Comprehensive Marine Quarantine – Transfer Method II and Hyposalinity

by | Nov 30, 2016 | 0 comments


The best way to avoid having a disease infection in your main display aquarium is to have a proactive and comprehensive quarantine system from the start as professional aquarist have learned from experience. This article is to encourage all marine aquarist, of every level, to have a quarantine system using current best practices, where you can easily proactively treat for 99% of all marine fish diseases before they show up in your main display aquarium. Best case scenario you will need to quarantine all new fish for 37 days yet it’s more than worth it.



Quarantine Goal

This might sound like overkill yet the idea is to develop a clear holistic approach for just about everything out there, without having to micromanage every fish individually. Yes, this is a lot more work, yet bear in mind this becomes more and more practical and advantageous as you get into larger numbers of fish stock and investment levels to consider. Are you adding a damsel to a 20 gallon fish only or are you adding that damsel to a fully stocked 400 gallon mixed fish and coral reef system? What about a 400,000 gallon mixed reef? How much work will an infestation then entail?

Quarantine All Invertebrates, Rocks and Corals

– One note worth mentioning here is that it is very possible for a Cryptocaryon or Amyloodinium infection to also occur from adding any new live rock and corals (with a small piece of attached rock) to the system where the tomites can be attached for up to 75 days. While it’s unproven they could actually attach themselves to any invertebrate tissues themselves, it’s known that they attach to rocky like substrates and could be attached to a snail’s shell, for example, and to an exoskeleton of a crab or shrimp. Based on this, it’s advisable to quarantine all invertebrates and without-a-doubt rocks and corals with attached rock in a fish free system for 76 days before adding them to your main mixed fish and reef display.


Quarantine All Fish

We are all familiar with the problems and frustrations of an ich infestation yet according Jay Hemdal, curator at the Toledo Aquarium, Neobenedenia flukes are even a greater problem for them than Cryptocaryon and they incorporate a dual copper and hyposalinity quarantine system, to eradicate both Cryptocaryon and Neobenedenia flukes, that they plan to publish in the 2017 Marine Aquarium Annual. Barret Christie, who is now at the OdySea Aquarium, developed a flukes hyposalinity treatment which consists of using a 15 ppt hyposalinity for 30 days. Hemdal has identified through his experience the following in order of how commonplace each affliction is for new arrivals: (Hemdal, Christie 2016.)

  1. Bacterial infections – systemic bacterial disease, including Mycobacteriosis
  2. Neobenedenia flukes
  3. Monogenean flukes (gill or skin)
  4. Cryptocaryon
  5. Uronema
  6. Amyloodinium

Therefore the goal of any quarantine process should be to tackle all 6 of these afflictions and using a combination of methods this can be accomplished.image005.jpg

  1. Bacterial infections: Proactively fight with safe formalin such as SeaChem’s Paraguard. Only use an antibiotic based product if you see or highly suspect an actual bacterial infection.
  2. Neobenedenia flukes: Eradicated with the Hyposalinity Method or a Prazipro type medication
  3. Monogenean flukes: Eradicated with the Hyposalinity Method or a Prazipro type medication
  4. Cryptocaryon: Eradicated with the Hyposalinity Method – most of the time – as there are hyposalinity resistant strains (Bartelme, 2003.) and the Transfer Method II or Copper
  5. Uronema: Eradicate with a malachite green based medication or safe formalin based medications such as Sea Chems Paraguard (Bartelme, 2007.)
  6. Amyloodinium (Velvet): Help fight with the Transfer Method II, eradicate with Copper Method or Chloroquine Phosphate

Although this is as yet unproven, based upon the Amyloodinium life cycle the Transfer Method II here described should also be effective to help fight Amyloodinium and more research is required for confirmation. This might account for the popularity of the Transfer Method among hobbyist who have misdiagnosed Amyloodinium for Cryptocaryon and have none the less enjoyed success. It is currently unknown exactly how effective either a 3 day or a 2 day transfer method would be and further professional laboratory grade research in possible transfer methods is needed. First we need a more detailed precise life cycle study, based on hours instead of days. Then to run a series of studies with Amyloodinium to see concrete percentages of success and failure.

Until then for the average hobbyist, like myself, copper or chloroquine phosphate is the only known proven cure for Marine Velvet (Miller, 2015), and (Hemdal, 2013) Thus if you suspect Marine Velvet or if you still have an infection after doing the transfers, then you will need to incorporate or switch over to one of these treatments. If you do not have any small angles, sharks or rays then you could incorporate copper from the beginning.

Transfer Method II and Hyposalinity Hybrid Method

I would like to suggest an alternate version of the Transfer Method (Colorni, 1985.), named the Transfer Method II, to proactively eradicate Cryptocaryon irritans from new arrivals and when this is combined with the Hyposalinity Method it will also stop flukes. (Hemdal, Christie 2016.) Therefore it’s advantageous to mix the Transfer Method II with the Hyposalinity Method (Leebca, 2007.) by adjusting to a 12 ppt salinity (1.009 specific gravity) from the beginning and extending your quarantine to 37 days.

