Ich eradication vs. Ich management


Dr. Fish
Ich eradication vs. Ich management

The purpose of this article is to discuss the pros & cons of ich eradication and ich management, and present the best methods for implementing each.

Ich eradication - Simply put, this method means doing everything possible to keep ich out of your tank. That can be accomplished by establishing & maintaining a strict quarantine (QT) protocol as outlined here: How to Quarantine. It is very important to QT each & every fish, including your very first one, if you wish to avoid ich.

Why practice ich eradication? Once introduced by an infected specimen, and so long as there are always fish to feed on, ich can survive in your tank almost indefinitely. The only way to get it out is to starve it out by going fallow (fishless) for 76 days. The parasites continuously attack (feed on) fish, which does damage and can even kill them. I personally chose ich eradication, because I got tired of “ich management” being a part of my aquarium husbandry. There’s enough to do in a reef aquarium on a daily basis without adding “battle fish parasites” to the list.

The cons of ich eradication are somewhat obvious. In addition to having to setup & maintain a QT, not being able to add your newly purchased fish directly to the display tank (DT) can be a major buzz kill. QT does zap some of the “thrill” out of the hobby.

What if I already have ich in my tank? There is no easy way of dealing with this. You have to catch all of your fish, and QT/treat using copper, Chloroquine phosphate, tank transfer method or hyposalinity. More detailed information on all the aforementioned treatment options can be found here: Medications and Treatments.

The DT itself must be left fallow (fishless) for 76 days to starve out any remaining parasites. Corals/inverts cannot host, so they can be left in the DT during the fallow period. You must be wary of cross contamination during the fallow period, avoiding anything wet (including hands) when going from QT to DT (or vice versa). Aerosol transmission is another concern, so it’s best to house your QT at least 10 feet away from the DT. More info on that here: Aerosol transmission.

Remember there is no “reef safe” ich treatment that actually works! Those may (or may not) help fish with their symptoms; but no tea tree oil from India or garlic extract or any other herbal/natural “medication” will completely eradicate ich from a tank. The day someone does finally develop an effective “reef safe” treatment, we are all going to hear about it, and the inventor will become a millionaire.

Ich management - This method involves just managing the presence of the disease, instead of eradicating it. You know you have ich in your tank or are willing to risk it by forgoing QT. Despite how strongly I advocate ich eradication these days, I employed ich management for almost 30 years. I found the key to success was keeping the overall number of parasites down, while simultaneously boosting the fishes’ immune systems to deal with the parasites that survived. Some ways to accomplish this include:
  • Utilizing the biggest UV sterilizer you can fit/afford. While a UV will probably never “zap” all of the free swimmers (theronts), it will keep their numbers down so the fish can better cope with the ones remaining. A diatom filter can also be used to remove free swimmers.
  • Boost your fishes’ immune systems through proper nutrition. This means feeding a wide range of live & frozen nutritious foods, not just flake & pellets. Feed nori, as that is loaded with vitamins. Also, soak fish food in vitamin supplements such as Selcon, Zoecon and Vita-Chem to further enhance health. Omega 3 & 6 fish oils are great (and cheap) soaking alternatives.
  • Stay on top of your aquarium husbandry! Maintain pristine water conditions, stable parameters and avoid fish that are likely to fight. Poor water quality, fluctuating parameters and aggression from other fish may “stress” a fish out, lower his immune system and make him more susceptible to parasitic infestation.
  • Choose your fish wisely. Avoid “ich magnets” i.e. fish with thin mucous coats such as tangs. Clownfish, anthias, wrasses and even mandarins are better choices as those have thick slime coats protecting their skin from attacking parasites. Also, only buy from reputable sources, and don’t buy fish that look diseased/damaged, won’t eat or who share water with diseased fish.
  • No discussion of “ich management” can be had without mentioning garlic. This topic is often debated, and I honestly don’t know whether or not soaking garlic in fish food helps with ich. I have seen it work as an appetite stimulant, so that might help right there. However, I’m less confident in its ability to boost a fish’s immune system. Another theory is that garlic leaches back out of a fish’s pores, and that makes the fish an undesirable host for parasites. While there is no scientific evidence supporting anything beneficial, studies have been done linking long-term garlic use with liver damage in fish. Therefore, I use garlic sparingly.
A fine example of utilizing proper nutrition to keep the bugs away is Paul Baldassano’s (aka Paul B) over 40 year old, 100 gallon aquarium. Paul keeps his fish in “breeding condition” by feeding live foods (ex. blackworms) and soaking food in Omega-3 fish oil. Most of his livestock live to be a ripe old age and some of his fish spawn on a regular basis. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Paul and highly recommend this article written by him: Reefkeeping Magazine - Paul Baldassano?s Reef - 40 Years in the Making.

Pros & cons - One upside of practicing ich management is obvious: not having to QT. I get it; I really do. It’s exciting to make the rounds of the local fish shops, finding that “perfect fish” and then adding him to your DT. After all, having fun is what a hobby is supposed to be all about. What’s fun about adding a fish to a bare bottom QT with PVC elbows?

However, the downsides are numerous. All it takes is one “stressor event” to undo years of ich management. By stressor event, I mean something like a prolonged power loss, heater sticks, fish fighting, etc., anything that stresses a fish out and lowers his immune system. Sometimes ich capitalizes on these events by overwhelming a fish’s immune system, and fish start dying. Also, secondary bacterial infections are common in fish afflicted with ich, due to their already compromised immune system. All it takes is a cut or an open wound left by an ich trophont. These bacterial diseases sometimes prove to be far deadlier than ich itself, especially if caused by a gram negative bacterium.

Ich management is more of a “learn as you go” process, which is why experienced hobbyists often fare better than newbies. For me, ich management just got to be too stressful. The stress of seeing the spots, wondering if today was going to be the day it finally caught up with me, or if the fish that just died was a result of ich or something else. Losing too many fish under “mysterious” circumstances is what finally led me to choose ich eradication.


New member
Okay - cool. Now when I tell people that they can either go the "HumbleFish route" or the "PaulB route", I can just link them here for the TL;DR. :)


Dr. Fish


Dr. Fish
You need 3 sub forums because if you go by my method, you won't need that disease & Treatment one. :ROFLMAO:
Paul, there are probably new members here who are unfamiliar with your methods. And don't know that you've even written a book on the subject!

So, it would be great if you could write a thread/article outlining your methods and also tell our members where to buy your book.

Paul B

Well-known member
Bobby, I am sure my methods would confuse the Moose out of new members as they run totally opposite of what your methods are taught although both methods work. I will try to dig up some articles I wrote about it but in the meantime I will give the short version.
My methods basically are to get the fish right from the sea and into your tank, no medication, no dipping, no observation, and most of all, no quarantine which short circuits my method.

I feel all fish in the sea are immune from everything (except Liberals). I have spent about 300 hours underwater all over the place and have never seen a sick fish. No ich, no black ich, no dropsy, no bacterial infections, no walkers or oxygen masks "Unless the fish was bitten by something".
My method is to cultivate that immunity and keep it with the fish which is actually much easier and cheaper than quarantine.

If this is done correctly, the fish, all fish, will "never" get sick and "only" die of old age. I can say that because my fish only die like that, or jumping out as I have no cover. Some of my fish are almost 30 years old and still spawning.

Occasionally I will get a new fish that may be bullied or starve. That can happen no matter what our procedures are because we don't know how the fish was captured, stored, fed, how long it was in a dealers tank if it was few Big Macs or if it was exposed to Rap Music or pictures of Nancy Pelosi :eek:
I get free fish all the time from dealers who feel they will croak. I like those fish because I actually want the diversity of different pathogens which just boost the immunity of my tank. You can stop laughing now unless you have an older tank than mine. 😋

But IMO fish should "never". like "Never" get sick. Mine don't and neither should yours. It is also my opinion, Not Bobby's who is a great friend of mine, we grew up together and look exactly alike but I am the better looking one. It is quarantine and medication that "causes" fish to become sick.

They never get sick in my care and never is a long time. If you have ever gone to the "Museum of Natural History" in Manhattan and saw that Neanderthal standing there holding his cell phone, I was actually there when they captured him. He was quarantined, which is why he hasn't moved in 50,000 years.

