Aquarium Fish

Quarantine Tank Setup for Aquarium Fish

Do I Need A Quarantine Tank?

An article on how to set up a quarantine tank for freshwater fish, saltwater fish and coral keepers.

Ahhh, yes, the often dismissed but very necessary part of the tropical fish hobby, the infamous quarantine tank. Do you really need one to be successful in this hobby?

For freshwater fish you may be able to get by without having a quarantine tank. Freshwater fish are generally more suited to captivity because they are usually tank raised and don't seem to break out in disease as readily as their saltwater counterparts. However, if newly acquired fish do come down with something such as ich (ick) or velvet, you will surely wish that you had one ready to go. One newly bought fish that is introduced to your main tank can easily wipe out the entire tank population. Better safe than sorry, right?

For saltwater aquarium keepers, I would say that you definitely need a quarantine tank (sometimes called a hospital tank). Marine specimens are mostly wild caught and not used to being kept in captivity. Their journey to a dealers tank is usually much longer and much more stressful for them. Stressed out fish will usually come down with some kind of disease if they don't simply die from the whole ordeal. Saltwater fish keepers will usually have other things in the main display tank such as invertebrates and live rock, that they don't want to expose to the harsh medicines necessary to treat one or two fish. Some medicines can wipe out all of the invertebrates in a tank, so be sure to research any medicine before using it in your tank.

Quarantine Tank Setup

You don't need to go all out here. A simple tank size of 10 - 20 gallons will suffice for most people. If you have larger fish, then obviously you want to get a bigger quarantine tank. All you really need is a bare bones setup with the following equipment:

  • Some type of filtration (a hang on the back of the tank power filter will work, just use filter floss without the carbon since carbon will remove medication from the water, being counter productive)

  • Heater

  • A power head and/or an air stone for increased surface agitation

  • Aquarium test kits for pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate

  • Fish Net - don't use the same net for your main tank

Fill the quarantine tank with water from the main tank and then turn everything on in the quarantine tank.

Freshwater Fish Quarantine Tank

For newly acquired freshwater fish you will want to acclimate the fish to the water in the quarantine tank and monitor them very closely for a period of two to three weeks. Monitor the water parameters with your test kits and check for signs of parasites or bacterial infections.

If the newly acquired fish does come down with something you will need to use the appropriate medication and you will need to keep them in quarantine for a further two weeks to make sure that you have indeed treated them effectively. If after a few weeks no problems develop, you can then acclimate them to the main tank water and then introduce them.

If a fish comes down with something while in your main tank, just net them and put them into the quarantine tank. There should be no need to acclimate them because you used water from your main tank. If you didn't use water from the main tank you will need to acclimate them to the quarantine tank water. Diagnose the problem / disease and treat appropriately. After the disease clears up you will still want to keep the fish in quarantine for a week or so monitoring the water parameters with your test kits the whole time.

Saltwater Fish Quarantine Tank

Quarantine Your Saltwater Fish!

For newly acquired saltwater fish you will want to acclimate them to the water in the quarantine tank and monitor them very closely for a period of two to three weeks. Monitor the water parameters with your test kits and check for signs of parasites or bacterial infections.

If the newly acquired fish does come down with something you will need to use the appropriate medication and you will need to keep them in quarantine for a further two weeks to make sure that you have indeed treated them effectively. If after a few weeks no problems develop, you can then acclimate them to the main tank water and then introduce them.

If a fish comes down with something while in your main tank, just net them and put them into the quarantine tank. There should be no need to acclimate them because you used water from your main tank. If you didn't use water from the main tank you will need to acclimate them to the quarantine tank water. Diagnose the problem / disease and treat appropriately. After the disease clears up you will still want to keep the fish in quarantine for a week or so monitoring the water parameters with your test kits the whole time.

Always have some extra saltwater ready in case you need to perform an emergency water change. Remember, you want to monitor those water parameters frequently (daily or at least once every two days). Many saltwater hobbyists always have saltwater ready just in case. You never want to mix up saltwater and add it right away. Freshly mixed saltwater can be fairly toxic to fish, in turn causing you more problems. It can also be difficult to get an accurate reading with your hydrometer with freshly mixed saltwater.

Coral Quarantine Tank

Quarantine Your Coral!

Yes, you should quarantine your coral before introducing it the display tank. There are several different pests and diseases that could be introduced including montipora and acropora eating nudibranchs, flat worms, clam eating snails, etc. At the very minimum you should be dipping the coral using something like CoralRx, Tropic Marin Pro Coral Cure or Two Little Fishies Revive. There are several readily available dips to chose from and there are no excuses not to dip your coral.

You don't need to go all out here either when setting up a coral quarantine tank. A 10 gallon tank with adequate flow and lighting will be sufficient. Dip the coral before you put it into quarantine and monitor it for a week or so. If all looks good in QT dip the coral again before putting it into your display tank. If you trade frags with friends I'll just say this - don't trust your friends! Seriously though, don't automatically assume that they are giving you a pest free frag. Dip it and QT it.

Conclusion

Freshwater hobbyists may get away with not using a quarantine tank, but saltwater hobbyists would be crazy not using one. Save yourself some money, headaches and especially the fish by having a quarantine tank. The fish in your main tank will thank you for it.

Watch the video below on how to set up a sample quarantine tank for saltwater fish and how to medicate the fish if necessary.

Saltwater Aquarium Quarantine Tank Video

Author : Mike FishLore


Quarantine Tank Setup Comments

From: Rich
I like to keep some small hiding places in the form of over turned flower pots or pvc pipes for my fish in quarantine. This helps make them feel secure and should help lower their stress level which could potentially help with the treatment of any disease outbreak.

If I know that I'm going to be getting some new fish I have a small, inexpensive sponge filter that I use for my qt tank. I'll put the sponge in my main tank for about a week to populate it with the beneficial bacteria and then use that sponge filter in my hospital tank to prevent a cycle from happening. Ideally you want to be on top of your water changes during a quarantine period to prevent a nutrient buildup and the sponge filter gives me peace of mind knowing that it is working to prevent any ammonia or nitrite buildup. If you have to medicate though, all bets are off since most medications may destroy the helpful bacteria. In that case, stick to those frequent partial water changes during this process.

From: Jesse
Do you need to run the qurantine tank 24/7?
No, you don't need to run the qt 24/7. You run it as needed. You can run a second filter on your main tank so you have a filter ready for when you do need to run a qt and you won't have to go through a cycle. When the time comes you can fill the qt tank initially with water from the main tank if you're in a pinch. You'll be performing frequent water changes while the fish are in quarantine, so bringing over water from the main tank shouldn't be a problem.


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