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Old 12/25/2003, 05:51 PM
JHardman JHardman is offline
Rare Clownfish Freak
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Phoenix AZ
Posts: 6,035
Post QT Procedures for Clownfish

QT or quarantining new clownfish is something that everyone should at the very least consider. Taking the time, effort and a little bit of money can result in saving many fish lives and you lots of money.

Should I QT captive bred clownfish?

The answer to that really depends on where the fish have been. Remember you mother’s words “don’t put that in your mouth, you do not know where it has been!?. This is very true for CB clownfish too. If you are purchasing directly from a reliable breeder, then chances are very good that you would not need to QT the fish. However since most people do not or can not buy directly from the breeder it is a very good idea to QT them. The primary reason being is that most LFS do not keep CB fish separate from WC fish, thereby exposing them to all of the parasites and diseases that WC fish often bring in with them.

Should I QT wild caught clownfish?

Absolutely! In all the time I have been keeping clownfish, I have never, ever got a WC clownfish that did not have at the very least internal parasites.

What is the purpose of QT?

The primary reason for QT new fish is to see that they are disease and parasite free before adding them to your main tank. A secondary reason to QT is to get the fish used to you and eating the foods that you are going to be feeding day in and day out.

How long should I QT new fish?

A time period of between four and six weeks is long enough to show that vast majority of diseases and parasites. But remember that if you do see and treat for something, the clock starts over as soon as the fish is “cured?.

What is the difference between a QT tank and a hospital tank?

A QT tank is used to watch the fish. A hospital tank is used to treat the fish with medications. They can if setup correctly and with a little planning be one in the same tank.

What size tank do I need?

For the short period of the time that the fish will be in the QT tank a standard 10 gallon tank will work fine even for large species like maroons.

What should I do with my QT tank when not in use?

Drain it. Keep your QT and its equipment dry when not in use. This will prevent the possibility of maintaining a parasite in cyst form.

Can I use the QT tank for something else?

No. Even with excellent cleaning it is possible that a medication used in the tank during a hospital phase could still be present. All though it is very unlikely it might be possible to transfer parasite cysts with the tank too. Considering you can purchase a standard 10 gallon tank for under $20, why risk it.

Can I use LR and sand in the QT tank?

It is not a good idea. Having rough surfaces provides a place for parasite cysts prosper. Also if you need to treat with medications you will need to remove the LR and you do not want to place it back in your system because you could contaminate the main system with whatever is in the QT tank. Having sand is a pain, as it makes it hard to siphon waste and uneaten food, not too mention being a safe harbor for parasite cysts.

Example of a basic QT tank and equipment

1) A standard 10 gallon tank. This can be purchased just about anywhere that sells fish. A 10 gallon tank will often be priced under $10USD. I will generally paint the outside bottom of the tank with white paint to make it easy to see things on the bottom of the tank and to reflect light back up thru the water column.

2) A small heater to maintain tank temp. I like to use 50w heaters that are fairly accurate.

3) Something to keep an eye on the temp in the tank.

4) A small air pump.

5) Several air stones.

6) Air line.

7) Several foam filters.

8) A cover for the tank that will let air pass thru easily. I use egg create cut to fit.

9) Something to monitor ammonia and nitrite levels in the tank.

10) PVC fittings for places to hide.

Something’s that are not required but are nice to have

1) An ammonia alert badge. As soon as you see a color change, it’s time for a water change.

2) pH meter.

3) Refractometer to measure the SG.

4) Small power head.

5) Canister filter that you can run carbon in.

Planning is the key

One of the first things that you will need to do if you want to save yourself a lot of work is to establish a couple of foam filters by running them in an established tank for 4-6 weeks prior to getting new fish. Otherwise you will do daily water changes to keep water quality high. Which takes a lot more time and expense. Personally since I deal with new fish all of the time, I keep many filters running in sumps so that I always have one ready to go. It is a good idea to have more than one filter established as you might need to wipe out one with medications and will need another once you are done treating with medications.