This method seems to work 100% of the time and most importantly is practical for the average hobbyist to use proactively to eliminate any infestation before it occurs on all new arrivals. (Please note this can be mildly stressful on fish yet much less so than an infection and then a post treatment of Copper.) As opposed to the Tranfer Method (Humblefish, 2016.) sterilization and ammonia levels aren’t a concern nor is there a large amount of water wasted.

Anyone can verify the solid science this method is based upon by simply looking at the now well known life cycle of Cryptocaryon and by looking at the original Transfer Method. The important numbers to know about Cryptocaryon are: they stay on the fish from 3 to 7 days, they stay from 3 to 72 days attached to a surface and they have up to 2 days to find a new host. (Colorni & Burgess, 1997.)

Instead of two buckets or aquariums, as in the Transfer Method, you simply use 5 small quarantine aquariums where you transfer every 3 days. You then start over and reuse them without contamination concerns after 2 and half months or 75 days (or optionally on Day 16 you can start over by draining all 5 aquariums and letting everything completely dry out for 1 to 2 days before again adding new water).

Start 5 small quarantine aquariums with a small amount of inert gravel, an established filter or optionally bare bottom, using cycled water from an established infection free system. Then to incorporate the Hyposalinity Method drop the salinity to 12 ppt salinity (1.009 specific gravity). Then wait a week to cycle or simply add freshly mixed water and wait a month to cycle. To avoid shock upon a transfer the five quarantine aquariums should be exactly the same setup and original source water to have the same water parameters. Following good Hyposalinity Method procedures use a good quality refractometer or electronic probe for precise salinity control and test or monitor PH with a kit or ideally a high quality electron probe and test daily and buffer using baking soda, that has been cooked at 350 F for 30 minutes, if required. (Leecba 2007)

Day 1 – Place your fish in the first quarantine aquarium and if you’re incorporating hyposalinity acclimate using the Drip Method for 3 hours. Although Toby Lowry curator at the Oklahoma Aquarium has seen no ill short or long-term effects from just immediately dropping in fish from 33 ppt to 11 ppt (1.022 to 1.003 specific gravity). (Lowry, 2004.)

Day 4 – After 3 days transfer your fish from the first to the second quarantine aquarium. Transfer them over in a small container with just enough water for them to be submersed under or if you have to with a net. At each transfer transmission become less likely and by the fifth transfer the fish should Cryptocaryon and Amyloodinium free. There is a very small chance of transfer of a Tomont or Protomont in this process (with the water and on the fish of course) yet not to worry that’s why you have a series of transfers and the parasite will be left behind.

Day 7 – Repeat transfer to the third quarantine aquarium.

Day 10 – Repeat transfer to the fourth quarantine aquarium.

Day 13 – Repeat transfer to the fifth quarantine aquarium.

Day 30 – Now if there are no signs of disease, gradually increase the salinity back to normal levels over 7 days. It’s not recommended to do anything less than 7 days as raising the salinity is the most stressful part (Leebca, 2007).

Day 37 – Transfer from the fifth quarantine to your main display aquarium. Make sure you appropriately acclimate when going from the last quarantine aquarium to your main display.

Day 76 – After 75 days you can safely start over again with new fish using the same water. (Optionally on Day 30 you can start over by draining all 5 aquariums and letting everything completely dry out for 24 hours before again adding new water.)

The aquarium size used depends on how big and how many fish you have. Place the aquariums side by side with top lids and you can go as big as required. I’ve traditionally used five 10 gallon aquariums for fish up to about 5″. There is the unproven theory out there that Cryptocaryon is capable of aerosolization and can pass from one aquarium to the next on tiny droplets. Until we know more it would be advisable to avoid air pumps, to use top lids and perhaps to have a barrier between each aquarium (this according to Jay Hemdal 2016 and Humblefish 2016). .


Other Quarantine Options to Incorporate



  1. Bartelme, D. Terry. “Aquarium Fish: News From The Warfront With Cryptocaryon Irritans, Part Two Of Five- Advanced Aquarist, December, 2003.
  2. Bartelme, D. Terry. “Feature Article: Identifying Parasitic Diseases in Marine Aquarium Fish – A Hobbyist’s Guide to Identifying Some Common Marine Aquarium Parasites- Advanced Aquarist October, 2007.
  3. Colorni, “Three Day Transfer Method- ATJ’s Marine Aquarium Site, 1985, 2008.
  4. Colorni, A. & Burgess, P.J. “Cryptocaryon irritans Brown 1951, the Cause of White Spot Disease in Marine Fish: an Update.- Aquarium Sciences and Conservation, 1997.
  5. Hemdal, Jay. Christie, Barret “Cryptocaryon and Quarantine Methods- email communication, 2016.
  6. Hemdal, Jay. “Aquarium Fish: Chloroquine: A “New” Drug for Treating Fish Diseases- 2013.
  7. Humblefish. “Tank Transfer Method- REEF2REEF, 2016.
  8. Miller, Bobby. “TANK TERROR: Identifying And Treating Marine Velvet- REEF2REEF, 2015.
  9. Leebca, “A Hyposalinity Treatment Process – Reef Sanctuary, 2007.
  10. Lowry, Toby. D.V.M., “Short Take: Quarantine of Marine Fish (Teleost) Using Hyposalinity- Advanced Aquarist, November 2004.
  11. “Marine Velvet (Amyloodinium ocellatum)- Ultimate Reef, 2007.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *