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The New Kid in the Tank

By: Dr. Greg Lewbart

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When you're ready to introduce a new fish to your aquarium, start off by putting it in quarantine. New fish should be isolated for at least 2 weeks, but 4 to 6 weeks is ideal. Your patience will be rewarded because you will safeguard the health of your fish.

What Does Quarantine Do?

Many people don't realize that a fish in a pet store may have been exposed to dozens or even hundreds of fish that have recently been shipped from different points around the world. In many cases, these fish share the same food, water, nets and filters. Because bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites move efficiently through the water from one fish to another, transmission is almost certain within any given tank.

Making matters worse is the fact that during and immediately following shipment is one of the most stressful times in a fish's life, lowering their immune response. (Your pet fish-to-be might have spent days or even weeks in transit.)

So when you add new fish to your aquarium, they should be isolated and closely observed for signs of disease or distress. Most contagious fish diseases will become evident within one month of purchasing a new fish. Chances are, if a fish doesn't come down with a disease within several weeks of shipment, it's probably in good health.

What You Need for Quarantine

A 10-gallon aquarium equipped with an inexpensive box or sponge filter powered by an air pump is all that's needed for most quarantine setups (The simpler the better when it comes to quarantine.) A small heater and aquarium hood may also be helpful. You should keep a log book and record dates, behavior, feeding and general appearance as they apply to your new fish.

Once fish have been introduced to a quarantine tank, no new fish should be added until the quarantine period is complete. Once healthy fish have been placed in your primary aquarium the quarantine setup can be cleaned and prepared for use again. All filter material should be discarded and the permanent components rinsed with hot water and left to dry for several days.

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