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Quarantine Protocals: New Arrivals

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  • Quarantine Protocals: New Arrivals

    Close is the time approaching, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, when new koi are commonly added to existing population stocks. The following quarantine protocols and procedures are of my own design and I present them only in theoretical form for forum discussion and debate. Because of the many unknown variables I cannot be held liable for any consequences resulting from their use or implementation.

    In General:

    Since most of the following procedures will render a biological filter ineffective, the quarantine tank must have a system in place that will reduce the load of potential pathogens. A diatomaceous earth filter will remove suspended particulates, uneaten food and most suspended bacteria. A U.V. light is also advisable at the last return point into the quarantine the tank. Reducing organics would be facilitated by partial water changes.

    If the treatment dose is too high or treatment times are too long, there is a danger of toxicity to the fish, frequently causing liver, kidney, or other organ damage that may or may not be reversible. Also, in any population an individual may have an adverse (allergic) reaction resulting in death.

    Between each treatment step the koi should be given a rest period to recover from any toxic effects from the previous treatment period. 5-10 days is usually sufficient if no side effects were observed in any koi.

    Salt (sodium chloride) is a prophylactic treatment and not to be used in any of these procedures as it may cause some of the doses to be toxic or ineffective.

    Water temperature is adjusted to 70F (75F optimized) or higher stimulates the koi immune system and also accelerates the adult/larval life cycle of parasites.

    KHV and SCV virus is beyond the scope of this article as I feel unqualified to discuss it. If present, it will however reveal itself during the quarantine period.

    Check for anchor worms (lernea). Remove them before treatments start.

    Step 1 (10 day duration)

    Antibiotic procedures are the logical first step because of possible injuries and stress resulting from transport and handling. The most cost effective and commonly used method to deliver antibiotics is orally by mixing them into food. The proper dose of antibiotic is mixed into the feed using fish oil or canola oil as a binding agent, and the mixture is then fed to the fish for the prescribed number of days. It is preferred that antibiotics are obtained through veterinarian health specialist that will be able to provide information on legal constraints for specific antibiotics, information for correct dosages, and proper methods of administration. Under no circumstances are “pet store” antibiotics utilized unless an expiration date is given. Most bacteria that infect fish fall into one of two groups – gram-positive or gram-negative. Treat koi with Erythromycin (gram-negative) antibiotics for no less than 10 days.

    Step 2 (10 day duration)

    Treat koi with penicillin or ampicillin (gram-positive) antibiotics for no less than 10 days. After conclusion of the last antibiotic procedures one needs supplement the diet with probiotic (reestablishing of bacteria or microflora in the gut of the fish) bacteria.They include the families of Lactobacillus and Bifidus bacteria. More digestible feed containing high levels of wheat germ and spirulina are strategically used at this point.

    Step 3 (7-14 day duration)

    For intestinal nematode infections of ornamental fish, several anthelminthics (dewormers) are available. Three effective and commonly used dewormers are praziquante,l fenbendazole and levamisole. Fenbendazole can only be used as a feed additive. Watch for voided tapeworms in feces. Depending on what choice of drug treatment is used, steps 3 and 4 could be a single step treatment.

    Step 4 (14 day duration)

    For external flukes, liver flukes, internal parasites and internal worms use Supaverm or praziquantel as per directions. Do opercular scrapes to confirm absences of flukes before step 5 is initiated.

    Step 5 (14 day duration)

    Before initiating the last, and most stressful, one might consider a detoxifying period of 14 days before treating with malachite green and formalin. This is available in several commercial formulations and will eradicate the adult forms of ich, costia, trichodina and chilodonella.

    Step 6 (14 days)

    One should consider combining a few members of the "old" or "resident" population with a few members of the "new" population in another system for a week or two at the end of the quarantine period. This approach will help determine if any subclinical infections are present (subclinical means that a very low level of disease is present but not causing obvious symptoms). If this is the case, these diseased fish present in the resident population may cause disease in the new fish or the opposite may occur.

