve grown to love get disease from a new addition. Keeping a qt tank is easier than replacing every fish in your tank!

  5. the reasons you should have a quarantine tank
    1. to help eliminate the spread of parasites of new fish.
    2 to observe new additions for illness
    3 checking corals for parasites
    4 to move sick fish out of the display to treat
    5 to help new fish recover from stress before placing in the display tank with other fish.

  6. Tyler.gore.90

    A QT is such a necessity! It’s also not needed to have the tank up and running 24/7 like most are scared of. Once all my fish are added I can break the QT down and just keep everything ready to go and have the peace of mind.

  7. With marine velvet so common in the hobby and so devastating to fish a good quarantine system just makes sense!

  8. It’s really awake up call when you have an established system and you add that one fish without first putting it through quarantine and it wipes out your entire fish population and you have to let the tank sit hallow for 3mos

  9. I can’t invest as much money as I’d like to into the hobby, so if something were to hitch a ride into my tank because I didn’t quarantine, it would be detrimental.

  10. Cole B Presley

    My only worry would be that the cycle would be lost while fish are not in it but I guess that’s not that important as you do so many water changes

  11. Cole B Presley

    my worry would be that the cycle would be lost while fish are not in it but I guess that’s not that important as you do so many water changes.

  12. I’ve made the mistake of putting fish straight into the display tank only to have it basically nuke the tank. Ever since then a qt has been a must.

  13. qt tank for fish and corals so you can make sure there healthy b4 putting them into the dt an not crashing your main system

  14. Always quarantine new fish, because if you add a new fish to your display and they are carrying a sickness they will effect your healthy fish. Then you will be stuck with getting all the fish out of the tank and letting the tank sit fallow while you treat every fish.

    Better to be safe than sorry. Best to quarantine then to loss fish or have to treat everyone after the fact.

  15. Been reefing for 15+ years. Last year I put a new fish and didn’t quarantine. In a few days lost all my fish except for 1. Some I had for over 5 years. Don’t be me, quarantine.

  16. I believe you need a QT tank because you shouldnt rely on someone else to tell you that something is healthy. A QT will show you that over time. And if you have a large number of livestock then that helps insure that you dont lose that investment.

  17. James Jenewein

    Quarantine tanks are a lifesaver! My roommate and I both have tanks, and we discovered we needed one when there was an ick outbreak. Unfortunately, we didn’t have one set up when it happened, so he had to treat his whole tank for it instead of being able to isolate them. We now have two quarantine tanks set up.

  18. I once lost almost all the fish in my main freshwater display tank by adding new unquarantined stock. It was a huge loss and I set up a quarantine tank, but only for the freshwater. I need to set up a saltwater quarantine tank so that same mistake doesn’t happen again.

  19. I need a quarantine tank because I am
    Just starting and need to make sure
    All My Additional needs as I fill my tank

  20. I need to get a QT tank cause I’ve already had issues with no QT set up nudi coral eaters and other pest 🙁

  21. QT is needed to prevent your DT from getting parasites or diseases. The best way to treat is with copper but will kill your entire reef setup.

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