Quarantine Aquariums – More Than Just Disease Prevention

by Kevin Kohen on August 19, 2009

Rope Fish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus)

Rope Fish (Erpetoichthys calabaricus)

At the age of six, my uncle took me along with him to Pier 1 imports to look at aquarium fish for his 30 gallon freshwater aquarium (I am old and yes, Pier 1 did in fact sell aquarium fish back in the 70’s!). After looking over all of these colorful and interesting fish, one fish called a Rope Fish– (Erpetoichthys calabaricus) was the one that we were bringing home. This incredible looking long slender fish resembled a snake, and from that day forward I have been fascinated with aquarium fish ever since. This fascination started shortly thereafter with a 10 gallon community aquarium, that eventually grew into an obsession. This obsession eventually grew into 21 aquariums in my parent’s house by the age of 16.

The biggest mistake I have made in the past, as well as hundreds of other aquarists across the country, is placing new fish directly into the display aquarium, only to watch the existing tankmates bully and harass the already stressed fish. Allowing the fish to rest and recover as well as feeding the new arrival small quantities of enriched foods several times per day is the smart way to go to ensure the safety of newly purchased aquatic animals. Several weeks in a quarantine aquarium, where partial water changes are performed with water removed from the display aquarium, combined with several small feedings per day with quality-enriched foods is the very best approach to making sure that your new purchase will thrive for many years to come in the home aquarium.

Quarantining new aquatic life in a dedicated quarantine aquarium that is separate from the main display is a very important aspect of aquarium keeping. Some of the most successful aquarists understand the importance of quarantining new inhabitants prior to introducing them into the main display.

Acclimating Fish

Acclimating Fish

When aquatic life is purchase from a local store or over the internet, they are netted from an aquarium, placed in a shipping bag, and either driven home or shipped next day air across the country; this can be a stressful time for aquatic animals, especially fish.

The first thing that comes to mind when most aquarists think of a quarantine aquarium is making sure that a pathogen or disease is not transferred to the main display. While true, that a quarantine aquarium can significantly reduce the risk of passing pathogens to inhabitants in the main display, there are other very important benefits to setting up a basic quarantine aquarium.

Allowing new fish time to rest and recover from being shipped, as well as properly conditioning the animals for several weeks prior to introduction into the main display will significantly increase the chances of a new fish making a smooth transition into the display aquarium.


About the author: Kevin earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Wright State University, and is an avid marine life photographer, lifelong aquarist, and marine fish enthusiast. He has worked in the aquarium industry since 1983. He launched the LiveAquaria.com web site in 2000 and designed and oversaw the installation of the Drs. Foster and Smith Aquaculture Coral and Marine Life Facility, which opened in July of 2005. Kevin is currently the Director of LiveAquaria at Drs. Foster and Smith. See more articles by Kevin Kohen.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

kim molner September 1, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Thanks for this post I enjoyed it.

Tracy Marie November 5, 2009 at 8:07 am

I meet so many people who are new fish owners that think quarantining is a complete waste of time. I am so happy to see your article! I preach this all the time, since it is so essential when introducing new fish. Thank you again for reiterating this most important step!

Jestep January 6, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Something that many people fail to take into consideration is how difficult and expensive it is to remove an unknown nasty in a large tank, or even a 55 gal for that matter.

Something like a simple ich or fungus outbreak could cost $20 – $30 to treat assuming that you don’t lose any fish. If you have to medicate with antibiotics, is can cost $50 or even more. This is all assuming you actually know what the intruder is, and you know how to properly treat it.

Depending on what you get in your tank, the only treatment may be euthinization, or some scorched earth campaign.

My best advice is to keep an additional hang-on-back or cannister filter attached to the main tank, that you can switch over to the quarantine tank to avoid having to cycle it. No matter how small or how clean the tank is that your fish came from, put it in the quarantine until you can be sure it’s clean.

Roger June 23, 2010 at 12:27 pm

The only people that think quarantining is a waste of time are the ones that have yet to learn the hard way. One un-quarantined fish = 4 dead fish. Ironically, the new fish survived.

Montipora nudibranchs were also a product of not quarantining. That cost me 2 digitata, a decimated capricornis, and 2 years trying to get rid of them.

If you love your fish & coral and want to save money YOU MUST QUARANTINE!

Carl Nelson December 3, 2013 at 7:47 am

At every club meeting we remind members of the importance of a quarantine tank to long term success. This article helps reinforce reasons beyond disease control. Thanks. I have had great success with fish I have purchased from LiveAquaria.

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