  • #2

    No question that following this type of protocol would give a degree of assurance that new fish would not introduce pathogens to an existing collection. I think it is rather over done, simply because most of the organisms being treated are always going to be present in a pond. The length of the proposed quarantine would give great benefits because any condition the new arrivals might have would surely exhibit itself, and the new fish would have plenty of time to adjust. Of course, the filtration etc on the quarantine has to be equivalent to a separate permanent pond.

    There will be many who automatically react that no treatment should be given without first identifying that a pest is present and that a need to treat exists. I would go that direction myself. However, I have very little experience with bacterial infections. I do know that I have never had hole disease except on new koi within 60 days of arrival. Perhaps automatically treating with antibiotics would take care of those couple of occasions. All reports indicate that prazi and supaverm are very safe for use on koi, providing little or no risk to the fish unless the keeper is truly a fumbler. So, in the end, it is primarily the automatic use of formalin/malachite green that causes concern. That is coming at the end of a lengthy quarantine, by which time any signs of problems would already be known. And, formalin is potentially dangerous, and malachite green is a carcinogen.

    Assuming you are going to do all these things, why wouldn't you start with formalin/mg, since costia, chilodonella etc are very dangerous on newcomers and flukes will get handled (or at least set back) by the treatment. The treatment can occur fairly quickly, and eliminating the vermin which can be a cause for bacterial infections would seem more logically to precede a prophylactic anti-biotic treatment. Typically, if there was costia and flukes and early signs of an ulcer, wouldn't you get rid of the parasites immediately?


    • #3

      I think it's a good idea to have a q tank and know how to use it. I always worry not so much about the learned members of our contributors but those who participate by reading. this a a scarey and difficult topic to digest and can cause alot of anguish. I hope many of our long time keepers and KHA folks will
      make small contributions. any big plateful is consumed a bite at a time so i hope we might break it down into bites as this is a wonderful and important thread at this time...(thank-you Mark!)

      A Q Tank needs to be set up and established by the time the new koi arrive.
      It needs to have been running for awhile. Since koi of gregarious you need atleast two in there to begin with. This keeps the filter going and a buddy to pal with. You must know to the gallonage the amount of water in the system. A water meter is perfect for this job. you need an active filter system that has been stabilized. which occurs minimally after some 6 weeks from start. You need to be able to control the heat.

      when koi come in from a flight across country or the pacific ocean, they like all travelors are weary. A quiet semi lighted spot where they can rest is called for. this is a time to set and watch the koi for the first few days to see what develops. Are they flashing, do they lay clamped fins on the bottom.

      I worry that many new koi keepers trying to do the right thing will start doing unnecessary treatments and add to the problem not the solution. Treatments
      should be made only after a positive diagnosis of what your dealing with.

      you need to have access to a microscope. KHA advisors are trained as is your
      local dealer. Ask in your club who will be willing to help if you don't have the knowledge.

      ( this is a start, I hope other's will add their expertise here)

      if I were to capsulize what I just said is....prepare a wonderful established place for the koi to rest and revitalize. don't even think about food (remember how when you travel at the end of the day how when your tired food is not a big deal?)
      Dick Benbow


      • #4


        This was the Koi Bito condensed version of my compiled notes concerning quarantine. It regrettably leaves a lot of blanks… which I thought would best served by questions and answers. Your question: “wouldn't you get rid of the parasites immediately?” Answer: The anchor worms are removed before treatments starts because they can leave open wounds which the following antibiotic treatments can prevent from becoming infected. The malachite green and formalin cure is as bad as the disease itself is sometimes. I would hesitate to subject the newly arrived and stressed koi to the malachite green/formalin treatment as the first course of treatment. I feel the use of diatomaceous earth filter will keep any external parasites populations in check (except for live bearing flukes) until treated. I highly recommend a diatom filter for quarantine tanks. They are capable of filtering particles as small as one micron (millionth of a meter). Since almost all freshwater parasites are larger than one micron, they are entrapped by the filter and thus eliminated from the tank. If not incorporating a diatom filter in the quarantine tank, I would make an assessment of the parasites and probably go your route and treat for parasites first.

