Guideline for New Fish QT Without Copper or Chloroquine

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AndyR83

Way better at fixing people than fish
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This thread is intended to record my efforts to develop a ‘new fish’ QT guideline based on the hybrid tank transfer method. This isn’t anything new per say; it’s intended to combine various best practices into a step-by-step algorithm to optimize and standardize the management of newly arrived livestock.

Background:

In order to give this some context, I’ve included my personal background story in the "spoiler" below. Feel free to skip this section to get to the “meat” of the post below.
If there’s one thing that’s quite obvious to anyone that sets foot in my house, it’s the fact that we love our aquatic creatures. My wife and step daughter enjoy them about as much as I do, and acquiring new ones has become a favorite family activity. We frequently go on excursions to any and all LFS’ we find within an hour or two of our house and, consequently, we buy a heck of a lot of fish.

Like many people in this hobby, I was blissfully ignorant about fish diseases for quite some time. Until last year, any new fish we brought home went right into a DT. I’m sure our tanks quickly became loaded with every disease imaginable. As my knowledge of the hobby grew, I came to realize the hazards of this approach. Given the sheer number of tanks and fish in our house, catching all of them didn’t seem feasible. I was able to achieve stability by implementing robust disease ‘management’ in lieu of ‘eradication.’

Unfortunately, we experienced a catastrophic event a few weeks ago due to a sustained power outage. Diseases that had likely been present in a dormant or suppressed state for years ran wild. We lost about 70 livestock, and I genuinely contemplated whether to rebuild or walk away following such devastation.

As you can likely guess since I’m here writing this, I ultimately decided to pick up the pieces and rebuild. I’m keenly aware of the need to mitigate this problem now that I’m starting over from scratch and have the opportunity to do so. I don’t ever want to go through this nightmare again! One key component is establishing a “new fish” protocol. Given the challenges associated with copper and the difficulty of obtaining chloroquine in the post-COVID era, along with the success many have had with H2O2 and hybrid TTM, I’m working to establish a new guideline. Though I started out simply intending to document/standardize my own approach, I thought it may be worth sharing here in case others are interested.

Goals:
To establish a treatment algorithm for the management of newly arriving livestock that prevents the introduction of diseases/parasites into the display tank without the use of copper or chloroquine. To standardize practice by eliminating variations in treatment.


Suggested Pre-Reading:
How to Quarantine
Hybrid TTM to Treat All Parasites
Fish Diseases
Medications and Treatments

Fish + Peroxide Compatibility List


Preparation:
Ideally, at least two complete quarantine setups should be outfitted as per the How to Quarantine sticky thread. This allows for smooth tank transfers throughout the process. I personally put together a total of six, which allows me to have two treatment cohorts going through the TTM process simultaneously as well another small holding tank (for anemones, inverts, etc.) plus a separate observation tank.

E2250E6D-DF8D-4D13-A979-1465071D583A.jpeg



Proposed Protocol:
QT Workflow.jpg



DAY 1:
Perform thorough visual exam of new specimen. Record any abnormalities observed and consider photographic documentation of findings if feasible.

If injury is known or suspected, administer a 30-minute methylene blue treatment (1ml/gal). This treatment may also be considered for any specimen known or suspected to have been exposed to elevated ammonia levels (as is sometimes seen with delayed shipping, etc.)

Unless contraindicated for the species, administer 30-minute H2O2 bath at 150ppm (20ml/gal or 1.25ml/cup). Reference the Fish + Peroxide Compatibility List for the most up to date information about this.

If the specimen is a clownfish/chromis/damselfish, administer a 90-minute Ruby Reef Rally bath (5ml/gal). This is intended to prophylactically address potential brooklynella disease among known high risk species.

Following medicated bath(s), place specimen in sterile QT with proper aeration. Record the time at which the specimen enters QT. Consider writing this on the tank directly with erasable marker or on a piece of tape, etc. In the event multiple specimens enter the QT, use the time that the first specimen entered. This will become the “deadline” time, by which the first tank transfer is to be performed on Day 3.

Consider microscopic exam of debris in the shipping bag that held the fish and/or the post-treatment bath water to aid in identifying the presence/type of any pathogens.

DAY 3:
Perform tank transfer (1 of 7)
Administer Metronidazole (1 of 7)

DAY 5:
Perform tank transfer (2 of 7)
Administer Metronidazole (2 of 7)
Administer Praziquantel (1 of 2)

DAY 7:
Unless contraindicated due to injury or species-specific concern, administer a 30-minute H2O2 bath at 150ppm before placing into new QT

Perform tank transfer (3 of 7)
Administer Metronidazole (3 of 7)

DAY 9:
Perform tank transfer (4 of 7)
Administer Metronidazole (4 of 7)

DAY 11:
Perform tank transfer (5 of 7)
Administer Metronidazole (5 of 7)
Administer Praziquantel (2 of 2)

DAY 13:
Perform tank transfer (6 of 7)
Administer Metronidazole (6 of 7)

DAY 15:
Perform tank transfer (7 of 7)
Administer Metronidazole (7 of 7)

DAY 17:
Perform thorough visual exam of specimen. Assess for any evidence of disease, and follow appropriate treatment protocol(s) if indicated.

Transfer specimen to observation for 2-4 weeks.
 
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AndyR83

Way better at fixing people than fish
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To clarify rationales for a few things...

The intent of routinely including metronidazole is to cover brooklynella and uronema.

The reason transfers are at 2 days instead of 3 is to provide a safety buffer. Since the underlying goal is to never exceed 72 hours between transfers, making the goal 48 hours builds in a bit of forgiveness if someone is a few hours “late.”
 

Humblefish

Dr. Fish
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Navarre, FL
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Your plan looks solid! The only thing I would recommend is a 2-4 week observation period after the last transfer. Despite our best efforts, sometimes a pathogen can still slip through the cracks! For example, a secondary bacterial infection as a result of the fish's immune system being lowered from the medications you are applying.
 

AndyR83

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Thank you so much for your thoughts! Yesterday marked day 1 of QT for my first cohort since the big crash (one sad looking juvenile porcupine puffer with subtle white spots all over it and two percula clowns that appear to possibly be a bonded pair.) My efforts to map out a plan for them is what got me thinking about this, and ultimately pushed me to write it down.

The final observation period is a great addition that I overlooked. I’ll add that!

Is it reasonable to routinely treat with oral agents for internal parasites? If so, would that begin on day one and continue throughout? Would metronidazole be the drug of choice, even if it’s also being administered externally?
 

Humblefish

Dr. Fish
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Is it reasonable to routinely treat with oral agents for internal parasites? If so, would that begin on day one and continue throughout? Would metronidazole be the drug of choice, even if it’s also being administered externally?

Herbivores don't usually carry internal parasites as roughage/algae/nori keeps things sufficiently flushed out of their intestines. However, wrasses, anthias and other carnivores seem to be most susceptible to internal parasites & worms so these are the ones I would feed General Cure prophylactically.
 

AndyR83

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Now that some time has passed, I’ve put enough fish through using this approach to make some procedural observations. I think some adjustments are likely in order, but overall, this does seem to be a pathway for success in the management of newly arrived livestock.

Some findings that I need to digest and potentially factor into protocol tweaks include:

1: Since the tanks transfers are happening every 48 hours, the demand for time and resources can be rather extreme.
This seems to be at what I would consider the upper limit of “hobbyist-manageable” with the setup I’m currently using (2 cohorts of fish passing back and forth between 2 tanks each.) Properly cleaning the tanks and equipment with bleach between transfers and having them up and running again to take fish back into them every other day does take considerable time to perform, which is challenging for me. That said, not everyone has all the competing priorities in their lives that I do so this may not be as much of an issue for everyone (I’ve got a baby, other pets, household chores, demanding work and other professional issues needing time to address, etc.)

The amount of materials consumed is also significant and merits consideration before undertaking this process. A very large amount of bleach, salt mix, filter floss, and medications are consumed. Certainly this will vary depending on the number of simultaneous tanks/livestock being put through the process, and I realize the number of fish I add is likely more than what others may be seeing.

2: Biofilm is a real concern.
As noted in a recent front page article here on the forums, the buildup of biofilm inside the tanks is quite significant particularly in this setting. Though frequent bleaching is performed, these microorganisms are not effectively disrupted unless different cleaning/sterilization strategies are employed. I saw extreme bacterial blooms and generally hazy glass/cloudy water routinely. This was only resolved upon reading the biofilm article and adding deep cleaning with vinegar and isopropyl alcohol into the mix. Including this at a regular interval seems like a reasonable addition to the process.

3: Fish stress is asignificant concern.
Now that I’ve had a few cohorts of fish pass through under this treatment protocol, it’s apparent that the level of stress to which fish are subjected is a potential issue. So far, I’ve been putting the fish directly into the protocol from the moment they arrive at my house. I think it’s reasonable for some especially fragile/sensitive species to give them a few days to stabilize beforehand. This would likely help ensure they’re eating, comfortable in new surroundings, etc. and lead to improved long term outcomes. It may be prudent to exclude species for whom these types of things are especially concerning, i.e. mandarins/dragonets, sand-burying wrasse species, or others who may not thrive in such a rapidly changing environment initially.

4: Managing ammonia levels is potentially challenging depending on cohort size.
Throughout this process I’ve utilized Seachem ammonia alert badges to signal any dangerous spikes requiring intervention. This has, at times, put me in the undesirable position of having to manage an elevated ammonia issue while medications are being administered. I’ve made an effort to specifically avoid mixing water conditioners such as Prime with meds, and this has not always been easy.

Given the nature of this TTM process, the fish are frequently occupying tanks for a 48 hour period with nothing but brand new filter floss inside the HOB filter. I’ve experimented with dosing a few “quick start” products containing nitrifying bacteria, but I’m uncertain how much of an impact these things are able to make in the short duration of time the tanks are operating before tear down and bleaching. From what I’ve read, most of not all of these products take more than 48 hours to reach full effectiveness. It’s not yet clear to me whether these products are helping alleviate ammonia buildup or simply giving rise to increased oxygen consumption in the water.

5: Observation is a crucial phase of the process that was not included in the protocol initially.
As referenced in posts above, the existence of a discreet “observation” phase that follows “quarantine” but preceded introduction into the display tank is crucial.
 

AndyR83

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Summary of results to date

Green
= Completed full course of treatment and observation without incident

Orange = Some outcome that fell short of the full success described above but did not result in death

Red = Death occurred

Bicolor angel x1
Blue Angel x1
Koran Angel x1
Yellowtail angel x1

Midas blenny x1
Starry blenny x1

Klein’s butterfly x1
Longnose butterfly x1
Saddled butterfly x1
Sunset butterfly x1

Pajama cardinal x1

A. ocellaris x1
Frostbite ocellaris x1
Misbar ocellaris x1
Snowflake ocellaris x1
White stripe maroon clown x1

Three stripe damselfish x1

Ruby red dragonet x1

Engineer “goby” x1

Dogface puffer x3
Porcupine puffer x1

Gold spotted rabbitfish x1

Blonde naso tang x1
Blue/Hippo tang x1
Convict tang x1
Yellow tang x1

Niger trigger x1

Checkerboard (hortulanus) wrasse x1
 
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AndyR83

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Morbidity and Mortality Assessment

Bicolor Angel (Day 3)

Signs of disease/injury on postmortem exam: None
Appeared unwell prior to death: No
Had been eating: Yes
Notes: No obvious cause of death detected
Tankmates' status: Normal

Longnose Buterfly (Day 17)

Signs of disease/injury on postmortem exam: None
Appeared unwell prior to death: No
Had been eating: Yes
Notes: No obvious cause of death detected
Tankmates' status: Normal

White Striped Maroon Clown (Day 4)

Signs of disease/injury on postmortem exam: None
Appeared unwell prior to death: Lying on bottom, rapid breathing
Had been eating: No
Notes: Was treated with Ruby Reef Rally and Methylene Blue, no improvement
Tankmates' status: Normal

Ruby Red Dragonet (Day 17)

Signs of disease/injury on postmortem exam: None
Appeared unwell prior to death: No
Had been eating: Yes
Notes: No obvious cause of death detected. Did not receive any H2O2 treatments.
Tankmates' status: Normal

Engineer "Goby" (Day 5)

Signs of disease/injury on postmortem exam: None
Appeared unwell prior to death: No
Had been eating: Yes
Notes: No obvious cause of death detected.
Tankmates' status: Normal

Porcupine Puffer (Day 13)

Signs of disease/injury on postmortem exam: Eye infection noted
Appeared unwell prior to death: Yes, had inflated with large volume of air the previous day requiring "burping"
Had been eating: Yes
Notes: Never healthy from the time of arrival. Eye infection, poor feeding.
Tankmates' status: N/A (alone)

Blonde Naso Tang (Day 18)

Signs of disease/injury on postmortem exam: None
Appeared unwell prior to death: Yes, lying on bottom and rapid breathing for 48 hours prior to death
Had been eating: Yes
Notes: Was treated with Ruby Reef Rally and Methylene Blue, no improvement. Rapid decline after otherwise uneventful few weeks of treatment. Puzzling and frustrating case.
Tankmates' status: Normal
 

AndyR83

Way better at fixing people than fish
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My pleasure! If this is useful, I can keep these posts up to date as I learn more and continue to make adjustments to my methods. I certainly don’t want to misrepresent myself to the community as any sort of expert, but I am a scientist at heart and thought sharing my observations in a systemic fashion might be helpful.

One thing I’m noticing is that I seem to not be able to edit any of these posts to make updates. Am I just missing that option or is editing not currently permitted?
 

Reef Refuge

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Thanks for the post, would love to pursue a setup like this (getting my first QT procedures ironed out).

A few questions off the top of my head:

- is the proximity of your tanks of concern for aerosol transitions between them (not trying to be critical, just something on my mind as I struggle with QT placement)?
- would Velvet be of particular concern for an individual cohort? how would this play if a problem arose? Separate hospital tank with CP/Copper?
 

Reefahholic

Reef Junkie T.V.
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You should draw one of these out for @Humblefish and let him put in his exact routine. I know this is very similar.

That way you can post as a sticky so people can refer, print it, or save to their PC. I would be a great tool to pin on the wall by the QT tank for somebody who needs direction.

I say make a poster of it. ;)
 

victoly

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I really like the flowchart. It would be amenable to a website process where you plug in what fish youve got, what type of QT you are able to run in terms of tank volume and meds, and have it spit out a step by step QT plan. THAT would be a game changer for fish health at large in the reefing community.
 
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