The Tank Transfer Method or "TTM" applies specifically to Ich and takes advantage of the specific lifecycle of the parasite that causes Ich (Cryptocaryon irritans) to effectively rid the infected fish of parasites. The tank transfer method is best used as a prophylactic treatment for new fish and would be considered an alternative to medicating the fish using copper which we covered in the previous Fish Health Episode 10 and 80/20 Quarantine Videos. While TTM is very effective, it can be labor intensive, requires considerable attention to detail, and is not always the BEST choice for novice tank owners.  

TTM vs. Using Medications 

Everything you need for TTM can be acquired from local pet stores so even if you're not prepared, you can get everything in a hurry to start treatment without waiting for items to arrive in the mail.

  • Does not require the use of copper or any other harsh medications
  • You should still use Nitrofurazone to prevent secondary infections.
  • Must pay attention to details and transfer times
  • Not an effective method for Marine Velvet; at least not as easy to do for Marine Velvet
  • Must be 100% thorough with tank sterilization
  • Requires two of everything; two full QT setups including x2 tank, x2 hiding tubes, x2 ammonia alerts, and x2 air pumps. Gloves, siphon tubes, and rinsing containers are also possible sources of contamination and having x2 of each really is your best approach.
  • Not the best choice for fish with "end-stage" or heavy ich outbreaks; usually reserved for prophylactic treatment only. 

TTM as a Prophylactic

The reason using TTM is not the best choice for a serious outbreak of Ich in your display is a) you will probably need a large tank to house ALL of your fish which makes TTM difficult b) the fish are likely immunocompromised at that point meaning the TTM will be really stressful. 

It's also hard to differentiate Ich from Marine Velvet when diagnosing an infected fish and using the TTM to eliminate marine velvet is incredibly difficult. Using a medicated treatment with copper is always the most comprehensive route and covers both Ich and Marine Velvet. 

When you are treating 1-2 new fish using the TTM, you won't need anything larger than a 10-20 gallon tank and the fish are likely not visually infected (you wouldn't knowingly buy a sick fish). The TTM treatment would simply be a precaution and a means of not accidentally introducing the Ich parasite into your display. 

How To TTM - Tank Transfer Method

The TTM method is basically the 80/20 QT process we already described without any meds. It involves transferring fish between two different aquariums every 1-3 days and sterilizing the tanks in between transfers to prevent the transfer of parasites from one tank to the next. It is important to watch the clock and transfer the fish no later than every 72 hours, this is one of those details that cannot be overlooked.

    1. Mix at least 20 - 40 gallons of clean saltwater in a large brute trash can.
    2. Prepare QT tank A, fill with clean seawater
    3. Add Nitrofurazone to QT tank A: 200mg per 10 gallons of saltwater (technically optional but recommended)
    4. Add fish into the QT tank A for 72 hours.
    5. Absolutely no later than 72 hours, prepare and fill QT tank B with clean saltwater. 
    6. Fill a small bucket or Tupperware with clean saltwater for rinsing fish in between tanks
    7. Remove fish from QT tank A and place fish into Tupperware or a small bucket to rinse for at least 3 - 5 minutes. 
    8. Place rinsed fish into QT tank B for another 72 hours.
    9. Empty saltwater and completely sterilize QT tank A and rinsing container.
      • Fill with 100ppm bleach/freshwater solution.
      • Rinse thoroughly with dechlorinated freshwater.
      • Thoroughly DRY tank 100% before using again. 
    10. Repeat every 72 hours for a total of 14 days.

What happens during the TTM is that every 3 days, active parasites will fall off the fish. You remove the fish and place it into a sterile aquarium where any new parasites may become active and fall off again. The process continues until you have beat out the parasite's lifecycle completely and no more parasites are left. The success of TTM hinges on 100% effective sterilization of the tanks in between transfers and strictly adhering to the transfer schedule.

Can I use TTM for Marine Velvet?

It's not recommended because Marine Velvet moves very fast. It can work if you move the fish every 12 -36 hours but for most hobbyists, this is a difficult schedule to adhere to. The timing is so critical and if you let it go any longer, the TTM will not work for velvet. 

How Does Marine Collectors TTM?

For professionals that have the resources, the TTM can be very effective if done properly.  Elliot at Marine Collectors uses the TTM method for specific fish that are sensitive to copper and actually moves the fish every 12 hours. That's a total of 28 transfers over a 14-day period! Every third day, those fish will go through a Formalin bath to kill off any possible chance of Brooklynella and Uronema.

Point is that the TTM can be effective and is used by professionals but your dedication to the process is important for it to be effective.  

Can I use TTM for an Ich Outbreak in My Display?

Yes, but the transfers should be moved up to every 24 hours instead of every 72 hours. Remember, if you don't remove all the fish and allow the tank to go through a fallow period, the ich parasite could remain in your display even after you have "cured" a fish via TTM.  Practicing Ich management is something to always consider should you experience an outbreak of Ich in your display.