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A Complete Livestock Treatment System


Bob Fenner

Knowledge, care, prevention, profit

A systematic scientific approach to aquatic life keeping results in reduced costs and increased efficiency and enjoyment. One aspect of the livestock business that sorely needs improvement and continuous updating is disease diagnosis and treatment of livestock both on arrival and ongoing for perceived maladies.

A search of the scientific and popular literature results in incomplete and conflicting reports of how to deal with any given disease condition. Relying on experimentation and hearsay in these times of little or no adequate quarantine is courting expensive disaster.

This article (and others in this series) deals with developing and installing a system to accumulate and make useful data on how to acclimate new livestock and diagnose and treat on-going diseases.


First of all a definition and a very useful model of disease. Disease is "any condition deviating from a normal or healthy state". As such there are several ways to classify disease conditions.

Genetic Disease: Concerns inherited disorders.

1) Environmental Disease: Are developmental disorders resulting from chemical and physical anomalies.

2) Social Disease: Is the manifestation of disorders as the result of interaction or lack of interaction of

an organism with others of its own or other species.

3) Nutritional Disease: Results from chemical imbalance due to improper feeding and/or diet.

4) Infectious Disease: Are those unhealthful conditions attributable to bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

5) Parasitic Disease: Are those unhealthful conditions attributable to "organisms living in or on another species in which the host is harmed" including protozoans, "worms", crustaceans and others.

Much has been written regarding the interactions between water quality, stress and propensity for disease. It is critical to understand the relationship between your livestock's': 1) Initial State, 2) Suitability of the Environment you're placing it in and, 3) Pathogenicity, or degree of infectiousness of disease-causing organisms.

Towards the ends of fostering understanding regarding the relationships between these sets of factors I'd like to introduce a model popularized by the late Dr. Stan Sniezsko:







The three interlocking circles symbolize the interrelationship of these factor groups. All conditions of health/disease are environmentally mediated. Indeed, an organisms "life-state" is the manifestation of agreement between itself and its indistinguishable environment.

Generally, by optimizing two of these three sets of factors, you will be able to keep livestock alive. In particular, it is important to pick out organisms that have an initial state of health and potential (genetic heritage) for continuing in your set of conditions.

The System: Rational

The advantages to a systems approach to managing livestock are obvious. In view of the many hours and money that can be lost, the varied tasks and skills involved, the separation of duties, a working systematic approach to livestock management is vital. Relying on oral tradition or "hoping" others will know and will do "what needs to be done" is risky at best. We want you to know right up front that this part of aquaristics is very difficult. As businessmen and friends we are willing to help you. However, there is a lot of mis- and dis-information and outright voodoo in this field. Fish health is still an art and quasi-science in my opinion. Understand that most advice is un-substantiated, non-scientific opinion; as with your health, get a second and third and...

How can we do this? By helping you document, develop and implement a systematic treatment system.

Whatever Organizational Structure you have, someone will have to be responsible and accountable for Livestock Management; in particular, introduction, diagnosis and treatment.


May we suggest that you develop a card-catalog file/reference system for treating livestock on arrival and for on-going maladies? This involves a five-sectioned box or boxes with alphabetical indices for keeping index cards filed.


One section/box includes cards for types of fish kept in your system. These cards how to deal with the livestock on arrival.

Example: Neon Tetras.

Dip: None; sensitive to formaldehyde, copper, KMnO3.

Temperature: Keep warm; use heaters or upper tanks.

Chemistry: Turn flow rate down, two squirts acid mix, no salt, no metal dyes, if it's necessary to use malachite or Aquarisol, half dose; use brass pads, shimmy blocks if look fish looks shaky.

Food: Next day, everyday, medicated flake for bacteria, protozoans for two weeks.


Section two involves on-going treatment of livestock. Example: Plecostomus and other South American Suckermouth Catfishes.

Water flow: Low, turnover once, twice per day.

Food: Banquet blocks, zucchini, medicated flakes.

Quarantine Time: One week.

Treatment instructions: Ich, 1/2 dose malachite, raise temp. to 80's.

Flukes: Dylox 10ppm.

Mysterious losses: Lower pH with organic acids.

Warnings: Sensitive to malnutrition; have some food available continuously.


Section 3 involves diseases, observable symptoms and treatments. Example: Ich; white spot disease, Ichthyophthiriasis.

Cause: Ciliated protozoan, always present, waiting to super-infest fish in weakened state. Usually brought on by a sudden drop in temperature. Some species especially prone, some relatively immune.