        My philosophy is to assume the koi have been exposed to or have the aforementioned disease, and will be treated for each specific pathogen accordingly. Antibiotics, in and of themselves, do not cure the koi. Antibiotics merely control the population of bacteria in a koi long enough for its immune system to eliminate them. Once healthy, koi are extremely sturdy and long lived creatures. I still have my first koi, purchased over thirty years ago.



        • #5

          Hi Guys, if you purchase koi for good dealer they will have QT the koi before you buy it. Should you turn around and QT again. Are they not debuged when pulled from the mud ponds? Then shipped and QT again. Why so many times? Would this not stress the koi out to much?


          • #6

            Hi Koifish girl. The advice that Dick gave is in my opinion is very good. Just to reiterate and add a little:
            • Provide a facility with water quality at least as good as your koi pool; this is very important.
            • Allow it to rest and you then can observe it and take mucus scrapes for parasites for microscopical analysis.
            • Deal with any bacterial problems / wounds (salt and temps. around 70 degrees F will help healing)
            • As a hobbyist, I would NOT prophylactically treat with antibiotics, because of the risk of bacteria developing antibiotic resistance.
            • Only treat IF you have to, and only in response to a daignosed problem. If in doubt, get advice.
            The question you pose is logical, but it assumes that your dealer has been able to effectively and efficiently QT a given koi, and that there or no remaining parasites or other bacteria that may take advantage of the koi being stressed (even slightly) following it's transportation to it's new home. Even healthy koi are rarely, if ever, parasite free.

            I guess that we all have to make our own decisons about whether to QT or not. However, as I see it, the risk of introducing problems from even an apparently healthy "clean" koi from an excellent koi dealer is small, but the impact of any introduced disease/ parasite to your other koi could potentially be HUGE. Feeling lucky ?....
            I hope that helps ?
            Best regards, Mark


            • #7

              Would not a sick koi show sign of being sick after the stress of being shipped? I plan on Qt the koi that is being shipped to me from Keirin Koi, but they have been holding the koi for me all winter. If the koi has problems would it have not shown up by now. It being shipped form Japan. What aboul length to time someone has had the koi would that not play a role in what the koi health would be like. What I mean is if you had the koi for a long time a have had no problem with them, what would be the chances of the koi haveing anything that could kill your whole pond of koi. Im doing this because of the risk. I am just woundering if all the QT is a risk in itself for the koi.


              • #8

                KFG: It all depends.

                As Peter Waddington points out in Koi2Kichi, if your quarantine is not fully established [as good as having them in their own pond], then you have to balance the risks. ... the risk to the new koi of being harmed by an unsuitable quarantine, and the risk to the existing koi of being exposed to an unquarantined new fish.

                There are no parasite free koi, except dead ones.


                • #9

                  Mike your the best!
                  that last sentence of yours is the quote of the week! You hit the nail on the head.

                  with respect to dealers doing it for you, that is your decision. Waddy can tell you about the shape koi come in from the mudponds/dealers. It isn't pretty.
                  I can name one dealer, That i have personal knowledge of that ships me clean koi. I have been buying koi from numerous ones for several decades ( if you get my drift )

                  If you have good water in your q tank your koi will not be stressed unnecessarily!

                  big reminder I forgot to say earlier!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                  Please build a cover for your koi q tank. most koi when moved into a smaller confined space will want to jump! It's less a hazard moving out to bigger!
                  Dick Benbow


                  • #10

                    Mark Cooper,

                    Thank you for your view point on prophylactic antibiotic treatment and your much warranted concerns about antibiotic resistance. I don’t agree with your statement but I do respect it. To reduce the chance of antibiotic resistance I’ve employed the binary application of gram-positive and gram-negative for a period of 20 days. If I were less responsible, a broad spectrum antibiotic such as tetracycline or sulfa drugs, would instead be employed. These are not as effective as they once were, due to their misuse resulting in the creation of many bacteria that are now resistant to them.