You know those numbers of days when a parasite is supposed to die and all that. I don't think parasites can count that well which is the reason many tanks crash after a long quarantine.

My theory isn't perfect, but I have been keeping fish for over 60 years. Yes, I am 150 years old and have never had a fish die of any disease in over 35 years. Disease to me is a non issue and my fish are not allowed to die. If they did, they know I would kill them. :cool:

A Noob should follow Bobby's methods because a Noob tank will not be healthy no matter what your test kit reads. Tank health comes with time. The time is for the bacteria which run our tanks to mature. , We are just there for the bacteria to make fun of.
Bacteria, over time will Ebb and Flow in different directions until, maybe a couple of years later they settle down and stay kind of constant in their ability to "work". (there are many kinds of bacteria and they "fight" for dominance.) Before that, different strains of bacteria will compete for space and food causing all sorts of problems. We as big Gawky Humans look at our tanks and just see fish, corals and those Chinese villages we all put in. But if we could see much better, we would see what is really going on, and that is the diversity of bacteria that cover everything including the nose ring your last girlfriend dropped in while she was peering over the top of the water to see if she could see her reflection in the water surface.

Parasites also play a huge role in the sea and in our tanks. We call them parasites but I am sure the parasites call us the parasites. Parasites have been living with the fish before they invented fish and the fish actually need the parasites to remain healthy. But I will have to get into that later or Bobby will ban me because as you can see, I can be wordy. o_O

This was my tank yesterday. You can see that ich magnet Hippo tang is just fine even though I bought him with parasites. That copperband is probably 10 and a fire clown is 28. Nothing in there has ever been sick, medicated or treated any different than I would treat an old girlfriends, and some of my girlfriends are really old now.

I try to keep odd, unusual fish like Janss pipefish, clingfish and this thing, whatever it is.



20 Year Noob
I would love it if Bobby would write a book. Then I can find Paul's book in a bargain bin (if it does not go back to print), put the two next to each other and see if the scientists are right about matter and anti-matter annihilating each other LOL


Always at your service.
In my experience ich management is like playing Russian roulette. You may win few but eventually you will play your last.

Paul B

Well-known member
I would love it if Bobby would write a book. Then I can find Paul's book in a bargain bin (if it does not go back to print), put the two next to each other and see if the scientists are right about matter and anti-matter annihilating each other LOL

In my experience ich management is like playing Russian roulette. You may win few but eventually you will play your last.
I don't know how to speak Russian but I did go out with a Russian girl for a couple of years. She was pretty healthy looking so I am sure she wasn't quarantined. maybe in Siberia, but I am guessing. o_O

IMO "quarantining" is like playing Russian Roulette but you have a bullet in all the chambers of the gun which is why you will hardly ever find an old reef tank that has been quarantined. Except Bobby's of course. My tank is 48 years old and nothing has been sick in about 38 years. All the paired fish are spawning and the fish only die of old age.

Everyone except Bobby who has an old reef tank where everything was quarantined, and the fish are spawning and dying only of old age and never posted on a disease forum raise your hand. Higher. :p
A 5 or 10 year old reef is not old as almost all of our fish live way longer than that. Even hermit crabs live over 10 years as I just lost a pair at 12 years old. When they were bad I used to tell them I was going to quarantine them. That gave them the horrors. :sick:

There are a few very old reefs in this hobby in the 20 or 30 year old range and none of them were quarantined as it is not natural, kills the immunity of the fish and just makes them sad.

You need to read about immunity and how it keeps fish in a state where they can't get sick, no ich, bacteria, dropsy, intestinal worms, tuberculosis, or the heartbreak of psoriasis. They never have to be quarantined, dipped, put in copper, Prizapro or insect killer. You just back up and throw them in your tank and go out to dinner. 15, 20 or 30 years later, they die of old age and you have a little service for them before you flush them and get another one.

This pair died after about 12 years. The female is the one with the sexy, above the knee shell and purple eyelashes.

This pair of 28 year old fireclowns have been spawning every few days for over 20 years. Show me some quarantined fish doing that at that age.

