Proper Fish Quarantine 2018
So, you are at the fish store and see a beautiful fish you fall in love with and the credit card calls your name. You just bought a brand-new fish congratulations. It looks fine and everyone says you do not need to do anything but put it in your tank as long as it acts normal. So, you decide to give it the textbook quarantine you heard from some guy saying he has done it like this for 2000 years without an issue – you use a separate tank for about 40 days add some salt and notice all behavior remains normal, so it gets added in with the rest of your stock. A short time later, you notice a problem in your tanks. The fish look sick and many are dying. What just happened?
You made one of the costliest mistakes a fish-keeper can possibly make – insufficient quarantine procedures. But let’s sit back and break this down and look at the mistakes more closely and then discuss how to do it right.
Your first and most common error made when you did a quarantine was to assume that a fish in a separate tank is truly segregated from the rest of your stock. Remember, any links between the quarantine tank and your other fish is a means of spreading disease, nets, water tubes, drain tubs, nets, and even you. Every time you put your hands in one tank and then another, you are serving as a very good vehicle for any diseases in one tank to spread to another. Many people still believe that washing their hands and arms with soap and water in between tanks will always solve the problem. Sorry to break it to you but, short of soaking your hands and arms in bleach, you won’t kill everything on your skin. So, what can you do? The best plan of action is to take care of all business with your original stock first each day before going anywhere near the quarantine tank. After coming in contact with the quarantine tank, avoid contact with your other tanks for as long as possible-the longer the better. Give your hand a good wash with some anti-bacterial soap and wait a while before you go back the clean tanks, the reason is fewer organisms will be able to survive the acidic, enzyme-packed environment that is your meat bag (skin). And since you are going to such great lengths to make sure you transfer nothing on your skin now, it goes without saying that you should never share equipment such as nets or buckets between your stock and quarantine. I suggest 1 small cheap setup and all needed supplies for water addition and removal.
Once you have two separate tanks set up, two sets of equipment, and a fool-proof system in place for avoiding consecutive contact-you’re all set, right? …right? Well, sorry to be a killjoy again but there is a nope here also. This is where most people will make the second mistake. They seem to always place the quarantine tank in close proximity to their other tanks-either in the same room, or even worse, right next to each other. As if to show the fish his soon to be new home. One half teaspoon of water from that aquarium contains between 1 million and 1 BILLION bacterial cells. So, the next time you watch that bubble from your filter rise to the surface of the water and pop into thousands of micro-droplets, know that each of those airborne micro-droplets can contain many of bacterial cells intent on infecting everything they can reach in no time at all. So If you take nothing here I say to a point just remember this one thing “Distance is very important in quarantine” . Be smart and place your quarantine tank as far away from your other fish as possible. At minimum, a different room is a must.
The new world dictionary defines “quarantine” as a 40-day period. I think most people assume that if they have been faithful to the guidelines above and threw in some salt, and after 40 days the new fish still looks healthy, they are perfectly safe to introduce to their tank and tank mates. Here’s the real hidden problem with doing that. You see many fish not put through a chemical quarantine may look and behave perfectly normal, and yet carry all sorts of diseases. Walking down the street you cannot tell if someone is HIV or Hep or TB positive or much of anything for that matter and you cannot on fish either. The fish can and may carry a virus to which they are immune, a bacterium which to them is normal flora or benign-to them but to your other fish is a virulent pathogen with a goal to survive, or any of a variety of sub-clinical problems you just cannot see. Now you are asking yourself how will you know? Well there is a long way you could take a fish from your stock and add it to the quarantine tank after the 40 days was up with the new fish. Observe it. Does it show any signs of illness? Is it still eating and acting normal? If so, great, but you would not stop there nor are you done. The final step is to take yet another fish from your stocked safe tank and stress it. Chase it around with a net, leave it in a bucket for a day or two because you need to create an immune compromised state in the healthy fish. You would then add this fish to the same quarantine tank. If, after a period of careful observation, it looks healthy-chances are it will be relatively safe to introduce the new fish to your stock along with the test fish. Should the above scenario result in either of your two test stock fish becoming ill, or showing any other signs of poor health, the new fish should be considered unsafe you will need to either do a stain to see the issue under a microscope or seek some professional help. Make sure to bleach everything which was exposed to water from that tank if you decide to remove or cull the fish.
Proper quarantine is not an easy task by any means but in the long run will save you time and money. The excitement of new fish is usually enough for even the most experienced fish guru keeper to forego the intense quarantine procedure (or any quarantine for that matter) and introduce them to their stock right away. Patience is required to avoid disasters. If you know that you don’t quite fit that mold of a quarantine person, your best bet is to buy your stock from someone who has quarantine procedures similar to ours in place. Even though we are far stricter in quarantine procedures, we had followed this exact procedure along with a medication procedure for 30+ years and have remained certified disease free while using it. In over 30+ years there have never been a need for medications in the breeding room or grow out tanks. If you follow the above it can work with test fish but I will also talk more on what we do now days below.
