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  1. #1
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    Quarantine Tank Discussion

    I'm writing this thread to hopefully put some of my own ideas down on paper and to possibly provide a reference to others. I would really appreciate if people would comment/correct/abuse this post so I can update it and get it to a referencable state.

    NOTE TO READER! IF YOU ARE READING THIS NOTE, THIS IS JUST SOME IDEAS THAT I HAVE FORMED BASED UPON RESEARCH ON-LINE. NONE OF THIS IS TESTED AND/OR VALIDATED (YET). I WILL REMOVE THIS WARNING WHEN THIS BECOMES MORE OF A DOCTRINE THAN THE THEORY IT IS RIGHT NOW. USE THIS WITH CAUTION.


    Quarantine tanks are used, as the name implies, to keep critters, good and bad, out of your "stable" tank until they become controlled and known entities. For fish, this means that the chance of introducing disease into your tank is greatly reduced. This is important as most salt-water diseases can be spread throughout the tanks inhabitants. It is never a good idea to introduce medications into your main tank because of the negative effects that may occur. Many medications are copper based, and as a result can easily kill off corals, and live-rock bacteria, as well as inverts.

    For corals, a quarantine tank is used to ensure that what you are putting into your main-tank is "just coral" and you have eliminated all critters and identified possible problems/disease before disturbing your reef/display. note: fresh water dips are discussed below). Though this is commonly skipped, there are a host of stores of people introducing wild harvested corals into their tank which bring about many other nasties such as sps eating flatworms, nudibranch, and a host of other nasties too long to list here. Once these "nasties" have found a way into your tank there are very few effective means of getting them out.

    Quarantines are about adding an ounce of prevention to prevent using a pound of cure. Period. Quarantine tanks do NOT make you have a better tank, or a better display. They do not increase color or increase growth. They do not make your fish more colorful or funnier or more entertaining to watch. However, they DO decrease the "negative stress" associated with this hobby by helping you to eliminate future problems, and I guarantee the first time you heal a sick fish before putting them into your tank, or see a flat-worm drop of of a quarantined coral you'll feel as much excitement as you did when you added your first coral to the tank. Quarantines are about safety, control, and removing unpleasant experiences at what will prove to be a very-low cost, both in maintenance and in actual cash outlay.

    This thread will give you step-by-step guidance to creating and using quarantine tanks effectively. Starting with the ground-up "what do I need?" to "when do I know it's ready to go into the main tank?". Enjoy!

    Q. What hardware do I need to run a quarantine tank?
    A. This is a loaded question given that there is no way to know all possible types of livestock that you might want to quarantine. However, for 99% of the livestock available and used by 99% of the reefing/salt-water community the following list will apply for the entire life of the hobby.
    1. A 10-20gal tank.
    2. A form of filtration
    3. Lights (corals vs. fish)

    We will look at these in detail below.

    Q. But I do not want to maintain two tanks! Do I have to keep the Q-Tank going?
    A. You do not have to, nor should you consider running the Q-Tank 100% of the time. You should only get it running when you plan on adding to your tank, or need to remove something from your main-tank and put it into quarantine.

    Q. Ok, sounds good, but don't you have to cycle tanks before putting things into them?
    A. Yes, however you can reduce the cycle time to almost zero if you plan ahead. First, you'll want to use water from your MT to start the Q-Tank up. You'll also need to find a way to transfer some of the biological filtration from the MT to the QT. There are different ways of doing this.

    Q. Great Einstein... so How do I transfer this Biological filtration to my Q-Tank now that it's full of MT water?
    A. There are two methods that are commonly accepted. The first is to take some of your Live-Rock from your MT (typically from your sump area) and drop it into your tank. Wamo, instant filtration. The second way is using a HOB/canister filter. Connect the HOB/canister filter to your MT (usually in the sump) for a few days prior to starting your q-tank to let it build up some biological filtration power then x-fer it to the Q-Tank. DO NOT LEAVE THE FILTER RUNNING FULL TIME ON YOUR MT. THEY ARE NITRITE/NITRATE BOMBS. (your millage may vary, this is just my opinion)

    The challenge with the HOB/canister method is that you have to know when you want to use your q-TANK a few days (4-5) in advance and get it running to build up the biological filtration. The challenge with seeding LR from your MT is that IF/WHEN you need to medicate you likely cannot put that rock back into the MT. Which means over time you are depleting your MT LR filtration. Not a good idea.

