Fish can be very sensitive animals. Problems with disease and parasites can be really tricky and quite frustrating if you are not armed with the knowledge of how to overcome such ailments. In this blog we are going to go over how to properly set up a quarantine tank and provide some helpful tips to keep your aquarium healthy and free of parasites and disease.

A quarantine tank is a completely separate aquarium that is used to isolate and observe new fish before they enter your display aquarium. Through this process you can closely observe your new fish for any sign of disease or parasites and then properly treat without putting any of your existing aquarium animals at risk. Isolation also helps your new fish to learn to eat frozen and or flake/pellet foods without the harassment of others.

A quarantine tank does not need to be very complicated. A typical quarantine tank will be about 20 gallons in size which is plenty big enough for common aquarium fish. Of course if you are looking to house larger animals or quarantine multiple animals at the same time, a larger quarantine may be required.

Once you have a tank, you will need a filter to process the waste produced by your fish. A simple power hang-on filter such as the AquaClear or API SuperClean will work great. They are also fairly inexpensive and very easy to maintain. You can also consider a canister filter such as the Eheim Classic or Fluval filters or even a small internal filter such as the Ista Hydro Bio Sponge Filters.

When choosing a heater, you want 3-5 watts per gallon. So for a 20 gallon tank, you need a 60-100 watt heater.

For lighting, ambient light is fine but avoid direct sunlight to prevent excessive algae growth.  It is a good idea to install a small, standard output light fixture, such as an LED strip light or standard output fluorescent fixture hooked up to an aquarium timer. This will create a natural light cycle in the tank to benefit fish health and promote natural activity.

When isolating fish, you definitely need to have something in the tank for the fish to hide in and feel comfortable. It is preferable not to utilize sand or live rock as this just becomes difficult to keep clean and can actually absorb medications.

Most hobbyists use some 3-6" sections of larger diameter PVC. Anything 1.5-4" in diameter will work great and should be plenty big enough for most fish. Plastic plants and other artificial decorations will work great as well.

After getting the equipment together, you want to be sure to cycle the tank before using it. The water parameters need to stay stable and proper cycling is key. Using water from your main display aquarium to start the quarantine tank is a great way to speed up the process. Bacteria supplements, such as Seachem Stability, are great to help move along the cycling process.

Because ammonia is extremely toxic to fish, we recommend the use of the SeaChem Ammonia Alert, a quick visual reference that lets you know right away if any amount of Ammonia is present in the water. If ammonia is detected, a large water change should be performed to lower the toxicity of the water. The addition of bacteria additives will help stabilize the tank.

During quarantine, observe your new fish and ensure they are eating and swimming normally. Look for external parasites and any signs of infection. Heavy breathing, red or swollen lesions, abnormal swim patters and various other signs are a dead giveaway that something is wrong.

Being in an isolated environment makes it much easier to observe these animals and treat them accordingly. If you do find something wrong with your new fish, research thoroughly before treatment to ensure you have properly diagnosed and then treat accordingly. We stock a variety of medications; the various options from Seachem are among our most popular.

Most new fish should be quarantined for 30-60 days without any signs of illness. If a fish requires treatment, it could very well reside in the quarantine tank for 3 months or more.

Be mindful of the medication you use in your quarantine tank.  Do not mix medications (except as recommended by the manufacturer). Avoid getting any medication into your display aquarium when transferring your fish. Most medications can be easily removed with the use of activated carbon. However, when using copper based medications, it is best to use a filter media specifically designed to remove copper, such as the Two Little Fishies MetaSorb or Seachem Cuprisorb.

Don’t forget to have a fish net, specimen cup, acclimation tools, and appropriate test kits handy to help make transferring your fish and monitoring your quarantine tank much easier.

If you need help setting up a quarantine tank or simply have some questions, our trained team of aquarium experts is here to help. Until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.