New Fish? Let me Help You Start Your Quarantine Tank! (Part 1)

Hi Everyone!

I just wanted to touch base with you about the how to’s of setting up a quarantine tub for your new goldfish. As you may find out from doing research on the topic through the internet, it can be extremely overwhelming! One thing you may have repeatedly noticed through your research is that it’s never suggested to immediately put your new goldfish (or any fish) in your main tank with your already established stock. Whether you buy the new fish at a pet store, online, or at a carnival (hopefully not at a carnival), there needs to be proper precautionary measures taken to ensure the safety of your own fish, the main tank and to save yourself from months of headaches.


Some people have their own views on how to handle the initial set up of a quarantine tub (or tank) -it doesn’t matter what you use, but I personally prefer the tubs because they are light, less bulky and it’s usually a temporary set up, so the breakdown will be much easier. The below instructions are used personally by me, and are not a set in stone list of how it SHOULD be done, it is more of a helpful guideline to get you going. Feel free to consult a fish keeper you know (or your LFS/forum) for any additional information, and help. You can use this list, or you can not, you can disagree or agree-either way I’m just here to help 🙂

Let’s get started..


So, the first, and most obvious thing is to acquire a tank or holding tub for the new fish. Preferably a new or gently used one that has been cleaned well to prevent diseases. If you are using either, you still want to keep in mind the size of the fish, how many fish there are and how much work you want to take on. Quarantine is usually more work than your established tank because the new fish (if shipped to you) are going to be stressed from traveling overnight or 2-3 days to your home. The added stress will cause a decrease in the immune system, which makes them super susceptible to any kind of bacteria as well as the tiniest bit of unclean water. We will talk more about this later in pt. 2..So, for now, just focus on getting enough space for the fish. Cramped living quarters aid in the development of disease.

Sick Gill61

What kind of tub to get? I personally take a trip to my local Walmart and pick up about a 50 gallon clear storage tub. You can get them in multiple sizes for what you need, and the clear is just my own personal preference because I like to see the fish from all angles to observe them. You do not need to break the bank getting all of these expensive tubs, as long as it’s durable enough to hold up to the pressure of the water you should be perfectly fine!

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Next you want to set up the tub/tank for the arrival of your fish. I usually do this about a day or so prior to the arrival of my new fish. This is where a lot of opinions vary on setting up the quarantine tank. Mostly because some people prefer to cycle the tank prior to getting the fish in, so that the will not have to worry about added stress/spikes in parameters and also, it is less stressful on the fish. However, a lot of goldfish keepers these days are seemingly moving away from performing a fishless cycle, to a “fish in” cycle. This basically means that you will use the fish and it’s waste (ammonia) to feed the cycle instead of using pure ammonia to feed the cycle. If you decide to perform a fishless cycle it can be a very daunting task, especially for new fish keepers and you could end up crashing the cycle and having to start all over again. The key to a fishless cycle is knowing when to perform the massive water changes. if you do them too soon, you mess up the cycle, if you do them too late you mess up the cycle. I personally won’t cover fishless cycles in this post, but if you’d like more information you can find it by watching this video. If you choose to perform a “fish in” cycle, make sure that you do not set up the tank too early. This was one of my first mistakes, I set up the tank and used some bio balls from another established tank to add the beneficial bacteria a few days before my fish actually arrived. This caused my beneficial bacteria to die because there was nothing for it to feed off of (ammonia). My suggestion, like I said is to fill the tank/tub up a day or so before the arrival of the fish and the day you place them in the tank add your media from another established tank. If you have no media or this is your first tank, that’s totally fine! You will just have to wait much longer for the cycling process to complete itself. The good news though? You can take that media and move it to your new main tank to kick start the cycling process.

For filtration, I recommend a large sponge filter(s). (Link Below):

They are designed to act.. basically like a sponge for beneficial bacteria. And they emit less current than that of a hang on back (HOB) filter which is nice because a strong current could stress your fish out. I buy mine off of Amazon, they are relatively cheap-I think about $8 or $9, and they also sell a two pack for around $14. If you choose this route you will also need an air pump, which you can also purchase off of Amazon if you wish. below is a link to purchase the one that I currently have and love. It comes with the air hose and two air stones. I don’t use the air stones however, because these go directly into my sponge filter. (Link Below):

If you have a HOB filter, this is perfectly fine to use also, just make sure that you also add some type of extra bio filtration such as bio balls or ceramic rings from your main tank to the box in addition to your filter. (Links Below):

This will also come in handy for when you move your fish over to the new tank, if these are your first fish. It will help kick start the new tank with beneficial bacteria to move things along quicker.

Okay, so you have your tank/tub set up everything is ready to go and you finally pick up your shipment of fish.. Time for the next step (after you gawk at your new beauties in awe)- acclimating your new fish to your tank water. By this I mean temperature, your fish can and will go into shock if there is a major temp difference within your tank and the bag the fish arrived in. What I suggest, and do myself, is to take the fish bag and float it in your water for about 20-30 minutes, this gives the temp in the bag enough time to meet the temp in your tank.


After that time period is up feel the outside of the fish bag to make sure it matches your tank water. When you are satisfied with the temperature of the bag, you can transfer the fish to it’s quarantine tub/tank. NEVER ADD BAG WATER TO YOUR TANK.


Some people use the drip method, which is opening the bag and adding small percentages of your tank water to the shipping bag itself. I also don’t recommend this because your fish has been in this bag for a day-a few days and once you open the bag you are allowing outside air in which will quickly turn the shipping water into a toxic mess. If you leave the fish in the bag for, say, 20-30 minutes for water acclimation you are hurting it more than helping it. My suggestion, after temperature acclimation, would be to open the bag and quickly-yet carefully remove the fish with your hands and immediately place them into your quarantine tank/tub. Repeat this step until all of your fish are safely transferred to their new (temporary) home.


After this step, when all of your fish are in the tank/tub, I would add your filtered media to the tank (this is in addition to your HOB filter/ sponge filter). If you are using sponge filters, I would take the bio balls, ceramic media or whatever you are using and place it in a small netted bag. Then place that bag over the outgoing airflow of your sponge filter. (See image below):


This would mean that you would have to take the plastic tube out from one of the filters before placing the media over it. If you are using a HOB filter, I would just add the media here:


I do not recommend canister filters, especially for quarantine because they can get messy and add destruction to what you are trying to create-a clean environment.

Well now that you have an idea on how to get your fish from box to tank, I’m going to stop here (for the sake of it getting too long). Now that you have your quarantine tank set up and your fish acclimated, the next step would be to monitor them and add any preventative treatments to your tank-which we will cover in the next post (PT.2). It should be a quiet few weeks- at least that’s what we all hope for! No news is good news when it comes to quarantine.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!



1 thought on “New Fish? Let me Help You Start Your Quarantine Tank! (Part 1)”

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