    The solution is to use BOTH methods. As soon as you know you are going to be making an addition, get the HOB filter running! Even if Mr. New-Icky-Fishy is in the bag from the store, fire up that HOB/canister filter when you get home. Setup the LR seeded Q-Tank and get your fish into the Q-Tank. Within a few days you can move the HOB/canister onto the Q-Tank and if you have not medicated, you can put your LR back. Of course, planning a few days in advance of a purchase is ideal, but if your like me that will almost never happen...

    Q. Ok that sounds simple! Is there more?
    A. Unfortunately yes. However, this is very beneficial for your MT, not to mention your new Live Stock! Water changes! Yes sir, that's the secret. Take a few gal's every other day from your MT and put in this "fresh" water into your Q-Tank. Over the quarantine period you'll have changed out some water in your MT, making it a happier and healthier place, and your Q-Tank will be better because you are, again, swapping out water that might be building nitrates/nitrites/etc and that will help keep your live-stock happy. Do this every day the first week, every second day the second week and as required (testing) for the 3rd and continuing weeks.

    Q. Friggn' hell, that just became lot of work. Isn't there an easier way?

    A. No chapstick there isn't; now suck it up. This hobby isn't for the lazy. You want that TOTM look, you want to have people come in and go WOW, and tell you that you've got the best/coolest tank ever. You want to enjoy your own tank for months and not be constantly in trouble-shooting mode trying to get rid of sickness, critters, etc, etc... this is what it takes. Don't worry, after the first year, you're not adding much to your tank anymore. In theory anyhow.

    Q. Ok fine. I'll sign up to that mess cause I don't want to post here on-line asking how to fix problems and getting people telling me that I should have Q-tanked and making fun of me. Didn't you mention something about lights?
    A. Yeah. Well fish don't care about lights. So if you are talking about quarantining fish, setup some cheap compact fluorescent lighting and you are off to the races. If you are talking about corals, things get messier. My advise is to get a small strip of T5HO lighting for your tank. Some people say this is not necessary, but honestly for the average cost of 2 corals, you'll have the right lights to keep your corals happy right from the start. You're not lighting a reef, so get the smallest, simplest cheapest solution you can for some T5HO's, and I suggest one actinic and one regular HO.. throw a cheap ballast on there and you're off to the races. At the time of this post I can pickup the lighting for less than $100. These lights are good for 1000's of hrs, and basically should last YEARS as a q-tank is almost always off. Skip the reflectors and all that junk, just go with basic simple stuff. You're trying to keep them happy, not get them to grow here.

    Q. Fine, now I've spent $200 on a tank, filter and lights for my Q-Tank. Dude, seriously you said this would be cheap!

    A. Don't be lame. There is the "right way" and all others lead to issues and failure. $200 vs a wipe where you loose a third of your corals because you had to tear-down to get rid of some nuisance critters, or you lose 1/2 the fish because you couldn't medicate the MT? I promise you, a Q-Tank is as critical to your success as the Lights and Skimmer are to your MT. But hey maybe you'll be "that guy" who never used a Q-tank and had/has success... roll those dice, it's only hundreds of hours and dollars at risk.

    Q. Well here's the big question. How long do I quarantine things?
    A. For fish, I would recommend that you keep them in the Q-Tank for a minimum of 4 weeks. At the end of 4 weeks, once the fish are visibly eating your foods of choice, and show no signs of stress (for the past 2 weeks min) then you can move the fish to your display. Use the same methods as you would introducing new livestock to any system. Take your time, even though the water chem is very, very similar, it will never be exactly the same!

    For corals, I would recommend waiting 1-2 weeks. You are looking for signs of rot and disease and of course you are looking for nasties to drop-off. Kill those joyously as you revel in the fact that they will never make it to your MT! Once your coral is happy (whatever that means is based upon the coral you purchased...) go ahead and acclimatize it and move it to the MT. The quarantine period is a good time to get out your super-glue/expoy and get a good base attached to that sucker so you can work with it easily in the MT.

  2. #2
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    CONTINUED from ABOVE...

    Q. Wow, there is a lot to this Q-Tank stuff! Ok, so what do I put in to the Q-tank? At this point I've got a 10gal glass aquarium full of water and a few pieces of LR. Do I need substrate? Decorations?

