Steps to a Successful Quarantine Experience
One of the most interesting and exciting times for the koi hobbyist is finding and buying a new fish or two for the pond. There are so many varieties, sizes and quality levels that it can take months to decide just what it is that “trips your trigger”. Many times it just comes down to a simple: “I like this one“.
There is one thing that is often overlooked during the search. That is: “Where are we going to put it?” For far too many people releasing the newcomer into the pond is about all the preparation thought to be necessary. There are the customary excuses:
“My dealer has very healthy fish”.
“We only buy fish from one place”.
“We’ve never had a problem introducing new fish to our pond.”
“If we lose one or two now and then it’s not a big deal”.
And my favorite-and one which is usually unsaid but often quietly favored:
“Everyone else does it”.
Having dealt with tropical and ornamental fish for most of my life I can assure you that the quickest way to a devastating experience in this hobby is to add new fish without proper quarantine. No, it doesn’t happen every time. But it does happen. More frequently than we know. People just don’t want to admit that they just lost their prized pet koi. So it goes away quietly and no one is the wiser.
I have been called many times to visit a pond where the fish are sick and dying. One of the first questions I ask is: “About how long ago did you put a new fish in you pond?” In many cases the answer is: “About two (or) three weeks“. Just about the right amount of time for a parasite outbreak and bacterial infection to begin. So if you want to have a positive and successful experience when you have found that new “treasure” please prepare before you buy……not after.
A quarantine tank can be many things. I’ve seen 55gal, 75gal, 120gal, 240gal, 300gal, 800gal, and 1250gal tanks used as quarantine tanks. Whether they are aquariums, stock tanks or professionally built indoor tanks with polycarbonate windows and under water cameras they all have some things in common. They are equipped with powerful filtration, are aerated with large air pumps, have secure covers and are well lit.
The nets, food, hoses, medications, test kits are all separate from the owner’s collection. In other words this is a QUARANTINE tank. It is not just a place to house a few fish for a couple weeks. A quarantine tank is for holding, observing and treating.
Holding should be a minimum of four weeks but eight weeks is far better. If at all possible one or two fish from the existing collection should be added to this tank. During this time the water quality must be monitored for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, total alkalinity, Ph and temperature. Water changes should be accomplished frequently and consistently to insure that the water quality is maintained.
Ammonia level should be zero or nearly so at all times.
Nitrite level should be zero or nearly so at all times.
Nitrate level should be less than 50ppm.
Ph level is important as it should be a consistent reading somewhere between 7.0 and 8.5.
Total alkalinity(carbonate hardness)level: simple: The tank needs some. At minimum 50ppm. Higher levels are perfectly fine but lower levels can allow for a Ph crash. There are a number of areas where baking soda must be used to on a regular basis.
The temperature needs to be held between 65 and 75 degreesF. Consistency is key.
Observing the new fish is very important. New fish may be a bit spooked at first but with the help of a couple fish from the existing collection should soon be feeding and swimming about with them. They should not be laying on the bottom. They should not rub or “flash” against the tank sides. They should be coming to the surface for food more eagerly as time passes. Anything which indicates to you that this fish is not feeling good is cause for action.
Treating new fish is discussed at length and at times heatedly on internet forums around the world. However it is generally agreed that there are a few water column medications which are important to have on hand before the new fish arrives. If you plan on buying a microscope or already own one that is terrific and you’re already ahead of the pack. However if you study the minimum medications needed for parasite treatments it is perfectly fine to treat them using a shotgun approach. The point being to treat the new fish as if they have parasites to begin with. An approach that is actually more accurate than the hobbyist might think.
Either way there are a few medications which are important to have:
A formaldehyde and malachite green solution such as Quickcure or ProformC
Tricide Neo (which is best used as a topical paste)
Diflubenzuron-trade name: Dimilin
Not to forget: City water supply? A dechlorinating chemical such as ChloramX.
Yes there are more but this will give you a start.
You’ll also need:
A gram scale
Measuring devices and cups
A large syringe is useful for measuring liquids(from the farm store)
Well-capped jars for mixing
Small tools such as a tweasers, exacto knife, scissors.
And yes there is more but for now this is enough.
Once you have acquired some quarantine skills and can bring your new acqusitions through the holding, observing and treating steps you’ll find satisfaction knowing you’ve done your best to insure your fish’s health.
No matter what else I hope I’ve convinced you to take quarantine seriously and prepare yourself before you buy that new “bauble” that looks you in the eye and says “take me home?”