10 year old Watchman gobi (maybe she is a Watch girl) with eggs. I am not sure if she is Russian.

These guys hate quarantine and do lousy there, just look at the disease forums and you will see more copperbands dying than "Starkist" kills tuna. :cry:

These bluestripes have a lifespan of only about 4 years and mine always live about that long and constantly spawn as you can see the male here with babies. He always has babies as the normal state of all female fish is pregnant.

If you have paired fish and they are not spawning or at least cleaning a nest they may be Russian or not healthy. Sorry but all healthy fish carry eggs.

If you don't fed your fish food with living bacteria and pathogens in it, they are not normal or healthy. Sorry but it is what it is and all fish in the sea carry pathogens as healthy people do. It is normal and natural. We call those things parasites but the fish call them friends that keep them healthy.
Quarantining "for long periods", dipping and medication actually causes diseases, not the other way around so be careful how you throw out that Russian Roulette game around unless you can prove otherwise as I can.
Bobby only invited me here because we have such a different way of running a reef, but they both work. Just differently. I am also better looking than Bobby but he has more hair. :giggle:

There is a place for quarantine, dipping and medication but that is only if you get fish in a state of receiving last rites and receiving CPR from an angelfish. I get many fish for free from LFSs that are sick and near death and the owner knows they will die. Only those will I medicate to try to get back to health but many of them I just put in my tank just as they are. Those diseases just make my fish much stronger.

If I offended anyone, send me a stamped, self addressed envelope with twenty dollars in it. I will steam off the stamp and use it to mail my congressman and the money will go to a home for diseased fish that were not properly taken care of in Russia.

This thread is from another forum. Many threads unfortunately start like this and to me, this is unacceptable. We take these beautiful fish from the sea and kill them with kindness. I hate it.


I've lost 3 anthias in the last 4-5 days. The first death came on day 5(?) in the QT, 48 hours after tank transfer #1 which also includes a dose of prazi pro. Next death was 24-48 hours later, and then a 3rd death 24 hours after the second death (24 hours after tank transfer #2 into un-medicated water). There were no obvious trauma or disease as I examined the dead fish.
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Always at your service.
Things have changed Paul since you started the reef.
I deal with retailers and wholesalers and unfortunately the amount of sick fish I see is unreal. I never used to see this but recently in last 5 yrs or so I am not sure if the divers are using cyanide to catch them or what but things have gotten bad.
Anyways I dont disagree that a tank can be maintained with out qt. Just not my preference.
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Dr. Fish
If you've ever noticed, parasites are more of a problem in newer tanks than old tanks. I once spoke with Dr. Angelo Colorni, a now retired Pathobiologist who conducted the study which established the "72 day rule" for Ich (going fallow). He told me that in nature (and in an aquarium) bacteria “gnaw” on parasite tomonts and eventually damage them. Well, an older aquarium is going to have a higher (and more diversified) concentration of bacteria than a younger one. More "natural predators" of the parasite eggs. So, the longer a DT is setup = the more bacteria there are to damage parasite tomonts = the less number of free swimmers in the water. As your tank ages, it becomes more like nature and thus the tank itself becomes more parasite resistant. :)


Dr. Fish
Another point to consider: Nowadays most people use "dry rock" to setup their DT. Everything is sterile until you introduce a little bacteria, seed it with pods, etc. A "spark" of life. However, it takes some time for bacteria (and other microfauna) to propagate in there. Takes even longer for these tiny animals to achieve the same concentration seen on a rock in the ocean. And even then, I doubt the wide array of microorganisms found in the ocean is ever achieved.

Back in the old days, most used 100% live rock taken right from the ocean to setup their reef tank. Instead of waiting for it to cycle, you had to wait out all the die-off inside of it which would spike your ammonia level. (But ammonia doesn't kill bacteria & microfauna.) After everything settled down, people would add fish without quarantining and didn't experience all the disease problems seen today. Then as LR became harder to acquire, hobbyists started using dry rock but still added a few pieces of LR + a little sand from an established aquarium. I remember this is when Ich became more prevalent, but I don't remember velvet, brook, uronema, flukes being the major problem those diseases are today...

