- Wandering Nomad
How to Setup a Quarantine Tank
The following are the essentials:
- Aquarium (10-30 gallons seems to work for most people. A larger QT lets you house more fish and gives you more wiggle room when it comes to ammonia. A smaller QT is cheaper, easier to maintain and can be setup/broken down quickly.)
- Heater & thermometer.
- Small wavemaker, or air pump + air stone / sponge filter (for circulation & dissolved oxygen).
- Saltwater which has been fully dissolved and circulating for at least 24 hours.
- A lid to prevent the fish from jumping out.
- Seachem Ammonia Alert badge.
Simple QT with air pump + sponge filter
- Hang On Back (HOB) Power Filter, where “seeded” biomedia (explained below) can be added. AquaClear, Bio-Wheel or Seachem Tidal are all good options. (The links are for mid-sized power filters, but all three brands come in various sizes for small-large QTs.)
- PVC elbows used as “caves” for fish to hide. (Plastic plants that are saltwater safe are also useful.)
- Light (I use these cheap LED fixtures meant for freshwater tanks).
- Titanium Grounding Probe for stray voltage.
- pH and ammonia test kits. (I was told that the Hanna Ammonia Checker works even with copper in the water - more info here.)
A more elaborate QT with HOB power filter, wave maker, PVC elbow, etc.
Rock/Sand in QT
Rock/Sand in QT
A small amount of sand is fine, but rock is best avoided as it will absorb medications (especially copper). However, one or two small pieces of live rock may be added to the QT for ammonia control - so long as it is coming from a disease-free tank. The live rock should be removed once a disease is spotted and before medications are used. Henceforth, the live rock must be considered “contaminated” once exposed to a fish disease, and sterilized in a chlorine:water (1:10 ratio) solution.
Quarantine Tank Lid
Using a lid is very important to prevent fish from jumping out. You can buy (or build) a lid made from glass, acrylic or screen. However, I prefer using egg crate because it is cheap, easy to cut using snips and the holes allow for greater gas exchange (oxygen in the water). But sometimes it is necessary to sew screen under the eggcrate top to prevent small fish from jumping through the holes:
Toxic ammonia, caused by fish urine/poop and uneaten food, needs to be closely monitored in QT. You can use a test kit (so long as no medications are present); or a Seachem Ammonia Alert badge or this Hanna Ammonia Checker works even in the presence of medications. Remember, even the smallest traces of ammonia are toxic!
If no biofilter is being used then performing water changes is your best option for controlling ammonia. In a pinch, you can use an ammonia reducer such as Amquel or Prime to control ammonia for 24-48 hours. **Warning** Some medications (especially ionic copper such as Cupramine) react negatively with ammonia reducers. However, I have verified that Prime is safe to use with Copper Power.
What is a biofilter? For QT purposes, any porous biomedia that allows water to pass through it. This media needs to be "seeded" with live nitrifying bacteria in order to be effective for ammonia control. It can be a simple air driven sponge filter, or glass marbles on the bottom of a QT with flow passing over them. More effective means would be a sponge/foam insert, Seachem Matrix or Fluval Biomax placed inside the aforementioned HOB power filter. Note: The Bio-Wheel itself (below right) is capable of being seeded with bacteria.
How do I "seed" the biomedia? In one of two ways:
- Place it in a high flow area of your DT’s sump (or you can put it behind the rocks) for at least 2-3 months prior to QT. This allows time for enough beneficial bacteria to transfer over.
- Dose a "bacteria in a bottle" product, such Fritz Turbostart, Dr. Tim's Nitrifying Bacteria, Seachem Stability or Bio-Spira, into the QT at least a week before purchasing fish.
It is crucial to provide sufficient dissolved oxygen in QT, especially when using medications. This can be accomplished by increasing "gas exchange" which means creating ripples at the water's surface by using a power filter or sponge filter, air stones, or pointing a wavemaker upwards (see video below):
See also: The Secret to a Healthy Quarantine Aquarium by Felicia McCaulley
Quarantine Strategies & Protocols