How to Quarantine Fish the Easy Way
Many beginners may not know this, but one of the easiest ways to stop your fish from getting sick is to set up a quarantine tank. This separate aquarium is used to temporarily hold newly purchased fish or ailing animals that need a quiet environment to heal. By putting them in isolation, it allows you to closely observe their health, administer any treatments, and prevent illnesses from spreading. Once they are fully healthy and free from disease, you can safely add them into your main aquarium without infecting any existing fish.
Materials for the Hospital Tank
– Clear plastic tub or aquarium with a lid – Aquarium filter with low flow, like a sponge filter – Aquarium heater and thermometer Aquarium decorations and hides Water conditioner – Trio of quarantine medications (includes Mardel Maracyn, Aquarium Solutions Ich-X, and Fritz ParaCleanse)
How to set up a Quarantine Fish Tank
1. You should keep your quarantine tank out of direct contact with your main display tanks to prevent cross contamination. Other best practices include using separate siphons and nets for the quarantine setup, and washing your hands after touching the quarantine fish tanks. 2. For plastic tubs, drill holes in the lid to allow airflow and cut a small rectangle at the sides for power cables or airline tubing to pass through. You can also mark the side of your tub with 1-gallon measurement marks to make it easier for water changes and medication dosing.
As a cheap way to quarantine, a clear plastic container is an option. Drill or cut holes in your lid for easier equipment installation and better air flow.
1. Add water conditioner to the hospital tank. 2. Install the aquarium filter and heater, and add fish tank ornaments to give the animals some shelter. There is no need to use gravel or other substrate because a bare bottom setup allows you to easily clean the hospital tank and examine the fish’s waste if needed.
Use a bare bottom tank with aquarium decorations to provide plenty of cover. Extra shelters are a great way to make sick fish feel more at ease.
1. Add the fish and observe their behavior. If necessary, administer medication. Remove any chemical filtration (like activated carbon) and UV sterilizers before adding medicines. 1. If your fish is already sick, and you are able to identify the disease, give them the appropriate medication and follow the instructions on their packaging. This article will help you determine if your fish have the disease. 2. If you purchased fish from a local fish store or breeder that you trust to have healthy animals, feed and observe the fish for a couple days. You can see Step 5a above to identify an illness. ParaCleanse may be recommended to prevent you from becoming ill. 3. If you bought new fish from an online retailer, pet store chain, or untested source, proactively treat them with the quarantine medication trio. These medicines include a combination of antifungal, antibiotic, and antiparasitic active substances that are safe to use on scaleless fish, shrimps, snails, live plants, beneficial bacteria, and fry. For every 10 gallons, take 1 packet each of ParaCleanse and Maracyn. 1 packet of Ich-X (5 ml) is also recommended. The medication should be left in the water for 7 – 10 days.
Description of quarantine medication trio
1. After treatment is completed, do regular water changes each week to gradually remove the medications over time. Help the fish to build up their immune systems by feeding high quality fish food like frozen foods, which are nutritionally dense and easy to clean up. 2. For new fish, we recommend that they be kept in quarantine for at least 4-6 weeks after the last symptom or death. You can also add two healthy fish to your main aquarium to the fish hospital tank, and then see if any of them get sick. If everyone remains well, you can finally release the isolated fish from quarantine. 3. Once quarantine is done, clean the hospital tank setup and store everything dry. If you are planning to buy more fish, leave everything running until the next batch.
Many Questions About Fish Quarantine
How big does a quarantine tank need to be?
A quarantine tank is not meant to be permanent. A hospital tank with less water volume also allows you to use less medication when treating the fish.
How do you keep a quarantine tank cycled? The easiest way is to run a spare sponge filter (or extra filter media in a hang-on-back filter) in one of your display aquariums. Whenever you need to quarantine some fish, move that extra sponge filter or filter media to the hospital tank so it will bring over lots of beneficial bacteria to help purify the water. Once the quarantine period has ended, you can put the filter media or sponge filter back into your main tank. To find out what is cycling and how to cycle an aquarium, see our full article here.
Run an additional sponge filter or filter medium in an existing tank and then use it when you need to add beneficial bacteria to your hospital tank.
Can I quarantine fish in a bucket? Yes, any clean, food-safe container that is large enough will work in an emergency. Clear sides are best so you can see the fish from all angles.
Should you quarantine shrimps and snails for disease prevention? Dwarf Shrimp can sometimes be infected if they are purchased directly from importers. In our experience, snails rarely seem to carry illnesses, so we usually skip the quarantine step and add them directly to our aquariums.
Do I have to quarantine my first fish? If you are setting up your first tank, you can theoretically add new fish directly into the aquarium without setting up a separate quarantine tank since there are no existing animals to protect. One situation where you might want to use a separate hospital fish tank is if your aquarium is very large and the fish are small enough to go in a scaled-down quarantine setup. Dosing medication in smaller quantities of water will be cheaper than buying an entire tank.
Another instance would be if your main aquarium is full of live plants or snails. In cases where the quarantine med trio does not seem to be effective, we often turn to aquarium salt as a second line of defense. Since plants and snails generally do not like high concentrations of salt, it would be best to move your fish to another container for treatment.
What should I use to treat fish if I can’t buy the quarantine med trio? We recommend using aquarium salt – a cheap and widely available “medicine” that is quite effective for broad-spectrum treatment of bacteria, fungus, and external parasites. However, it is not safe for aquatic plants, snails, and certain fish like anchor catfish. For more information, follow the dosage instructions in our aquarium salt article.