Appearance: Small white dots, @ 1/16 " diameter spread over fish.

Warnings: Easily spread with nets, water. On-going, strong strains harder to treat.

Treatment: Early diagnosis, elevated temperatures (mid 80's), proper pH. Small, scaleless fish: 1/2 dose malachite or Aquarisol. Large, scaled, non-sensitive fishes, full dose of malachite green or copper.


Section four is an indexed reference to Medications, Food Preparations, other concoctions, like net dips, for example:

Preparation: About one ounce of stock formaldehyde solution in one half bucket tap water.

Duty: Made up first thing every day by the Facility Manager.

Use: Specimen containers and nets dunked in between use in tanks.

Purpose: Reduce spreading of infectious and parasitic diseases.

Alternative: Permanganate solution.


Section five is your reference file. Example, Nelson Herwig, Treatment of Fish Diseases; good practical information for specifying treatments. Get and use a copy for your personal library.

References are listed by name and page number on the back side of cards in sections one through four.


Treatments are necessary on arrival and on-going to ensure adequate health of livestock. The development and use of a Treatment System as detailed here, serves to educate, train and with proper application, systematically reduce losses. The actual treatments must be recorded and analyzed in a reasonable, consistent, documented process; in a Treatment Book and/or with a marking system on the tanks.

You may have the savvy and want to computerize this Treatment System and develop it in your own way. Whatever is decided, do it soon! The last thing a person dealing with livestock needs is to have problems right off with sick, weak fish. Please employ a reasonable, consistent practice that is documented to assist you in developing and repeating practices for proper acclimation of your livestock per your conditions. These systematic ways of doing things pay!


Bob Fenner ( Quarentining SW Fish); commercial/LFS    3/7/14
Hi Bob,
I am the owner of a LFS called Crystal Reef Aquatics in Bellingham Washington  and I am seeking some advice on quarantineing saltwater fish.
I've been in the hobby for almost 6 years so I'm very familiar with standard qt procedures such as no sand or rock, use PVC for hide outs and a sponge filter to break down your waste. The biggest issue I'm running into is picking a medication that is both cost effective and does not effective the fishes health negatively.
<Ah yes>

 I've used copper and had success but I've seen fish go downhill from lack of apatite. I've also used Chloroquine phosphate and had good results with that but I'm sure you are aware that you cannot test for it so it can be hard to guarantee is potency.
And of course PraziPro for your flukes and worms. What is your qt procedure?
<Posted here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mardisindex.htm
Medications of choice?
<This too... use the indices or search tool on WWM>
 Also keep in mind the most cost effective( price of salt in water exchanges and in cost of the medication) as we'll as the
duration of time that the fish has to be exposed to the medication?
<Oh yes... I was in the trade, and a content provider... for more years than you've been on the planet>
 Unlike most stores that are of the mentality for quantity over quality our goal here at Crystal Reef Aquatics to supply the hobby with disease free fish so it is an enjoyable experience for the customer and of course a better survival rate on our incoming fish.
<Ah yes; a good; actually, the only reasonable path to building the industry, trade, your business>
Any knowledge or insight on the matter would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time and I look forward
to hearing from you soon!
Best regards,
Colin Apt
<Do write back w/ specific questions after you've read. Bob Fenner>
Re: Bob Fenner ( Quarentining SW Fish)   3/7/14

Thanks for your prompt response!
Do you prefer Chloroquine phosphate or copper for qt? And why?
<... Most often have used copper cpd.s; quinines in my time were too expensive>
Have you used PraziPro with copper or Chloroquine phosphate? If so any negative side effects? Oxygen depletion?
<... have not; but read of others doing so>
How long do you medicate with copper or Chloroquine phosphate? Is one faster then the other?
<This is posted>
How long do you medicate with Prazi pro?
<As is this>
I've heard of people moving a batch of fish to a sterile environment every 3 day to help eradicate Ich. Have you done this method?  If so how successful is it?
Have you ever used hydrogen peroxide to sterilize a quarantine tank after it's been used to reuse the saltwater?
<Not reliably>
Are there any medications that I didn't mention that you would recommend?
<... read. B>
Thanks again for your time!