                    I imported a beautiful and expensive Shiro this January. My koi dealer in California put it into quarantine upon arrival from Japan. It died two weeks into the quarantine because of bacterial causes (somewhat uncommon, I believe). Keep in mind this is a very knowledgeable and professional dealer. He opted not to use a prophylactic treatment and was unable to diagnose the problem in time. The results are a beautiful koi lost its life and the dealer incurred a monetary loss of several thousand dollars.



                    • #11

                      Here are some basic facts:

                      * As Mike said it: all koi, even the healthiest, have parasites
                      (however, you could take scrapes several times and not see one
                      because the odds are against you finding them);
                      * THE biggest ennemy of koi is stress. The koi immune system can
                      be VERY disturbed and diminished under stress conditions; what
                      a healthy koi can handle in non-stress environments can become
                      deadly when stressed.
                      * ANY koi, even the healthiest, will be stressed by transport:
                      how would you feel after bubbling around in a dark coffin
                      for several hours ???
                      * the first objective of a quarantine is to offer the koi a de-stressing
                      environment to normalize its metabolism and hormone balance:
                      a non-stressed koi takes care of most problems by itself.

                      Therefore, a q-tank must have several characteristics based on
                      the above knowledge:
                      * be an established ecosystem (as much as can be accomplished
                      in a limited environment); at least the filter system must be matured.
                      * be as large as you can afford it to be: who would want to come
                      out of a coffin and go to another one just a bit larger and hope
                      to loose stress? Remember stress is your enemy here.
                      * be as quiet and free of exciting disturbances as possible,
                      avoid the surprises causing a flight reation: bad for the immune
                      system balance.
                      * a low level of salt, maybe 0.1%, to ease the osmotic energy required.

                      Initially do nothing else unless you have good evidence to do it:
                      any treatment without reason just adds to the stress level. Any
                      treatment's stress must be balanced with the reason for using it.
                      Unwarranted treatments can kill koi, even healthy ones.

                      This are just basic considerations but the most important ones.

                      Aside of that, hobbyists and dealers have very different issues do deal with, an entire other subject.

                      For what it's worth, my 2 cents.



                      • #12

                        At our last club meeting in Hawaii, there was a presentation and long discussion on quarantine. Several people here bought in fish from a west coast dealer who had already quarantined them for three weeks. When shipped to Hawaii, they were placed directly in ponds. After a few days or weeks in our warm water, not only did most of the new fish die, they took many expensive established fish with them. The total value of the loss was staggering and will not soon be forgotten. So, yes, I think it would be wise to quarantine again even if they were quarantined at the dealer.

                        Personally, I am not a fan of using chemotherapeutics, and especially so when the diseases/pathogens may not exist or are already established in the main pond. Developing antibiotic-resistant strains is a concern, but so is the stress associated with having the gut flora wiped out. The calendar at the bottom of this page was suggested as a reasonable approach to dealing with parasites:
                        Formalin and malachite scare me and I would not use them except as a last resort. But, to each his own.

                        The emphasis you guys have put on creating a stress-free quarantine environment seems to be the most important factor. Also, moving an expendable "canary" fish from the main pond to the quarantine pond seems like a wise move. Any new bugs on the quarantine fish, coupled with the canary's stress of being moved from the main pond, should be a pretty good indication of whether there is a problem.

                        Admittedly, I would not know what to do at this point if faced with the situation of having one main pond, a small quarantine tank and an expensive new fish. Luckily, I can dodge the decision because I do not buy expensive fish and can just stick new-comers into a puddle with live bearers or aquatic plants and forgetting about them for 3-4 months. It's a tricky dilemma and I wish you all the best of luck.

