what is a quarantine fish tank

What is a Quarantine Fish Tank and Do I Need One?

A quarantine fish tank is the safest way to take care of a sick fish by separating it from its tankmates.

A quarantine fish tank (also known as a hospital tank) is set up in the same way as your main fish tank, where you can place a sick or injured fish to hopefully nurse back to full health, without compromising the health of the rest of your fish.

Research indicates that less than 5% of all aquarium owners have a quarantine tank set up. I was really surprised at this figure as I thought it would have been higher than this.

Not having a quarantine tank can cause a problem if one of your fish gets sick, as it can put the rest of your tank at risk very quickly.

For anyone who has no idea what quarantine tanks are, or how important they can be, this article will give you all the information you need. 

Should I Get a Quarantine Tank?

Yes, to be on the safe side, you should have a quarantine tank set up in case of any fish health emergencies.

Your fish can become exposed to a number of diseases and parasites when they are moved from the retailer to your private tank. For this reason, it is important to have a separate tank set up, especially if you have a larger tank and are adding a variety of species to it. In cases such as this, quarantining the new fish is important because it makes sure they are clear of any potential issues before adding them to your main aquarium.

Is a Quarantine Tank and a Hospital Tank the Same Thing?

what is a hospital tank
Is there a difference between a quarantine tank and a hospital tank?

There’s a bit of confusion among the fishkeeping community concerning hospital tanks and quarantine tanks and if there is actually a difference between them.

Both terms are commonly used together to mean the same thing, there’s a slight difference between a hospital tank and a quarantine tank, but the overall goal is pretty similar. That is, to keep a group or a single fish separated from the rest.

A quarantine/hospital fish tank is the same thing but serves 2 purposes:

1-To separate a sick fish from the rest of the group.

2-To quarantine any new fish to prevent them bringing any disease into the main tank.

Does a Quarantine Tank Need Cycling? 

If you don’t already know what cycling a fish tank is, cycling a fish tank simply means creating a water filtration system that makes sure there is a good bacteria colony in it that will aid in removing toxic waste hence ensuring that your fish have a healthy environment to live and thrive in. 

A well-balanced and healthy aquarium heavily relies on bacteria to break down fish waste, dead plant material, and other organic matter that may accumulate in your fish tank. These bacteria also serve to keep the water clean and clear, while preventing toxic elements like ammonia and nitrate from building up.

My advice is to have a fully cycled quarantine tank. It seems a bit daft to remove a sick fish from a tank, then put it into uncycled water, which could make them even worse.

Technically, there is another way of having a cycled quarantine tank. This is to add another filter sponge to your main tank filter for a few days so the new sponge soaks up the good, cycled water/bacteria. If you then need to start up a quarantine tank, you add that sponge to the filter in the second tank, as well as some of the water from your main tank.

How Long Should a Fish Stay in a Quarantine Tank if Sick?

A sick fish should be quarantined for at least 2 to 4 weeks, this is mainly dependant on what the problem is, and how long the medication needs to be administered for.

You will find guidelines with the different medications on how long to keep your fish separate from the others.

How Long Should a New Fish Stay in a Quarantined Fish Tank?

The general rule is that new fish should be quarantined for 2 weeks before being added to your main fish tank.

Special care should be taken if the fish has been living in a community tank. In this case, quarantining your fish is strongly advised, to make sure they are of good health before adding them to your own tank.

Common Equipment Needed for a Quarantine Tank. 

This is the essential equipment you will need to set up your quarantine tank.

Being a smaller version of an aquarium, setting up a quarantine tank shouldn’t be too difficult. With this in mind, a simple aquarium quarantine tank can easily be set up using;

  • A fish tank
  • Heater
  • Thermometer
  • Filter
  • Filter sponge, ideally one that has been in your main tank already
  • hiding place, plant etc

Note that all the above-mentioned equipment should be thoroughly cleaned before use.

I would also recommend you get some aquarium salt and the basic fish medications as a precaution.

This post may be helpful regarding fish tank thermometers.

How to Set Up a Quarantine Tank.

If you are going to have your quarantine tank running full time, you will need to set the tank up as you would your main fish tank.

Make sure everything has been cleaned beforehand.

I would advise to set it up by using some of the water from your main tank and then adding some fresh water to it. Make sure the fresh water has been conditioned first.

Use the filter that has been gathering good bacteria in your main tank and add it to your quarantine tank.

You don’t need to have the heater on permanently in a quarantine tank when you don’t have any fish in there, but remember, you will need to have the heater on for a while before adding any fish so that the water is at the correct temperature.

Don’t forget to use your thermometer to double check the temperature before adding in your fish.

If you are using the tank for a sick fish, and need to use aquarium salt or strong medication, you will need to clear the quarantine tank afterwards and start the cycle off again as anything added to the tank will probably affect the balance of the beneficial bacteria.

How to Quarantine a Fish Without a Tank.

If you don’t have access to a second tank, but suddenly find that you need one, have a look at this video from the guys at Aquarium Co-Op.

In the case of an absolute emergency, where you don’t have time to set anything up, my advice would be to use a bucket, wrap some towels around it to insulate it a bit, and transfer some of the water from your main tank.

Honestly though, it is a lot easier to go and buy a second, smaller tank, and have it there just in case.

There is nothing worse than one of your fish becoming sick, and taking the rest of the tank with it.

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