    A. Good question! You need very little. Skip the substrate, and keep it "bare bones". However, I do recommend a basic setup using "egg crate" to keep corals stuff, off the bottom of the tank. I also think you need to give your new fishes/inverts a place or two that they can hide in to feel safe. I'd personally add a sunken pirate treasure chest to the mix, but that's totally optional and only required if you want to have cool-fish. Bubbling pirate ships are cruise-control for cool...

    Q. Wut is Egg-Crate?
    A. Egg-Crate is actually plastic covers/protectors for 48" fluorescent lighting which you can pickup at any hardware store. It is 1/4" (ish) squares of white (typically) plastic that diffuses light. Using a cutting device you can cut a "floor" for your Q-Tank and using short (1/2 inch or so) PVC tubes you can keep this false floor off of the glass bottom. You should get creative with this setup to give yourself a raised platform where you can mount some corals closer to the surface right under your lights.

    <note: get some photos here.. i've seen em before need to show some q-tanks with egg-crate>


    Q. Am I done yet?
    A. Close, but there is one important thing to "talk about". Cross contamination to the Main-Tank. This is what we are trying to avoid by using a Q-Tank in the first place. Your biggest source of cross contamination will come from the LR you "borrowed" from your sump. If you are quarantining fish, and did not need to medicate, or used medications that you know are reef-safe (good luck), then I suggest throwing the LR back into your sump. However, if you are quarantining any corals, or had to medicate, especially copper based medications, throw that LR out!

    So what I recommend, is that by the end of the first week (read as soon as possible) try to put that LR back into your MT sump and let the HOB/Canister filter do the rest of the work, coupled with frequent water changes from the MT. When introducing corals into your tank you will always take the risk that a nasty-critter has migrated from your coral and found a "home" on your LR. I have no effective way of dealing with this "issue" and simply recommend that you frequently watch the Q-Tank to see if you can catch the nasty.

    Q. What about Fresh-Water Dips for Corals? Isn't that easier than using a Q-Tank?
    A. Good question pal. Not sure what the answer is here... (someone input/research required).

  3. #3
    Former Moderator a4twenty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hookup View Post
    Q. What hardware do I need to run a quarantine tank?
    A. This is a loaded question given that there is no way to know all possible types of livestock that you might want to quarantine. However, for 99% of the livestock available and used by 99% of the reefing/salt-water community the following list will apply for the entire life of the hobby.
    1. A 10-20gal tank.
    2. A form of filtration
    3. Lights (corals vs. fish)
    wow, yo really know how to make a first post :b15:

    lets start with a big


    to Aquaria Canada


    i'll have to work through this one a little slower than usual, then NHL season is rearing its ugly head and i have decided to ( against my batter judgement ) give them another chance. i think we can get some good input and make this a great informative thread.....

    1) a 10 - 20g tank should work fine, depending on what you want to quarantine. some species will not survive a QT and other will gown downhill quickly.

    2) for filtration i use a sponge filter ( kept in my sump, always ready to go ) and water changes with DT water. i do not recommend using HOB filter on a regular basis and will not take LR form my DT to be used in either a QT or HT.

    3) lights are going to depend on what you want to quarantine and definitely need to be relevant, no point in keeping anything in under than optimal conditions. i don't quarantine corals, i dip them..... unless there is an obvious reason.

    i think a QT tank and HT tank are required to be successful in this hobby but you need to know when and how to use each as needed. you don't need to have 3 tanks setup to accommodate these needs, just some common sense.

    IMO people make this way to complicated and scare people off doing things the right way.

    IMO FWD are used only in specific situations and should only be discussed when talking of these conditions. people will gravitate to these treatments thinking they are a solve all, when realistically they can have catastrophic / detrimental results.


    hopefully i didn't paraphrase or lump everything together, just trying to shed a little helpful light..........
    `

    120S RR tank with 60G basement sump / fuge

    Return Pump: Little Giant 4-MDQX SC
    Water Movement: MP40W, Seio 1500, (2) Hydor K4's
    Lighting: 400W SE MH with 10K Venture
    Skimmer: Euro-Reef RS250 with gate valve
    Other: RODI, RDSB, PO4/AC reactor


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    Your reply has inspired several (many) questions... I've got to run.. will post later so I can clean-up the main post.

