Coral/Invert Quarantine Time Frames

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Humblefish

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Coral/Invert Quarantine Time Frames
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Raising aquarium temperature to 27C/80.6F can shorten the coral/invert isolation period to 6 weeks: New Ich Fallow Period

Preface: The purpose of this article is to outline time periods required to properly quarantine (QT) marine corals & invertebrates. While unable to host ectoparasites the way fish do, corals/inverts are still able to “carry” fish diseases in one of two ways:
  • Free swimmers inadvertently attached if the coral/invert was taken from infected water.
  • Tomonts encysted to the animal, which can occur if the coral/invert was previously housed in an infected tank.
The information contained in this article only takes fish diseases into consideration, as discussed here: https://www.reef2reef.com/ams/how-to-quarantine-coral-and-inverts.228/

It DOES NOT take coral specific pests into account, such as Red Planaria, Acropora Eating Flatworms (AEFW) and Montipora Eating Nudibranchs. In most cases, these threats can be dealt with by using a coral dip (e.g. CoralRx) upon receipt and then placing the coral into a dedicated QT for observation. The point of post dip observation is to watch for hatchlings that emerge from eggs, which oftentimes coral dips do not eliminate.

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A simple coral/invert quarantine tank.

Free Swimmers: This is the infective stage, which propels through the water seeking fish to infect. However, it is possible for this free swimming stage to come into contact with any coral/invert and remain there. Especially if it has become weakened (unable to swim) or damaged in some way. A free swimmer could then hitchhike its way into your Display Tank (DT) if you were to buy an “unlucky” coral/invert. There are two ways of alleviating this threat:
  1. Due to weak adherence, a simple rinsing (using tank water) should wash away any potential free swimmers. However, some animals (like anemones) absorb a lot of water, so Option #2 may be better:
  2. Isolate the coral/invert to a fishless environment (e.g. frag tank) for 16 days. Ich free swimmers (called theronts) can remain infective for only 48 hours; however velvet free swimmers (called dinospores) can use photosynthesis for energy and thus can survive for up to 15 days without finding a fish host to feed upon. In both cases, denying the pathogen a fish host is key to breaking its life cycle.
Tomonts: This is the “egg” stage, which encysts upon hard surfaces. It cannot be washed away like free swimmers, and scrubbing tomonts off is likely to be very hit or miss. In addition, it is unlikely that coral dips have any impact on tomonts, since not even copper can eradicate them (copper only kills free swimmers). So, the only way of dealing with this threat is to wait out any tomonts by isolating newly purchased corals/inverts to a fishless environment. As previously mentioned, a frag tank is ideal to use as a coral/invert QT so long as no fish are being housed in it.

Tomonts inevitably rupture and release free swimmers (previously discussed) into the water. When a free swimmer fails to find a fish to feed upon, it starves to death. How long this entire process takes, and thus how long you must QT a coral/invert, is what I will discuss below.


Could this be on a new coral or invert you just purchased?

In most cases, 45 days worth of isolation will eliminate most threats. This includes velvet, brook, flukes, bacterial infections and all but one strain of ich. In a 1997 study (Colorni and Burgess) it took 72 days for all the theronts to be released from a group of tomonts. However, that study has been the subject of debate, because the longer excystment period occurred at 20C (68F), and it is possible that lower temperature slowed down the parasite's life cycle. More on this can be found here: https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/marine-ich-and-temperature.232825/

In any case, the Colorni and Burgess study directly influenced the “76 day rule” (explained here) – which is the widely accepted fallow (fishless) period to rid a DT of marine ich (and all other diseases except Uronema marinum.) Therefore, 76 days worth of isolation in a fishless environment is also the safest time frame to QT all corals/inverts. However, whether you choose to QT for 45 or 76 days really comes down to your tolerance for risk. There are always exceptions to every rule, so let's break down exactly how long you need to QT various corals/inverts:

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* Whether to isolate to a fishless environment for 45 or 76 days comes down to your tolerance for risk. Obviously, a longer QT period is always better from a disease prevention standpoint.

** Starfish & sea urchins cannot carry the encysted stage (Peter Burgess 1992).

*** Use a coral dip (e.g. CoralRx) to eliminate any hitchhikers or tiny crustaceans, such as pods.

(a) Or until first molt is observed. Any tomonts will be on the shedded exoskeleton.

(b) LPS & SPS both have stony components that tomonts can easily adhere to. Most soft corals contain sclerites (skeletal needles) which they use for absorbing calcium. Zoas often come on a small rock or coral plug, both of which a tomont could encyst upon.

(c) No available information on these (and others not mentioned above), so best to play it safe and QT for 76 days.

Note: The information contained in the chart above was mostly derived from Dr. Peter Burgess 1992 thesis: https://pearl.plymouth.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/10026.1/2632/PETER JOHN BURGESS.PDF?sequence=1

The table (below) was taken from that publication and to my knowledge, is the only time Cryptocaryon attachment and cyst development has been studied on corals & inverts.

