Most of us invest a lot into our aquarium systems. Not just financially, but also time, sweat, and dedication. 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 the 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. It might even be scary to be playing doctor or pharmacist with the fish. Other times, it may seem like a waste of space. Yet, it can pay the divident of your entire livestock itself in a single instance.
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 came from 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, as the quarantine tank is a tenth of the volume of the main tank, you do not need to purchase nearly as much medication and medication interactions with incompatible specimens are completely avoided.
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, heal, and avoid stress. 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.
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!
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.
Mark Teitelman says
Best thing I did was set one up
Mark Teitelman says
Best thing I did was set one up
I’ve never used one but after reading this I’m definitely going to.
robert vice says
do you need to quarantine corals I dip everything started with dry rock sand and having an asterina outbreak
Jose Pacheco says
Josh Flanigan says
Lori Ikuma says
I need a qt tank to keep my main tank disease free or to treat fish without risking the health of my reef
David Lee says
Always a good idea to quarantine. Don’t want pests to get into the DT.
Stacey Perry says
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 ?
Peter Cassidy says
William Dickey says
Having a quarantine tank definitely helps by not introducing any parasites from livestock. Why risk it??
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!
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.
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.
Bobby Daniels says
Been lucky for the past 1 1/2yrs without one. But sooner or later is going to bite me in the ass
Tim J says
With marine velvet so common in the hobby and so devastating to fish a good quarantine system just makes sense!
CHRIS MATHIS says
A QT eliminates the stress of significant fish and coral loss of one sick fish.
Eric Reid says
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
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.
Cole B Presley says
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
Cole B Presley says
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.
Cole B Presley says
Is coral QT as important as fish QT?
Jered Hedrick says
I’m terrible with quarantining. Really need to invest in getting a good qt set up soon.
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.
David Tucker says
I’ve got a quarantine tank, only after learning a hard lesson. #neveragain
art anderson says
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
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.
Georgia Ambarian says
So true! Saved me from Aiptasia in my DT!!!
Matt chahine says
I have way to much invested in my aquarium to not have a qt tank. Will be my next purchase
I definitely need one ASAP!
Nick Vendittk says
Makes life so much easier
Chris Gries says
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.
Alex Lin says
Great info will QTing every fish i got!!
lawrence zapata says
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.
Setup my QT after losing all to velvet. That’s one mistake you’ll only ever make once 🙁
Eugene Botts says
QT as much as possible. You never know what’s out there.
James Jenewein says
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.
Having a quarantine tank protects you from losing all your valuable fishy friends and corals.
Tony Holliday says
QT tank has saved me many times!
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.
I need a quarantine tank because I am
Just starting and need to make sure
All My Additional needs as I fill my tank
I need to get a QT tank cause I’ve already had issues with no QT set up nudi coral eaters and other pest 🙁
Nice article. Never even considered the proximity of the QT to the DT as being an issue.
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.
Rafael Galarza says
akreef aquarium says
Always great info.