    Quickly, if I read correctly, you do not recommend FWD for all corals, nor do you recommend putting them in the qt?

  5. #5
    Former Moderator a4twenty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hookup View Post
    Quickly, if I read correctly, you do not recommend FWD for all corals, nor do you recommend putting them in the qt?
    sorry, as i tried to explain in the end of my post......

    i don't recommend a blanket FWD as a cure all / feel good treatment for everything that goes in the tank, IMO FWD have there place but we need when and why to use them.

    QT is a very important part of your system and needs to be applied depending on many variables. some livestock will not survive a QT and others can be better treated using different methods. i apologize, when i said " i don't quarantine corals" i left out a lot of information and made a general statement.
    `

    120S RR tank with 60G basement sump / fuge

    Return Pump: Little Giant 4-MDQX SC
    Water Movement: MP40W, Seio 1500, (2) Hydor K4's
    Lighting: 400W SE MH with 10K Venture
    Skimmer: Euro-Reef RS250 with gate valve
    Other: RODI, RDSB, PO4/AC reactor


    My Gallery

  6. #6
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    Ok, Lets go back to basics.
    1. Do you use a QT on corals?
    2. Do you use a QT on Inverts?
    3. Do you use a QT on Fish? or What fish do you NOT QT? either or.

    From there, i've go some further questions before i go back and clean up the main post...

  7. #7
    Former Moderator a4twenty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hookup View Post
    Ok, Lets go back to basics.
    the problem with this is that we generalize, if it was basic it would be FW

    Quote Originally Posted by Hookup View Post
    1. Do you use a QT on corals?
    some yes, the ones i keep no, i dip them ( not FWD ) but this is going to only be relevant to what you are keeping and your sources.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hookup View Post
    2. Do you use a QT on Inverts?
    again, depends on species, this will also determine other treatments and time in QT.


    as you can see, it isn't easy to make a blanket statement about how everything needs to be treated and you are far better off treating each as an individual.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hookup View Post
    3. Do you use a QT on Fish? or What fish do you NOT QT? either or.
    yes, for most fish but there are fish that won't survive a QT so again, only relevant by species and case by case scenario.
    `

    120S RR tank with 60G basement sump / fuge

    Return Pump: Little Giant 4-MDQX SC
    Water Movement: MP40W, Seio 1500, (2) Hydor K4's
    Lighting: 400W SE MH with 10K Venture
    Skimmer: Euro-Reef RS250 with gate valve
    Other: RODI, RDSB, PO4/AC reactor


    My Gallery

  8. #8
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    Ahaha.. Ok.. .lets try this from a different angle.

    The setup of a QT. The 10-20gal range is typically sufficent, correct? Obviously if you're talking a Show Nasso(sp) tang, then no, however for your smaller fishes, etc, this should be a sufficent size?

    Maintenance... I do not want to run my QT unless i'm using it for it's purpose... Is this possible? (I believe so, obviously based upon my OP, but let's keep it Fresh-water simple for now).

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    Been a few days since activity.. bump for visability (ok for annoying people really)...

  10. #10
    Former Moderator a4twenty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hookup View Post
    The setup of a QT. The 10-20gal range is typically sufficent, correct? Obviously if you're talking a Show Nasso(sp) tang, then no, however for your smaller fishes, etc, this should be a sufficent size?
    yep, that is what i have ( 20G ) and exactly like you said , not ideal for larger fish......


    Quote Originally Posted by Hookup View Post
    Maintenance... I do not want to run my QT unless i'm using it for it's purpose... Is this possible? (I believe so, obviously based upon my OP, but let's keep it Fresh-water simple for now).
    exactly, i only run my QT when i know something is coming. i run a sponge filter in my sump, then just leave it in there. a couple of days before i go to get new livestock i start the filter up again and get the QT ready. i use tank water to fill it and replace it with new SW in the sump of the DT. then i just add some PVC for hiding spots and transfer the filter just before i am ready. you still need to monitor for A-N-N and do water changes using DT water if necessary.
    `

    120S RR tank with 60G basement sump / fuge

    Return Pump: Little Giant 4-MDQX SC
    Water Movement: MP40W, Seio 1500, (2) Hydor K4's
    Lighting: 400W SE MH with 10K Venture
    Skimmer: Euro-Reef RS250 with gate valve
    Other: RODI, RDSB, PO4/AC reactor


    My Gallery

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