A "true" quarantine tank
by Francesco Zezza
Quarantine means keeping a fish (either a sick one or a "newly acquired" one which needs to be closely observed for some time) in a secluded area (tank) to be sure that : a) they’re recovering and/or b) they are NOT carrying any (possible!) pathogens. In its everyday meaning the term "quarantine" means keeping an animal (but under given circumstances also a human being) in isolation to prevent spreading of possible diseases. Ok now, that’s clear but … what about me? Why I’m supposed to keep and run a quarantine tank ??
Be patient, please! We’re going to explain this in a while …
To start with, how does
To start with, how doesa real quarantine tank look (better still: how should it look like)? I feel this issue is more or less clear, nevertheless I would like to clarify some main points which could help newcomers (although - in my opinion - newcomers are not the only ones who should read this). Have you ever experienced the spread of a disease immediately after having introduced a new - just bought from a trustworthy fish shop – fish to your tank without taking any precautions in advance? If this has been the case even once, you know perfectly well why a quarantine tank is a REAL need!!!
Let's move on to the basics -
or not so basics.. To answer the questions "how should it look like" I would
say that it should be characterized by the absence of any true aquascape
Let's move on to the basics - or not so basics.. To answer the questions "how should it look like" I would say that it should be characterized by the absence of any true aquascapewith a sand layer at the bottom (it should be a very thin layer and the size of the grain should be the smallest possible - better still leave it without any substrate), perhaps a couple of plants which will make the fish feel more comfortable while hiding spots are – of course – a MUST. These can consist of a couple of bogwood pieces and/or flowerpots that - by the way - are easy to clean and disinfect ! You should always be particular careful to check the condition of your filter(s) to be sure that they are in top notch condition. This may sound a bit "elementary" but - you can take my word for it - it helps. An air-stone will usually help (especially if the tank is to be used for the treatment of a sick fish).
Personally, I would go for something absolutely minimal consisting of one (or two) pieces of bogwoods, a very thin layer of sand, the filter, heater and air pump and finally, subdued lighting (if any at all). You should keep in mind that some medicinations are light sensitive (like tetracycline, minocycline etc.). I would also like to note my preference for glass against acrylic. Glass is quite transparent, far more resistant to scratches, easy to clean and disinfect and finally, a material you can work with yourself.
The filter unit will, most likely, rely on a water pump (the other option being a "sponge filter" driven by an an air pump) and should be loaded with synthetic wool-like floss, ceramic pipes and other media according to the specific needs of the fish or the medication. Always use oversized filter units and never use activated carbon since it will quickly adsorb the medication(s) in use. If you have to set up a quarantine tank on the spot due to an unexpected emergency, it would be a good idea to add some filter media from the filters running in other - healthy - tanks. Beware of possible nitrate/nitrite spikes in your quarantine / hospital tank since many drugs – e.g. most antibiotics – will also affect the beneficial bacterial colony in your filter. A separate heater is a must in a quarantine tank and it should be larger than anticipated since you may have to raise the temperature substantially during the treatment (e.g. in Ich infestations). Finally, if you have to run more than one quarantine tanks at the same time (I had to run three of them at some point), you should NEVER use central filtration since this distribute the problems from one tank to the others. Then:
Tank size? Is - of course - directly related to the size of fish you plan to quarantine; any way – again as a general rule of thumb – "think small": many drugs are very expensive ! Most likely a 40-80 (or even 100) liter unit should work with almost all fishes.
PERSONAL TIP? Force yourself to observe - on a daily basis – your new fishes to get used to their temper, living/feeding habits and the alike which will render you able - just in case (knock on wood!) - to spot any signs and symptoms of illness on the spot and take action immediately. Keep in mind that a fish, even in a quarantine tank will always act according to his/her own genomes: an aggressive/territorial cichlid will act accordingly so be very conservative when stocking your quarantine tank.