First, let’s get one thing straight: not all quarantine protocols are legitimate. You may have been told your fish has been “quarantined,” but what does that really mean? How long was the quarantine? Were they mixed with fish from other dealers? Were they prophylacticly treated with anything?
We know our 4-6 week quarantine period is strict. The shorter duration is for fish at higher temperatures, which increase the life cycles of many pathogens, causing them to appear faster. It takes into consideration the most common pathogens, includes incubation periods, time until clinical signs present, and adds a little extra time because not all pathogens read the rule book. But if your fish is quarantined far away, you may be looking at a second quarantine down the line.
But I don’t wanna do that!! I want to add my fish now!
Quarantining a fish at your vendor is a good idea. But, again, make sure you know their protocol and the rationalization behind it. No “reputable dealer” can guarantee a fish is healthy. But this first quarantine will make sure your fish is healthy BEFORE it leaves the vendor.
Consider what your fish goes through between the vendor and your home. We equivocate it to an “alien abduction” for mainly one reason: it stresses your fish out. Increased stress from capture, transport and a new, foreign environment of a new pond with new fish friends can cause a chronic situation where your fish’s immune system does not function well. This leaves a clear path for all those pathogens lurking in and on your fish to replicate and flourish. Fact: your fish live in a toilet and have pathogens, such as bacteria and parasites, on them 24/7. Their immune function keeps these pathogens from taking over. But, obviously, if your immune system isn’t working well (i.e. stress), those bugs get the green light. And in most systems, it only takes one sick fish to infect the entire system.
So, how do I minimize stress?
There’s no perfect method of transporting and introducing a fish to a new environment without some stress. Appropriate capture, using an effective and quick method, and proper transfer is a start. Starting your fish in a hospital/quarantine tank will limit the spread of disease and decrease the cost of treatment. Rather than having to treat a larger system and all the fish, you only have to treat the Q tank.
When the time comes to move your fish out of quarantine and into the main system, obviously only if they are healthy, the transport is almost instantaneous and they are already used to the water chemistry. (Remember: when moving fish, make sure their pH and temperatures match, or you will need to acclimate your fish.)
Yes, quarantine is a pain. We know. But you will save you money and lives. Maybe the lives of ALL your fish.