Re: re: Hawaiian supplier; plus Cu ++ use    1/22/14
Thank you Bob for your reply as always.
<Ahh yes; do remember Craig, "I was you"... a retailer, service co. operator... and have been several of the other players in our trade. I REALLY want to help; see you successful, fulfilled>
To answer, I currently do not have anyone to split a 10+ box order with so I guess I will continue to utilize the LA wholesalers.
<This really is better/best... Unless let's say you have a need for a whole bunch of organisms... perhaps a big install or two>
 I was hoping to duplicate the success I have had from my Florida divers and their Caribbean stock with a Hawaiian supplier as well.  It seems the fish I order direct from the divers are always healthier and in better physical condition then those whom have been through the wholesaler's system first.  On another note, I have had much success utilizing ionic copper sulfate in my fish only system to quell any disease outbreaks as you previously recommended to me.
<Ahh! Am re-reading Frank Herbert's "Dune" series (yes, again); and one comment that was made "The old ways are best"; another: "Times change"... Ionic copper is still the best route for most situations; GIVEN its careful use, measure... observation; of course>
 The fish all look much better than before and I have far less livestock losses than previously when only utilizing UV and ozone alone.  What is your recommended dosage for ionic copper sulfate in a retail fish holding system?
<... the same... 0.35 ppm free Cu++ at the high end; and I see you state the low below>
  I have been keeping it at 0.15 along with still using a commercial UV and ozone generator.
<These last two accelerate precipitation... do check the sleeves/sleeving on your UV, the "arc" generator on your )3 device for "plating" of the copper here... it may be easiest for you to periodically (month)
disassemble and do a simple low kH acid dip/wash to remove said residue>
  I test daily and add about 2ml of copper solution per day to my 1200g system.  I use a LaMotte Copper colorimeter that gives me a digital reading which I find much easier than test strips or vials and color readings.
<YES; a note to browsers; do NOT rely on test strips period for accurate, nor precise measures>
 I also keep the salinity at 1.015 as advised by another store owner I speak with who has been kind enough to mentor me along the way.  I was however thinking of raising the salinity slightly as many customers often complain about why our store's salinity is so low compared to their reef systems and the long acclimation they must do.  I do keep our invert and coral system at 1.026 but the fish system has been at 1.015 for the last 6 months or so.  In your retail days what worked best for you? 
<1.020 thereabouts...>
Always looking to improve...
Thank you as always for the excellent advise and guidance.
<Glad to read of, realize your state. Bob Fenner>

New store quarantine procedure questions?  -- 3/9/11
Hi all, long story short, I bought a LFS 7 years ago, I have finally got to the point that we have built a new store, I am dedicated to having a low light low stress quarantine and acclimation area in our new store out of the publics eye where new arrivals can get healthy and treated before they go into our main system for sale. So I have a few questions I'm hoping you guys can help me with. The store was built around the MARS systems,
<Am familiar w/ these Marineland commercial units>
I have 18 banks of them. We are using 3 banks (all connected ) for our quarantine/acclimation system, So the system has standard Biowheel filtration although I have remote's the sumps to hold a nice big G-5 ASM skimmer as well as a Emperor Aquatics HO50 watt UV light as part of the system.
<Mmm, okay>
I have read A LOT on this site about the quarantine and acclimation of new arrival's ( I have also been practicing for 20 year's off and on) But none of them seem to deal with the amount of livestock we will be bringing in at a single time (upwards of 100 assorted fish at a time).
<Oh yes... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/acclimat.htm
the second article>
Could you give me some incite on how you would do this using the system we have?
We obviously need to treat them for sale, so we want to do it quickly (but properly) I am not a huge fan of copper, but I do use it and Methylene blue if needed. I am a little confused about the scaleless fish as well, I would like them to be treated but in a safe way also. I do have a 4th bank that can be setup and broken down quickly if needed (if helpful) for scaleless fish. Thanks guys, I really want to get this right.
<I will gladly assist you... Do read the above and the linked FAQs files (in blue, above), and make it known if the SOP gone over is clear, complete to/for you.
Oh, and the "Livestock" section of the Business SubWeb:
Bob Fenner>
Re: New store quarantine procedure questions? -- 3/9/11

Thanks Bob, I have read the Guerilla acclimation procedures before and have used a very similar method since and it has worked out great...for the acclimation side of things. I want to try to keep my main systems from ever needing to be treated because something got past us, how long should these guys be held in the QT system before being placed into the main system?
<Mmm, If you can afford "it" between a week and two is about maximum in benefit for most species... Not to be or even appear slippery here, there are ranges in time frames by species, apparent condition... Some, like small Blennioids, Gobioids are best exempted from quarantine by and large for example... Expedited/placed in the main system following simple dip/bathing acclimation procedure>
Do you recommend a light dosage of copper in the QT system "long term"? (the total length of their stay in the QT system?)
<Gosh, what a tough question. Our stores used to maintain a titer of free cupric ion (via chelated commercial products) even in the main/display/retail marine systems (w/ invertebrates, algae... and sensitive fishes like Gasterosteiforms and Amphiprionines kept in a separate non-coppered holding system natch) continuously... measuring, and bringing a physiological dose up daily. Many to most all marine wholesalers, even collectors/transhippers do as well/currently>
I was also wondering if you could point me in the direction of the invert QT procedure as well as to a "list" of fish that I should not treat in copper (scaleless?) and what should be done with them. Thanks again.
<Aye yi yi! I don't have such a list, but you/I/others could assemble one from the simple survey articles by group archived on WWM. BobF>

Store help needed... Livestk. losses... not ready for prime time  2/1/2010
I have always been impressed by your site, knowledge, and desire to help the community. I have always has great success with tanks of all sizes. I recently started a saltwater store. everything is doing great with the exception of the fish system. the die off rate is higher than I would like.
it appears to be after they are in the system for more than 3 days. the Yellow Tangs do well, and so do the wrasse, but the Chromis, Clowns, and Damsels dont do as well. here are some spec.s that you'll want to know...
<Mmm, could be one of a few critical steps/things here. Do you buy your livestock from just one source? You might want to look/shop around>
1500 gallon system, 30 tanks that drain individually into the sump, Aragalive sand in each tank, 400lbs of live rock in the sump, RK2 fluidized sand filter and skimmer w/ ozone (set at 25% of 200mg),
<Mmm, what is your ORP?>
0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, nitrates are at 10ppm. salinity 1.022.
<A bit low... do you have invertebrates in this same system?>
each tank has a turnover rate of 10X. Prime and Stability from SeaChem is added with every shipment. is there anything more I can do to reduce loss.
I was debating on keeping Kick-Ick in the system. what are your thoughts?
<Are posted re this scam product... See WWM re, as well as this piece on acclimation: http://wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/acclimlvstkbiz.htm
and the linked files above>
thank you
<And have the courtesy to run your writing through a spell and grammar checker before sending it to us. Bob Fenner>

Chain Stores 7/21/08 Bob, <Tom> Read this, wanted to give some input. ""Re: Alternative treatment for a common marine parasite, Crypt 07/20/2008 Again my hand is forced by my employer's policy, ie p*tco. <Mmm, do know that I worked at corp..... as a consultant/buyer for this co. 91-94... to bring in/make sense of aquatic livestock... Quite an ordeal> I don't agree with the policy and have been close to walking out of door, and have been saddened by the loss of life that could have been prevented through dedicated quarantine / treatment systems. <I... empathize> Either you quit / walk out or try to make the broken toy work for spoiled child. Have had results on using melafix to clear up bad eyes and slight bacterial damage, not as a treatment for crypt as some people desire it to be. There was one post by someone who was using the daily freshwater bath method from your crew, the individual who received this suggestion responded by saying something to the effect of "wow, everyday? That's harsh", to which the crew replied <so is copper> <Yes> The fish has to be returned to the same tank it came from, ie the infested tank. One could give the fish a freshwater bath and put it into a different tank with healthy fish, but its likely that bath won't sterilize the animal of it and it will get the others sick. The freshwater bath / gravel vacuum technique is used by others I have read, usually as a hell-bent way of "I'm definitely not using a separate treatment tank", "I don't want to treat the main display with any medication or altering of the salinity", "I can't afford a sterilizer which may or may not anything", and agreed the cleaner shrimp are manly pretty placebos. <... I encourage you to make a presentation... ask for some time to meet with the store, then Regional (Op.s) Manager... to in turn present your input, ideas to corporate/San Diego... to change whatever policy. Particularly "On Arrival" acclimation/baths to largely prevent the introduction of these parasites, their establishment in your systems> The variables I can control are how often I give the bath and its duration. How frequent I gravel vacuum the bottom of the tank and how much water I take out. I do remember another member of WWM crew claiming to have effected a cure of a flame angel by daily vacuuming of a 10 gallon bare bottom tank 50% premade saltwater. <It/this can be done... but does take dedication, time... You seem to understand the underlying principles> I can't do that volume with a 60, but I can do its frequency if there is results. In this limited situation Would freshwater bath every 3rd or 4th or 5th day with daily vacuuming be more appropriate? <Yes> As for freshwater baths upon arrival, I have done those, <Ah, good... with formalin and aeration I hope/trust> and continue to do so for tangs and fish that frequently have this problem. But even in a tank that contains only fish delivered that week, and has had no previous problem for months, to which all were given proper freshwater baths crypt still does break out, so while doing proper fresh water baths on arrival probably reduces the frequency of its occurrence its probably not stone cold guarantee you won't get it. The last paragraph in your reply is understandable considering the items I suggested. Its not that I want to do them its that I'm handcuffed to poor equipment and policy. Have risked my job and changed things and gotten good results using a 'communal copper treatment tank' for those who developed problems (ie crypt). And even that is not an answer to all the various and different problems that can present itself. I just don't have enough dedicated treatment tanks, allowances to recovery all that can be recovered. Not that I lack the knowledge to do so. Sorry to go on, No one on the crew has any recommendations for this compromised procedure? Frequency/duration of bath, frequency, percentage of gravel vacuum water change? <Five-seven minutes... daily, all the gravel vacuumed> I think 'ridiculous' was what I first thought about doing this as an alternative to a more proven technique. <Just... not something I want to encourage carte blanche (on the Net)... as a likely procedure that will be successful for all... too much work, too stressful, too likely to not work> cheers, hand cuffed employee <Perhaps a move/stint in an independent shop... Bob Fenner>""  We've got these stores here, in the Houston area. <Ah, yes... I know. I spent some time there, doing physical inventories... in the early nineties, for PetCo, when I worked for them as a consultant/buyer. A very nice town, folks> In fact, I bought my Passer Angel from them some time ago, in ignorant times, and as I look back I am pretty sure my crypt issues may have started with this fish. Thank goodness all is well now and the Passer thrives. This store does offer a saltwater market at locales where small private stores might not have a market to survive (small towns, etc), so I think they're a good thing to some extent. but I find their methods and livestock care techniques quite lacking. <Too often the case...> I feel it's their responsibility to their customers and the livestock to provide a better product. By that I mean service quality and education. I tell people who are interested in marine fish that its easy. if done correctly and you follow guidelines. One example at this store that I find bad is keeping LR and inverts in the same systems as their fish, making their fish 'untreatable' in reality. All of this, I would think, is easily remedied if the company would decide to do it. <And more pre-eminently, cared and "knew" what to do...> And I would think it is certainly in the best interest of their customers and our hobby in the big picture of things. Think of it; surely the large majority of people who are exposed to marine aquaria begin their adventures in a store like this. They always carry Nemos and Dorys and yellow tangs. And often, I'm sure, their intentions are good, asking the clerk about marine tanks, and what equipment they need, what are the requirements for care, etc. Can you imagine the responses they get? Just by looking over the accessories carried on the shelves, I can tell you they are probably providing the wrong answers. <Happens... so... of course (per moi) the question: "What do we do to make this better?"> One of the branch stores here, the one I purchased my angel from in fact, has well intentioned and intelligent employees. <Ah, good> All they lack, I would guess, is a bit of education and the resources necessary to do their job. Here we have a large number of readers who I'm sure have similar concerns of the writer of the email below. Perhaps he can provide us with the most effective contact information necessary to express our concerns. I'm sure that there are many of us who would take time to send an email, I certainly would. Just some thoughts. Thomas <Thank you Tom. BobF>

Retail (copper) question -- 06/26/07 Hello to the crew! <Michael> It has been a long time since I have had to bother you (2 years) and now I have a question regarding copper in fish only tanks. Since I last wrote I have purchased Aquatic World in Wisconsin and have received some advise <advice> from some of the other LFS regarding marine tanks. We have 78 marine tanks on stand alone filtration systems and after talking to another LFS they informed me that they have had great benefits from running copper in their fish only tanks continuously and recommended we do the same. <Some stores do... ours used to...> I can see the benefit of doing so but I also do not agree that any medicine or chemical should be used if it is not absolutely necessary. I also am curious what the long term effects of this would be to the fish. <Some groups of fishes suffer... most celebratedly the Acanthuroids (Tangs and relatives) from a loss of gut fauna... many others develop (much more readily) neuromast destruction (HLLE...) syndromes with continuous copper exposure...> I simply am not comfortable doing this but would love to hear the crews 2 cents on this. Anything that can cut down on fish illness and livestock loss I am willing to try. Thank you in advance for your help. Michael J. Bukosky <Mmm, well... Is one means... along with dips/baths prophylactically (on arrival) good acclimation, set-up, maintenance, feeding... But does have downsides... along with the above are issues of cost, dangers in over-application, mis-treatment, poisoning of non-target species (algae, invert.s...) If you have a pretty steady "good" turnover of fish livestock, it's worth using a CHELATED variety/product... WITH testing (daily) and re-administration. Bob Fenner>

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