My procedure for common or non skidish clownfish.

After I have established a foam filter and am ready to get new clownfish I need to prepare a QT tank.

The first thing I do is paint the bottom outside of the tank with white paint. This is very handy when it is time to siphon out the wastes and leftovers from the tank. It also will reflect light back up through the water column similar to what a white sanding bottom would do in a shallow reef.

After the paint has had plenty of time to completely dry, I sterilize the tank with bleach water. Rinse the tank thoroughly and allow it to sit dry for a couple of days to insure there is no bleach left on the tank.

I will next rinse all the parts and pieces that will go in the tank with tap water (mine has lots of chloramines).

Time to setup the tank.

I use water from the system that the fish will go into to partially fill the QT tank. I generally fill with (6) gallons of water with a SG of 1.026 and a pH of ~8.1. By only partially filling the tank this leaves me room to add RO or RO/DI water to lower the salinity to SG 1.009 later and to match the transport water that the fish are in when I get them.

I place an air stone under a horizontally placed heater and plug the heater and air pump in.

I generally keep a QT tank at between 82°F and 84°F. This will speed the life cycle of parasites and help you rid the fish of them faster. The caveat is that the parasite will also have a better chance to get the fish if you are not quick to treat.

Time for the fish.

I open the box with the fish in a dimly lit room. Sudden exposure to light can scare the life literally out of clownfish. Slowly bring the lights up over the course of an hour or more.

I place the fish and the bag water into a plastic specimen container and hang the container in the QT tank so that temps can match up.

I test the bag water for salinity (in SG) and the pH. Generally the salinity will be much lower than full strength salt water. The pH will generally be much lower too. If you have rather large clownfish to deal with, you might want to use two containers. This would also be the case with maroon pairs as you do not want the female to kill the male in the small container while you are acclimating them to the QT tank.

I then add RO water the QT tank water to match up the salinity to the bag water. I find this is very helpful as it will reduce the acclimation time from bag water to QT tank water significantly thereby reducing the time that the fish are in a small container.

Next I start to exchange bag water for QT tank water discarding the bag water to match up the pH between the two bodies of water. I generally use a turkey baseter to exchange water about every 15 minutes to 30 minutes. I test the water for temp and pH about 5 to 10 minutes after an exchange of water.

Once everything is equal between the bag water and QT water it is time for a little prophylactic treatment. I find that it is very common to have clownfish with brook especially during the winter months. I do a formalin bath in the specimen container by adding formalin per the manufactures directions. It is important to add an air stone to the container as formalin reduces oxygen in the water.

It is important to watch the fish closely for signs of distress during the bath. If the fish freaks out (thrashing around, darting) for more than about 15-20 seconds or lays on the bottom on their side for more than about 30 seconds to 1 minute it is time to end the bath even if the prescribed time is not yet up.

After the bath time is up based on manufactures directions and the reaction of the fish, I dump as much of the water from the container as possible into the sink or bucket for disposal and then release the fish into the QT tank transferring as little water with formalin as possible.

At this point I will start to lower the SG in the QT tank to SG 1.009 by adding RO water. Lowering the salinity will not only get any ich that might have came in with the new fish, but it will make the fish work less to regulate the amount of salt in their bodies, thereby leaving them more energy to fight diseases and parasites and giving them more time to eat before lack of food takes hold of them.

It is important to note that clownfish can tolerate a rapidly dropping salinity much better than they can a rising salinity. When I lower the SG to 1.009 I need to dip about 3.5 gallons of RO water into the QT tank. I do this over the course of about 8 hours. If the fish show any signs of distress I stop the dip and allow the fish more time to adjust.

Over the course of the first couple of days in QT I check on the fish about every hour. I look for signs of distress, disease and parasites. If I see anything I treat immediately.

