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Q11099 - HOWTO: How to Setup a Quarantine Tank by Daniel S., Reef Squad
Have you ever stopped to think about how much time and effort you have invested in your aquarium? How about financially?

Before you whip out your calculator, I hope you see my point: we invest a lot in this hobby. So why is it that so many hobbyists choose not to protect their investment by owning a quarantine tank?

As well-respected author and hobbyist Bob Fenner says in his book, The Conscientious Marine Aquarist, "you need a second aquarium if you want to keep your first one healthy."

Owning a quarantine system is necessary for the long-term health of your aquarium. Many people have left the hobby because they lost heart after losing fish to some hidden parasite in a new fish or coral.

The Conscientious Marine Aquarist
Hydor THEO Heater Fish wholesalers and retail stores are usually conscientious, quarantining and treating fish before selling them. However, that does not mean you do not need to quarantine the animals yourself. If you don't quarantine, you are taking a gamble: not every fish makes it through this process healthy and unscathed. No matter how trustworthy your retailer is, it does not make sense to leave the fate of your other aquarium inhabitants to them.

The truth is, owning a quarantine system is inexpensive and easy. Many hobbyists already own a lot of the equipment or keep it around as backup in case something fails. The best part is you only need to run it when you plan to add new fish or corals.

Start with your basic 10 or 20 gallon glass aquarium. This will house the fish or coral. You will not need substrate or decorations. However, you do want to provide something for the fish to hide in. For most small to midsize reef fish, a few large PVC elbows and tees work great. For larger fish, plastic flower pots are great. This will make them feel safer, thereby reducing stress.

You also need a small glass heater—something in the 50-100 watt range will work just fine. To monitor the temperature, get an inexpensive thermometer.

Next is filtration. I like a small sponge filter driven by an air pump. This covers biological filtration while oxygenating and moving water. Another school of thought is to use a small hang on power filter. This will allow you to run carbon or other media.

Whichever you choose, don't forget that a new aquarium needs to cycle. Biological filtration needs to be built up before fish can be added.

Marina Floating Thermometer
Ista Hydro Bio Sponge Filter However, there is a great trick to this. If you you're planning to purchase a new fish in a few weeks, you can use the sponge from the sponge filter in your tank for a few weeks or run the little power filter. This will build up biological filtration so that you can set up the tank right before getting the fish. Use water from your display tank, if possible, when filling the quarantine tank. This will best reproduce the conditions in your display tank and help kick start the biological filtration.

Pick up a set of test kits for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate if you don't already have them. This will help you monitor the water quality until the fish is ready to transfer. I recommend having a few gallons ready for a water change just in case these levels begin to rise.

You do not need a light fixture for fish. The ambient light that shines through windows during the daytime is fine. For corals, you will want a small light so photosynthesis can occur. A two-bulb T5 light will be sufficient for the short time corals will be quarantined.

I prefer not to medicate fish in quarantine unless I notice something during the quarantine period. The fish was most likely medicated several times during shipment and doesn't need the added stress. I can say that most professional aquarists I know do not treat healthy fish in quarantine. Some hobbyists prefer the extra protection though, so read up on it and make a decision knowing there isn't necessarily one right method.

Hagen Marina Air Pump
Aqua Clear Hang-On-Back Power Filter Corals are a different story. I highly recommend dipping any coral before placing them in quarantine. This will remove hitchhiking parasites and help repair damage inflicted during transit.

Equipment-wise, that's it! You should already own a fish net, a salinity meter of some sort, and the rest that goes along with keeping an aquarium.

You will want to keep fish in quarantine for a minimum of two weeks, and often for longer. You should observe the quarantined animal daily for signs of parasites, infection and/or odd behavior. If something is out of the ordinary, treat as necessary, and restart the clock on quarantine once the fish shows no abnormal signs. How to medicate is beyond the scope of this article, but I recommend the aforementioned book, The Conscientious Marine Aquarist, as an excellent resource. My copy is dog eared and well worn from use. You can also post a question, preferably with pictures, in the Marine Depot Forums.

And that's it. Easy, isn't it?

You don't even have to run your quarantine all of the time. Hide it away in a closet or the garage until you plan on getting new fish. You might want to consider keeping it running all the time, just in case you need to convert it into a hospital tank at a moment's notice, but you don't have to.

Make the single most important choice you can to keep your system healthy over the long term and set up a quarantine tank today.

Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Saltwater Liquid Master Test_Kit
As always, the Reef Squad is here for any questions you might have. We're here to help you succeed!
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Approved Comments...
Clear. Not product driven, e.g., advice from resellers is to use much larger tanks Approved: 2/13/2015
showing a video on the proper procedure would make the acclamation process easier to understand, especially for inverts! Approved: 1/13/2014
Had what I needed Approved: 1/10/2014
great !! Approved: 3/7/2013
I do this and know it already. Still great/good reminder. Approved: 10/30/2011
An easy read to a simple reminder.... this is a very cheap insurance policy to all the time, effort and livestock we have why risk it? Approved: 2/2/2011
Great article on an often overlooked part of saltwater aquarium keeping. Approved: 2/1/2011
Easy simple to read and understand. Approved: 1/31/2011
how long to keep coral in quarantine? Editors Note: Please contact us at for assistance with your question. Approved: 1/29/2011
has some very useful tips on how to get a hospital up and running.also alot of good short cuts on how to save time and money. Approved: 1/29/2011
Ive had a quarantine tank for years and this article just reinforces the need for one! Approved: 1/29/2011
it is percise and easy to follow Approved: 1/29/2011
I learned some new tips on this subject and they make sences to me . Approved: 1/29/2011
Very good advice!! We actually just started a quarantine tank because must of our fish had die but one the surviled which is a blue spot puffer is cure we had to put copper in the tank because we did have a ich problem that just kill everything but one. So do need to quarantine coral, live rocks and anemone? Cause fight know we dont have any fish in our main tank. And I heard ich usaully come from fish. And that tell cant survile without fishes to eat of is that true? And I also through reefs cant get ich. Is that true? Editors Note: Please contact us at for assistance with your question. Approved: 1/29/2011
How do you keep running the tank all the time, just in case you need to convert it into a hospital tank at a moments notice? Editors Note: Please contact us at for assistance with your question. Approved: 1/29/2011
you might want to include a section about how to sterilze the tank and equipment after use. Approved: 1/28/2011
great article. Approved: 1/28/2011
Hobbyists just dont do this enough. Approved: 1/28/2011
Article Details
Created on 1/26/2011.
Last Modified on 1/27/2011.
Last Modified by Dot Yuson.
Article has been viewed 37621 times.
Rated 8 out of 10 based on 104 votes.
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