Quarantine is used to separate and restrict the interaction of new reptiles with an existing collection.
This Quarantining Reptiles article was added to explain why quarantining is such a crucial step in caring for your reptiles correctly. The reasons outlined on this page relate to every species of reptile.
Quarantining your new acquisitions is done so that you can monitor the animals behavior, appetite, stool, and activity. It is also done to protect the animals you currently own. This is a step that can actually save your entire colony of animals, save you money, and save you time. Quarantining new animals should become an instinctive behavior by both new and experienced enthusiasts, though it is often overlooked at one time or another by all. It is a crucial step in the prevention of colony infection. Diseases like Cryptosporidium can destroy an entire collection if introduced to your reptiles.
What Is Quarantining
Quarantining is the process in which you isolate the reptile you are bringing home. This is the time period in which you monitor the animal and note or treat the animal for any illness or injury that it has. Quarantining ensures that you will not spread any contagious illness or parasites to your current collection.
Reptile Quarantine Basics
Keep the set-up simple
Keep the set-up clean
Keep the setup isolated
Monitor the reptile
Save it for last
Your new reptile should be quarantined for a minimum of 30 days. Ideally, 60-90 days would be better. Once a reptile has finished the quarantine period and is deemed fit, they can be introduced into their permanent enclosure in the proximity of other reptiles.
A setup designed as a quarantine tank should be very simple in design and extremely easy to clean. The goal is to use the quarantine tank as an observational area. For reptiles, the quarantine tank should consist of the bare essentials. The enclosure itself should be made of solid plastic or glass. Old fish tanks are great quarantine tanks. Avoid wooden enclosures as quarantine tanks as they are difficult to clean.
The best substrate to use for a quarantine tank is either no substrate, or paper towel. This makes cleaning a breeze, allows complete visibility to monitor the reptiles feces, and is a complete risk free substrate from impaction.
The rest of the enclosure should be limited to a hide, a water bowl, and feeder dish (If required.) A calcium dish should be part of a leopard geckos quarantine tank. Climbing branches and other decor should not be in the quarantine tank.
The tank above is an example quarantine setup for a leopard gecko. The tank is a 32 quart Sterilite tub heated with a human heat pad. It contains a hide directly over the heat source, a moist hide/cool hide, a calcium dish, a mealworm dish, a disposable water dish, and paper towel as a substrate.
The example shows how simple the enclosure can be for the quarantine period. This setup is easy to clean and maintain. Holes have been drilled into the sides of the Sterilite for air circulation, and the cover also has holes drilled into it.
Your quarantine tank should be cleaned daily. Remove any feces (after looking it over) from the enclosure, change the water, remove any dead insects, and make sure the tank itself is clean. You want to be able to monitor the animal as closely as possible. The cleaner the tank is, the easier it will be to monitor the reptile.
It is best to isolate the reptile from the rest of your collection. This is best done by placing the quarantine tank in a separate room from where you house your other reptiles. It doesn't stop there however. You should also be isolating what items come into contact with the quarantine tank. You should never use the same cleaning materials between a quarantine tank and those that house the rest of your collection. The same is true for water and feeding dishes. This could result in indirect contact with a parasite or illness.
Make sure you spend some time watching the reptile in quarantine. Watch how he hunts/eats, make sure he isn't lethargic, and ensure that he is alert when you disturb him. Reptiles in general are experts at hiding illness. This is how they survive in the wild. Make it a point to ensure that the animal is behaving normally and that its stool appears "normal".
The Last Stop
When cleaning your enclosures, save the quarantine tank for last. This will help reduce the chance of indirect contact. Also save the quarantined animal for last when you are working with your collection. You want to limit any possible exposure between the new reptile and your current collection. By making the quarantined reptile the last stop, you are placing distance between any accidental exposure.
It is always a good practice to use an antibacterial soap to wash your hands after every handling session you have with a reptile or its enclosure. It is especially important to maintain proper hygiene protocol when dealing with an animal in quarantine. The accidental spreading of a disease or parasite could come from direct or indirect contact with another animal, or its supplies in your collection. Avoid this by washing your hands every time you leave the quarantine area.
It is crucial that you maintain strict protocol when quarantining. A single parasite that has been introduce to your collection could cost you extreme amounts of money in vet bills, delayed breeding programs, and could even result in the death of one or more animals in your collection.
Quarantining is very simple to do and can save you a great deal of headaches. Be vigilant and quarantine all new reptiles!
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Author: Richard Brooks
Quarantine Enclosure - © Richard Brooks