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Quarantine these just as you would a fish:
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100_2004_zpsd2bcfbf2.jpg

 
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mattzang

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just ordered some CUC from reefcleaners and gonna toss them in my wrasse QT tank (moving wrasses tomorrow). any general tips for feeding? just toss in a few pellets? throw in some nori? some meaty stuff? i went with a variety of snails astrea, trochus, nassarius, some nerites, ceriths, and 3 conchs. not really sure how often inverts need to eat, but i have neglected cleaning the glass in there for awhile so it's looking quite ripe :)
 

mattzang

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Sounds like you will be in good shape. I put nori in my tanks with snails and then every 2-3 days or so feed a small amount of Brine/Mysis Shrimp.

that's about what i figured, but i didn't want to overdo it or something. never really fed inverts directly
 

Tamberav

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So as long as macro is not attached to anything. Can one just wash away the water and pods? Maybe dip in freshwater to kill the pods?

I want to transfer a tiny frag of my caulerpa. I figure if its a small piece, less change of things coming in.
 

Humblefish

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So as long as macro is not attached to anything. Can one just wash away the water and pods? Maybe dip in freshwater to kill the pods?

I want to transfer a tiny frag of my caulerpa. I figure if its a small piece, less change of things coming in.

Yes, protomonts were unable to attach to hemp fiber. So we can extrapolate from that tomonts are unable to encyst upon plants/macroalgae. It's just any loosely attached free swimmers and especially pods you have to be wary of.
 

PeterLL

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Would the soft tissue of soft corals - like a head of mushroom or a fragged leather finger, fall under the rinse in DT water category?
 

Humblefish

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Would the soft tissue of soft corals - like a head of mushroom or a fragged leather finger, fall under the rinse in DT water category?

Yes, but any rock they are attached to could carry tomonts. I'm also a little paranoid about leather corals that have hard "skeletal needles" for absorbing calcium. :unsure:
 

drstardust

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What are people doing for starfish these days? Just rinse and into DT? I know ich apparently can't encyst on them, but what about velvet? Do you guys still fishless QT them out of abundance of caution?
 

Humblefish

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What are people doing for starfish these days? Just rinse and into DT? I know ich apparently can't encyst on them, but what about velvet? Do you guys still fishless QT them out of abundance of caution?

I just rinse thoroughly and put starfish/urchins in my DT. If Ich tomonts cannot encyst to them, it is highly unlikely that velvet tomonts can.
 

doc

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I ask this thinking I know what the answer will be but hoping anyway lol

I'm looking at the placement of my Coral and Invert quarantine and wondering if it would be possible to move it closer to my main DT or would the 10ft rule really still need to apply

The reason being that I'm finding stability of my parameters is far less than ideal and I'd like to try and take advantage of a spare head on my doser to dose Kalk.

I don't like having it in an ATO as I find it is too harsh on the general ato pumps and if I can make use of my spare dosing head all the better than needing to buy a new doser for it.

The tank has a PVC lid to slow evaporation already. However it is an AIO unit with an open back chamber.

If I need to I'll just buy another doser but if I can avoid and make use of my other doser safely then I'd prefer that road.
 

Dierks

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I know you know the answer, but I will simply ask one question... Is there flow on the top of the water like a powerhead or HOB filter that makes any splashing or micro splashes? From there I will let @Humblefish give you the bad news :p
 

doc

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So a quick question on Coral and invert quarantine that I was wondering.

In theory if I have a coral at 72 days and ready for release into a DT but other corals in the tank that are only in the quarantine for say 14 days. Couldn't free swimmers that have been releasedb from the newer coral be in the water column and potentially hitchike with the coral ready for release? I know it can't continue it's cycle without a fish but wouldn't you need to wait 72 days from the very last coral or invert introduced or alternatively have a staging tank for the corals to live in for at least 16 days between the coral/invert quarantine and the DT to be sure? Or would a dip likely suffice to eliminate that risk entirely
 

Humblefish

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In theory if I have a coral at 72 days and ready for release into a DT but other corals in the tank that are only in the quarantine for say 14 days. Couldn't free swimmers that have been releasedb from the newer coral be in the water column and potentially hitchike with the coral ready for release? I know it can't continue it's cycle without a fish but wouldn't you need to wait 72 days from the very last coral or invert introduced or alternatively have a staging tank for the corals to live in for at least 16 days between the coral/invert quarantine and the DT to be sure? Or would a dip likely suffice to eliminate that risk entirely
Tomonts cannot travel after they have encysted, but you are right about free swimmers. However, they would only be loosely attached so a good rinse with DT water should wash them away. I'm also fairly confident that most coral dips would kill (or at least disable) free swimmers. Just not tomonts which are protected by a cyst.
 
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Jessican

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So a quick question on Coral and invert quarantine that I was wondering.

In theory if I have a coral at 72 days and ready for release into a DT but other corals in the tank that are only in the quarantine for say 14 days. Couldn't free swimmers that have been released from the newer coral be in the water column and potentially hitchike with the coral ready for release? I know it can't continue it's cycle without a fish but wouldn't you need to wait 72 days from the very last coral or invert introduced or alternatively have a staging tank for the corals to live in for at least 16 days between the coral/invert quarantine and the DT to be sure? Or would a dip likely suffice to eliminate that risk entirely
My understanding is that parasites have to go through the trophont stage on a fish before they can reattach to a surface for a tomont stage, so free swimmers released from a newer coral won’t reattach to ones that are already present if the QT is fishless. A good rinse should be enough to wash away any free swimmers that might be lingering.
 
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doc

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Thank you both , yes it was really just the free swimmers i was considering particularly for LPS who in some cases take in a fair bit of tank water as they extend during a day period.

I was fairly confident a rinse and dip would be enough but wanted to ask to get the opinion of those more experienced 😊
 
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