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How To Use Hospital Tanks To Keep Fish Diseases From Spreading

Experienced aquarists know the importance of setting up a hospital tank to treat fish diseases. In this article you'll get practical tips on setting up and using a hosptial tank for treating fish diseases.


yellow-chinese-fishWhen one of your fish falls ill it may be just a matter of time before the disease spreads to the other fish in your tank. If you are able to identify the disease by the symptoms and quickly take action to treat the tank you may be able to curtail the spread of the disease, but this is not a guarantee. The best chance you have in stopping the spread of fish diseases is to remove the sick fish from your tank entirely. In order to do this you will need a quarantine or hospital tank where your fish can relax in isolation while you treat it for the disease. Once the fish has recovered you can return it to the main tank.

Requirements for a Hospital Tank

The first thing you need in order to set up a hospital tank is, of course, a spare tank. The size of this tank may be different depending on the type of fish you are currently raising, but it should be no smaller than ten gallons. The ideal size for a hospital tank is twenty gallons because it will provide sick or injured fish with enough space that they do not feel stressed. A tank this size can also double as a quarantine tank or even a breeding tank. In addition to the tank itself you will need a submersible heater, a sponge filter, or canister filter, and some kind of tank cover with lighting. A sponge filter is recommended for a hospital tank because it will fulfill the basic duty of mechanical filtration without producing a water current strong enough to disturb sick or injured fish. If you use a canister filter that utilizes filter media for chemical filtration remove any media containing carbon as this will interfere with the medications administered to the fish.

Setting Up a Hospital Tank

aquarium xs_2493614To minimize the stress to your fish and to maximize the ease of cleaning, hospital tanks should be kept relatively bare. Fill your hospital tank with as much water from the main tank as possible in order to make the transition easier on your sick or injured fish. If you do need to add new water to fill the tank, make sure it is as close in temperature to the main tank as possible. Set up your submersible aquarium heater and set it to the desired temperature. Allow the temperature in the tank to stabilize before you transfer the fish.

Install your sponge filter in one corner of the hospital tank and plug it in. Because you will only have one fish in your hospital tank at a time, the limited function of the sponge filter will be adequate to control waste build-up. Do not cover the bottom of your tank with substrate. Leaving the tank bottom bare will not only make it easier to clean your tank, but it will prevent the build-up of waste which could decrease the water quality in the tank and hamper your efforts at treating fish diseases. If you are worried about maintaining a colony of beneficial bacteria in your hospital tank you can fill a mesh bag with gravel from the main tank and place it in your hospital tank to ensure that the nitrogen cycle will not be interrupted. Decorate the tank sparsely with a few live plants which will increase the oxygen content in your tank and also provide your fish with a place to hide.

Using the Hospital Tank

disease xs 20243547Once you have set up your hospital tank, and the temperature has stabilized, it's time to transfer your sick or injured fish. Use extreme caution when netting your fish and move the fish as carefully as possible to avoid causing undue stress or making an existing injury worse. Once the fish has adjusted to the hospital tank you can begin your treatment regimen. When treating fish diseases, continue to feed your fish normally. If your fish has a lack of appetite, avoid over-feeding because most of the food will end up on the bottom of the tank where it will begin to break down and produce ammonia.

Maintain the cleanliness of your hospital tank in the same way you would your main tank. Perform frequent water changes, removing a small portion of the water from the hospital tank and replacing it with freshly de-chlorinated water or with water from the main tank. Time your water changes to coincide with the administration of medications so the water changes do not interfere with your treatment plan. Use a gravel vacuum to remove waste and uneaten fish food from the bottom of the tank if your sponge filter is not able to remove it all.

net xs_4669904Once your fish has recovered and you have transferred it back into the main tank you will need to disinfect the hospital tank before storing or reusing it. Empty the tank completely and re-fill it with a ten-to-one solution of water to bleach. Let the filter run for about an hour to ensure that the entire tank and the filter itself have been fully disinfected. To remove the bleach safely, empty the tank and refill it - then dose it with ten times the normal amount of de-chlorinating solution. Once you have let the filter run for at least an hour it will be safe to empty the tank then dry it and store it.

If you are frequently in need of a hospital tank for treating fish diseases, then there may be other issues at play you need to consider. Make sure the water quality in the main tank isn't suffering and that any newly purchased fish are quarantined for a least two weeks. Also, in addition to maintaining high water quality, concentrate on maintaining healthy fish by feeding a varied diet of quality fish food. Prevention techniques often work better than the cure.




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