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Coral Quarantine

Before going into too much detail on anything else, a proper quarantine procedure deserves recognition.  While there are many differing views on how and what to quarantine, this is my approach.  If it seems a bit neurotic and obsessive, that’s ok.  Find what works for you and stick with it.

Basic Setup

First, I have an established reef aquarium that I keep running continuously with no fish (this helps prevent Cryptocaryon irritans infestations in my aquariums).  Contrary to popular belief, long-term survivability of a reef tank without fish is quite easy.  Lighting must also be adequate for what you intend to keep.  A good skimmer should not be overlooked as well.  If the tank will be a hospital tank, then a carbon reactor is essential to help remove coral mucus.  Basically, this aquarium system does not have to be fancy or have all the frills.  It just has to work.

My Old Quarantine System

The Purchase

I typically only purchase from reputable hobbyists/vendors.  Even then, I inspect every coral visually for Acropora-eating flatworm bite marks (AEFW), red bugs, pest algaes, and any other hitchhikers.  Once the coral arrives home I acclimate it into the quarantine tank.

Coral Dips and Inspections

After the coral is acclimated, I open the bag and put the coral in one cup of tank water in a separate container.  The coral is then removed from the plug/base, and all dead skeleton is removed as much as possible.  All corals except smooth-skinned Acropora (they die frequently) are treated with one milliliter of CoralRx mixed with the one cup of tank water.  Smooth-skinned Acropora are treated with Lugol’s Iodine mixed to manufacturer’s instructions.  There are other suitable coral dips, but CoralRx is what I prefer. 

The small amount of water volume limits where pests can hide after the dip draws them out.  I allow the corals to sit in the dip for the manufacturer specified time.  While the coral is sitting in the dip, I use a pipette to gently baste the coral to blow any remaining pests out of the crevices.  I also use a magnifying glass to identify the hitchhikers.

Coral in CoralRx Dip

If I find any pests or evidence of them (bite marks or eggs), then I will do an additional pest-specific treatment.  A list of common reef-pest treatments is below.  I keep all treatment medications on hand so I never find myself looking for drugs at an odd hour (hmm…that sounds bad…).

Montipora-eating Nudibranchs on a Montipora digitata
After dip time is completed, the corals are rinsed with quarantine aquarium water (NOT the bag water.)  Any remaining skeleton or base rock is dipped in hydrogen peroxide for 20-30 seconds to kill algae spores.  Hydrogen peroxide isn’t great for the coral tissue itself (prevents calcification), but it isn’t immediate death either.  Just be careful.  Also, do not use the crazy high-strength hydrogen peroxide as it is very dangerous (can cause blindness in humans).  Just use the normal pharmacy type.

After the peroxide dip, I seal any remaining skeleton or base rock in super glue.  This way, if there are any remaining pests or algae spores, they will have a hard time getting past the glue barrier.  The coral will quickly grow over the super glue, and within about a month the super glue should not be noticeable.

Coral with Dead Skeleton Coated in Super Glue

Quarantine Tank

Corals are then transferred to the quarantine tank where they will stay for at least 30 days.  During that time I visually inspect each coral about every three days for pests/bite marks/and overall health.  After the 30 days, I go through the entire dipping process again.  The corals then go into a grow-out tank/secondary quarantine where they live for another 30 days.  After those 30 days, I repeat the dipping process a third time.  But, I leave the entire base of the coral or a nice fragment of the coral in the grow-out tank.  This allows me to have a healthy backup in case I lose my main colony.  The main colony is moved to the main display after the dipping process.

My Grow-out Tank

Why Bother?

Yes, it takes a whopping 60 days for a coral to make it to my main display.  But, I can rest assured that I do not have pests or nuisance algae.  I will not have to rip out my corals to treat for AEFW or go almost two years without Montipora corals to treat for Monti-eating Nudibranchs.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  I can also sell my coral clippings knowing I’m providing a very healthy specimen to another hobbyist.

No matter where you buy a coral from, always quarantine.  Do not trust anyone, even me.  Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes even a backup safety fails.  You do not have to quarantine like I do, but any amount is better than nothing.  I hope this post provides some insight on how to improve your procedures.  Below is a list of medications I have on hand for a variety of coral problems and some equipment I use as well.

Potassium Permanganate:  Montipora-eating Nudibranchs
Levamisole:  AEFW
CoralRx:  Coral dip for pests (can also be used to eradicate AEFW)
Revive/TMPCC/etc.:  Coral Dips
Lugol’s Iodine:  Coral dip; helps with light sensitivity
Furan-2:  Zoa-pox
Interceptor:  Red bugs (requires a prescription from a vet)
Salifert Flatworm Exit:  Red Planaria flatworms (not all species respond as well as others)
Vitamin C:  Various uses, especially for helping Zoanthids
Hydrogen Peroxide:  Algae spores
Super glue:  Great for sealing dead skeleton and/or cuts
Scapel:  Cutting
Bone Cutters:  Breaking/Cutting
Pipette:  Squirting/Basting
Graduated Cylinders:  Measuring
Magnifying Glass:  Looking
Camera:  Still can’t figure something out…take a photo and post!!

2 pings

  1. Black Bugs & Gray Bugs…Invisible Killers » Reef'd Up Aquatics

    […] similar problems.  I don’t know how these pests reproduce, so if you dip, I still recommend quarantine.  Red bugs are live bearers, but I wouldn’t take any […]

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