Time and time again, i've read aquarists posting on forums about finding algae, parasites, pest snails, worms and other critters invading their tanks shortly after startup... and when asked if they treated or quarantined their plants beforehand, often the answer is no.
When i started out in the hobby, i also encountered numerous algae and pest outbreaks in my tanks too, and had my share of fighting uphill battles trying to solve multiple tank problems. This eventually prompted me to practice treatment and quarantine procedures for all new plants that i buy.
I have been receiving a number of queries on this topic, so for information sharing and reference purposes, here is an example of my current on-going aquarium plant treatment and quarantine setup...
My procedure is split into 3 stages:
Stage 1 (Plastic container on the left)
After the new plants are rinsed and washed thoroughly under running tap water, they are put into this container. The container is dosed with anti-snail chemical treatment (to ensure that pest snails/critters and their eggs are all eliminated, i usually overdose up to 10x the recommended dosage). Currently i use ISTA snail remover (any other anti-snail treatment can be used too, just have to try various dosages and see what works). The plants sit submerged in this container for up to 24 hours.
After this time, the plants are inspected closely. If any pests are still observed to be alive, i dose more chemical treatment and let the plants soak for another 24 hours. This is repeated until no more pests are observed.
Once the treatment is complete, i rinse the plants thoroughly in running tap water.
Stage 2 (Plastic tank in the middle)
Next, the plants are put into this tank which has a small hang-on filter running on it. I dose anti-algae and anti-parasite treatment to weaken and inhibit any algae and parasites that may be hitchhiking on the plants. Currently i use Easy Life AlgExit and Seachem Paraguard. As there are no livestock in this tank, i also overdose the treatments up to 2-3x the recommended dosage.
The plants will usually stay in this tank for up to 7 days and receive a regular light schedule and fertilizer dosing. If any traces of algae are still observed on the plants, i will extend the treatment period and dosages accordingly.
Once the treatment is complete, i rinse the plants thoroughly in running tap water again.
Stage 3 (Plastic tank on the right)
This is the holding quarantine tank. All new plants that have completed the anti-snail/critter, anti-algae and anti-parasite treatments will be put into this tank. This tank also has a small hang-on filter running on it, along with activated carbon to help adsorb the residual traces of previous chemical treatments.
The treated plants will usually stay in this tank for up to 7 days (sometimes longer if they are not required for use yet). Regular water changes are done in this tank as well as receiving a regular light schedule and fertilizer dosing. Algae eating shrimps (ie. cherry shrimps and yamato shrimps) are also present in this tank to help clean up any leftover algae that may still be on the plants.
Once the full process is complete, the new plants will be added to my main tanks.
Yes... it does seem like a very long and tedious process (and it definitely is!), but over the years of trying various methods, this procedure has kept my main tanks mostly algae and pest free so far... it might not be 100% (certain algae or pests do still slip though in some tanks when i'm not careful or diligent enough), but at least the chances of any outbreaks are heavily reduced.
Alternatively, for those who have the budget but no time (or patience) to treat and quarantine plants, it might be better to just spend more and purchase good quality tissue-cultured plants (ie. from brands like Tropica or Dennerle) which are guaranteed algae and pest free from the start. :)
Recently had a chance to take a snapshot of how i do anti-pest and
anti-algae chemical treatments on multiple plants at the same time. In
this case, a batch of bucephalandra variants which i wanted to keep
separated and labelled, so that they don't get mixed up...
I basically utilize small plastic containers commonly used to store
sweets and tidbits (usually sold at houseware stores or sundry shops) to
hold each group of plants. The transparent containers allow me to
monitor their treatment progress and observe the condition of the
individual plants more closely. This helps to make the overall process
alot more manageable and organized.