I start to offer food as soon as the SG is lowered. I will start of with a combination of frozen Cyclop-eeze, PE mysis and crushed frozen formula 1. Generally they will take one of these if not all. If I get a stubborn fish I will use fortified BBS in addition to the combination above. I will generally leave uneaten food over night to allow the fish to eat off the bottom which they often do when you are not around.

At the one week time frame I start treating with Pipzine in the water to get any internal parasites. Do date I have never got a new clownfish that did not have internal parasites. I treat with the Pipzine per manufactures directions for 1-2 weeks.

I have recently started adding Rid Ich which is a combination of malachite green and formalin to the QT tank from day 1 to day 7. This is a prophylactic treatment for external parasites. It seems to help and is cheap and readily available.

If I need to treat with a medication or chemical that will wipe out the biological filter (foam filter) I will remove the filter and toss it in the trash (they are cheap after all). I do not want to place this filter back into the sump of a system as I might be providing a nice ride for parasites to a healthy food source. I will place a “new? established filter once the medication or chemical treatment is complete. I use water changes to control pollution during this type of treatment.

If I get a parasite like ich or brook I will also clean and replace the cover items in the tank daily to help insure there is nothing to harbor the parasite’s cysts. I will also wipe the inside of the glass with a paper towel for the same reason.

Toward the end of the QT time, generally about the fourth week I start to raise the salinity in the QT tank by SG 0.001 or SG 0.002 per day until the QT tank water is at the same salinity as the system the fish will eventually be going into. Keep in mind that fish can stand a rapidly dropping salinity well, but do not tolerate a rapidly rising one. This is why I can drop the SG to 1.009 in one day, but have to take about two weeks to raise it.

Tips, tricks and hints…

1) Use a piece of masking tape to mark the water level of the QT tank. This is an easy visual reminder to top off evaporation daily.

2) Get the ammonia alert badge. As soon as you see a color change do a 50% water change, even when you have a foam filter running.

3) Use this time to train the fish to eat from your hand. This will go a long way to taming a wild clownfish and making less afraid of people and less aggressive in the future.

4) Clownfish will once they have an established feeding schedule defecate ± 30 minutes of a feeding time. Use this to watch for stringy feces, the classic sign that they have internal parasites. Also keep an eye on the wastes on the bottom of the tank for indications of stringy feces.

5) Siphon the wastes from the fish at each feeding. This will go a long way to maintaining the water quality. Leave uneaten food overnight and siphon in the morning. Many clownfish will eat off the bottom while you are not around.

6) Clearly mark the tank as a QT tank so it doesn’t end up being used for something else in the future by mistake.

QT for skidish or touchy clownfish

In addition to all of the procedure outlined above I also do the following…

1) Cover the sides of the tank with something. I generally use newspaper. This will make the fish feel more comfortable, like being in a big safe cave. I will start rolling down the newspaper around week 3 and completely remove it by the 5th week assuming they are reacting well to the change.

2) Do not wear dark or bright colors while working with touchy clowns. They are very visual fish and suddenly seeing some massive “thing? that is bright red or all black can literally scare the life out of them. Try to stick with neutral colors like browns, tans, pastel colors that are not bright.

3) Be consistent on the times that you work with the fish. Clownfish are very time aware and will react better if they are expecting you.

4) Try to get them used to you and the other people in your house. The last thing you want to do is get them used to you, only to make a deadly run into the glass when seeing someone else that they will see often in the future.

5) Get them used to having hoses, hands and anything else you regularly use in your tanks. It is often better to show them a hose right after feeding than just springing it on them.

6) Try to train them to eat from your hand. This will work wonders in gaining their trust and taming them in general. Just go slow and take your time.

7) Make sure your top is secure. Many skidish clownfish are prone to wild jumps, and yes they can easily knock the typical egg create top off and go carpet surfing without you.

8) Avoid placing the QT tank in an area that gets heavy foot traffic. Or placing the QT tank in an area that might be subject to “flipping on the lights? in the middle of the night.

9) Give them a little night light. This will reduce the chances of a bad night time scare.

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