                        -steve hopkins


                        • #13

                          Dear Mark,
                          I was very sorry to read about your Shiro , and thanks for sharing that. It is always difficult to legislate I guess for such extreme and virulent bacterial outbreaks like this though, and thankfully that does seem to be a rare occurrence (at least in my experience). I had a similar thing happen to a new Koi of mine many years ago, but at least the Koi was in QT.

                          I can understand why you would want to mitigate the risk of this happening again, but I was wondering…do you think that if your dealer had used antibiotics prophylactically that they would have hit on the right antibiotic soon enough though to effect a cure ? I can understand why you chose your binary approach too for QT; a responsible approach which requires considerable knowledge and experience to design and implement.

                          Another thought occurs to me, and I’d be interested to hear your views on this please Mark. Take the hypothetical example of a Koi dealer who uses antibiotics prophylactically, and a hobbyist purchases a Koi from said dealer, probably being unaware that it has been treated with antibiotics. Then as part of that hobbyist’s QT protocol it goes through another prophylactic course of antibiotics. Is that good for the Koi ? Does it increase the risk of antibiotic resistance ?

                          So, just to share with you “where I coming from” here Mark…. when I was trained, the prophylactic use of antibiotics was considered unprofessional without first having cultured antibiograms and then selecting the anti-biotic which had a positive effect. I do realise that this takes time and skill though, and few hobbyists can avail themselves of such services. Even in those days there were grave concerns about the increasing numbers of antibiotic resistant organisms. Hence I am concerned about how less knowledgeable Koi keepers may interpret and implement the prophylactic use of antibiotics, because like you I have noticed during my two and a bit decades of keeping Koi that some of the antibiotics we used to use (at least here in the UK) are largely ineffective now, probably because of misuse. How do we as a Koi-keeping community avoid this ?

                          My sincere concern is for the long term health of our Koi and our hobby and ensuring that in the future that we still have antibiotics that are effective.
                          I am sure that you understand my point of view…..but nonetheless please “educate me”, as we are all here to share and learn for one another. Thanks, and Happy Koi-keeping
                          Best regards, Mark


                          • #14

                            My local koi club had an experience similar to Bekko's a few years ago. We took a large portion of our treasury and bought a mixed bunch of tosai, which were delivered in December as the highlight of our holiday party ....i.e., they were freshly harvested from the mudponds in Japan. A couple seemed to have a touch of filminess in some fins. Those were put to the side. All were held for about two weeks and I believe a formalin/mg treatment was applied. At the holiday party everyone drew a number and got to select a koi in order. There were enough differences in taste that nobody got a fish they considered poor. I thought a Sanke with a whitish film in a pec was the best and took it, although warned there were health concerns. Over the next 6 weeks the reports of calamity came in. Most of those who did not quarantine (the bulk of the members) suffered terrible losses. Never too sure what parasites, etc were involved. The few who quarantined came through fine. As to mine, I did not believe the discoloration was bacterial, but I was not going to take unnecessary risk. The only quarantine available was my lily pond, so that is where it went. That pond works well for tosai. I did treat with fluke tabs (before I knew about supaverm/praxi) because flukes in Florida is the bane of my koikeeping. After 2 weeks, the fellow seemed healthy, so he went into my pond. All went well. I gave him away a year later to a club member who was pleased to have such a nice koi and blabbered on and on about the poor quality of the fish gotten at that holiday party, the untrustworthy dealer involved and how the member who worked so hard to make it happen messed up.

                            Our club will likely never do such a thing again ... at least not so long as any members remember that event. It seemed a great idea, the koi received were very good for the price and it was the most enjoyable club meeting I can recall. But, the negativity that followed was worse. All because folks won't quarantine and then blame others for the consequences of their oversight.


                            • #15

                              Guy, can a small mud pond be used as a Qt?


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