All just a coincidence??? :unsure:

Paul B

Well-known member
Things have changed Paul since you started the reef.
Yes I know, but as Humblefish knows, I have not been in a coma for the last 50 years. I just look like I have. o_O
I always post and have posted that a Noob should go with Humble's method and quarantine. I think I even wrote that in my book.
Bobby, that is interesting that bacteria gnaw on parasites. That is very cool. I like it. :giggle:

Older tanks would almost always be healthier for a few reasons. First off the owner knows more and besides that there is that Gnawing thing.
Bacteria need plenty of time to grow to proportions needed to help our tanks do what they are supposed to do, maybe years. New tanks will never be healthy even if you fill it with holy water and hire Mother Terisa to pray over it. But you may see more angelfish. :p

I bought some fish last week and I have been going to LFSs way before we invented the things and I know a little about fish. Not much, but a little.
(wait a minute, I have to scratch my gill)

To me, it doesn't matter that fish seem to be not as healthy. I have not noticed that. I do look a fish in the eye when I buy it and can tell what he is thinking and what political party he is associated with. But after I decide on a fish and throw it in my tank, it is fine. I don't have the problems many people seem to have and I have never dipped a coral in anything. I never see those coral eating nudibranchs, flukes, flounders or anything else.
My fish never come down with ich, velvet or Bubonic Plague. Why is that? I thought I was very lucky but Christie Brinkley lives near me and she has never rang my bell looking for a cup of Instant Ocean.

I am going to my boat now and will collect maybe a pint of mud from the bottom of Peconic bay Long Island. I want the scurvest looking mud with the snails, worms, sponges and hopefully plenty of bacteria and parasites. I have been doing this for decades for the bacterial diversity. When I started the tank, I used garden soil (Robert Straughn, The Father of Salt Water Fish Keeping).

The more bacteria and parasites we can add, up to a point, the healthier our tanks will be. If that were not true, my tank now would be a terrarium near my front door housing frogs and ferns.
If adding diseases were bad, it may also house Duck Billed Platypusses.

Neanderthals didn't become extinct because of diseases. When they wanted a Big Mac they found a Mastodon and got it in a headlock, wrestled it to the ground and bit off a knee cap and spit out the fur and tusks.
It wasn't diseases that killed them because they were used to living like that. It was probably liberals who gave Neanderthals free college and we know the rest of the story. No more Neanderthals. 😊

OK maybe it was something else, work with me here.

Fish are used to parasites and need them to function properly. I am still waiting to see those very old quarantined fish that are spawning and have never been sick. I can't wait to long, I need to get to my boat. They are having a free bar be cue at my Marina today and you are all invited. You need to get here in 20 minutes. 😎

OK who has the oldest, quarantined tank, lets start there. I know Bobby's is old, how about anyone else.

How about a new tank like 10 years old. Anyone, besides Bobby with a 10 year old quarantined tank where nothing has ever been sick and the fish only die of old age.


Always at your service.
I do agree with Paul that now a days we run tanks too sterile and focus too much on numbers and fluctuations etc.
Man I remember when I started reefing there were no controllers and numbers.
I agree with Bobby, we used to just buy live rock and live sand throw in a shrimp or elevate ammonia due to die off etc and run the course.
I have never dipped a coral in my life nor qt inverts etc.
I did get shot a couple of times and lost a bunch or healthy expensive show size fish after buying a new fish from Petco and putting it straight in my tank.
After that I strictly follow my qt process with is almost identical to Bobby's.
Yes I lose fish in qt but I dont think it's because of stress or medication as sometimes they die in qt tank before I even begin any medication.
And I have a 75gal qt tank plus a 40 and a 20. Later 2 attached to a common sump while 75g by itself.
So tank size and fish number is not an issue as I spread them out.
I personally believe that wholesales and divers have gotten greedy and they cut cost and corners and probably deploy inhumane practices to collect fish by stunning then and or poisoning them.
Also oceans are not cleaner as they used to be years ago thus I think a whole lot of factors put together has caused the newer fish to be not so healthy.