Our current quarantine procedure is even more strict and here is how it works. All incoming breeding stock remains in house for as long as we own it. On fish that are not our fish we hatch the eggs without the use of the male. We sterilize the eggs from this incoming stock and transfer these sterilized eggs to our other hatchery at a location 5km form here. No outside fish has ever entered the main farm or grow-out hatchery. Our egg sterilizing procedure has prevented the transference of any pathogens for a long time. All the fish in our main farm breeding area come from our own hatchery, and therefore are also completely always pathogen free. Once the stock we want to breed is well established, we get rid of the original incoming stock. We are one of the few if not the only place that has a procedure that truly quarantines existing stock from pathogens on any incoming new stocks. It is a little extra work but with all the fun new super bugs it is a need practice for breeders.
The Best New Way to Quarenteen in 2018
The new quarantine procedure now is still 40 days, but on day one of receiving a new fish we add kanamycin sulfate (32%) and metronidozole (70%) for 3 treatments over the first 6 days. There are other combo’s I will list below but this has been found to give a very good result and not much gets through it.
What you will need for a quarantine setup:
- A small 5-gallon tank or bucket.
- 1/2 cup of bleach per gallon of water as a wash – no-scented (You will use this to clean the tank for 10 minutes before and after treatment) Make sure to rinse out the tank very good after the bleach was used, the dechlor will remove any trace amounts left over.
- A good dechlor like prime.
- A air pump and air stone.
- A heater set to 80-84f.
- A thermometer floating type.
- A cover for the tank or bucket if your fish are jumpers.
- Kanamycin Sulfate (32%) and Metronidozole (70%)
- A net. (also cleaned in bleach and washed with clean water)
- A log book to make notes on what and when you added medications and foods ect….
- A way to change the water that will not be used on any other tank.
- Everything should be bleached before and after treatments to keep it all safe for next use.
Kanaplex (kanamycin sulfate (32%)) and Metroplex (metronidozole (70%)) will need to be used at the same time. It’s not fully understood why this is but Metroplex and Kanaplex form a symbiotic bond making the medications much more effective. There is research going on this now.
Use 1-2 level measures Metroplex (included) to every 40 L (10 gallons). Repeat every 2 days for 6 days of treatment
Use1 level measure Kanaplex (included) to every 20 L (5 gallons). Repeat every 2 days for 6 days of treatment
This combo can cure dropsy and stubborn infections, like columnaris within 6 days 99% of the time. AAP Spectrogram Kanamycin/Nitrofurazone Combination or Kanaplex/Furan 2 combination is also great. but will not do parasite issues at the same time like the above will.
There are other combos of medications we use in aquaculture but it is not easy to make the stock solutions, not as effective or is not safe to use in home areas, but there are some other combo’s that can work also.
With API General Cure there are 2 antibiotics that you can use along with it at the same time for a good quarantine. One is API E.M. Erythromycin the other is Maracin. I’m not completely sure, but I think that Maracin is just another brand name for Erythromycin. One of the chemicals in API General Cure is also the main ingredient found in the antiparasitic medication PraziPro.
When dealing with bacterial diseases, Seachem makes two of the most effective medications on the market. Kanaplex and Metroplex are both powdered antibiotics which should be your go-to medications when you think your fish has a bacterial disease such as columaris, tuberculosis, popeye, fin rot, dropsy, etc. It can work on gram positive and gram negative at the same time and it’s easy to use, highly effective and in my opinion safer than alternatives like API Furan-2. I’ve found that Furan-2 kills off beneficial bacteria quicker than Seachem’s products and Furan-2 can be easily overdosed. Kanaplex and Metroplex are also more versatile in the respect that it can be fed directly to your fish so you don’t have to treat an entire tank if you don’t want to.
Because many people misdiagnose their fish, I strongly recommend using Kanaplex and Metroplex in combination with another when treating for a suspected bacterial infection. This is not only safe but, in my experiences, have made the medications more effective.
For some cases of stubborn infections, like columnaris, you must combine these two medications because it’s the only way in-which they are effective which is also a reason that I recommend using both. The benefit to using them both is to cover all sorts of different bacterial diseases because some strains of bacteria may not respond to one medication or the other.
You should remove all forms of chemical filtration when using either Kanaplex or Metroplex. This includes but is not limited to: carbon, Seachem Purigen, Poly Filter, Chemi-Pure Blue/Elite.
****** Kanaplex is a blended kanamycin-based medication which is very effective against gram negative bacterial diseases as well as some fungal infections. Kanaplex can be added directly to the water column or mixed with food to treat only a specific fish. A big advantage of Kanaplex is because the fish absorbs the medication through its gills and skin it’s useful in treating internal infections even when the fish is refusing food. MetroPlex™ is a metronidazole-based product and appropriate for treating a variety of protozoan and anaerobic bacterial diseases of fish. When Kanaplex and Metroplex are used together you get a shotgun effect that can treat almost any thing you will see in the aquarium hobby today.
NOTE: We do not use salt at our farm or tea tree oil because both have been found to irritate mucus membranes in bettas that can lead up to death if used long enough. The reason is salt may lead to an overactive slime coat and in severe cases can lead to dehydration. Remember, through osmosis, a freshwater fish will loose water when placed in a tank with too much salt. Because the kidneys are responsible for maintaining the proper salt content in the blood, caution should be used before causing stress and at some point death from salt.