A Fish Quarantine Process - Step by Step

Discussion in 'Fish Diseases & Treatments' started by leebca, Oct 21, 2007.

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  1. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    A QUARANTINE PROCESS FOR FISH

    There are almost as many different quarantine processes as there are aquarists in the hobby for more than 10 years. About the only thing there are more of are uninformed hobbyists who claim a quarantine is bad for fish, or who don't want to spend the time, or inaccurately claim not all fish can or should be quarantined, or who don't want to spend the $40. for a quarantine kit, or who don't believe it is necessary, or who believe that a healthy fish can survive any disease or parasite.

    We, the Old Guard, for the most part know better. I wrote . . .more than 10 years because if you've been in the hobby that long, you've come to realize that performing a quarantine process is essential to good marine husbandry. The smarter aquarists know this from the outset and began using a quarantine process from the first day in the hobby! :thumbup:

    What good is a quarantine process? There's a whole list that a quarantine process will:
    1) Further acclimate the fish to captive life without being bothered by other fishes;
    2) Get the fish to eat without it 'running away' and hiding;
    3) Get the fish on the right foods and nutrients;
    4) Allow the fish to eat without competition;
    5) Give the fish a chance to recognize and become acclimated to the aquarist;
    6) Give the fish a chance to heal any capture or travel injury or trauma;
    7) Give the fish a chance to recover from any condition or disease;
    8) Prepare the fish for a more competitive life in the community/reef tank; and
    9) Protect the health of the display tank livestock.

    Maybe you can think of more advantages/benefits of a quarantine process? I think the best phrase I have ever seen another person post was, "Quarantine provides a new fish, sanctuary."

    It may sound corny but ultimately -- The only thing you want to add to the marine system is the fish (as opposed to the fish PLUS parasites, pathogens, and disease).

    Most aquarists as I do, have an emotional investment with the fishes in the display tank. There is a money investment too. A new fish bringing disease into the display that kills other fish can be a significant loss of monies. But for me the far greater loss is the loss of fish life for failing to protect the display fishes from new arrivals bringing in disease. Ultimately, the quarantine process is a stress reducer not an added stress to a new fish.

    Even though only about 1/3 novices and less experienced hobbyists perform a quarantine process, it is a process performed by all marine livestock professionals (e.g., fish vets, public and private aquarium management).

    I recommend to quarantine no less than 6 weeks. Professionals may quarantine fishes 3 or 4 weeks, but they take scrapings and/or clippings of the fish and perform microscopic examinations to identify the presence or absence of parasites and disease. Since I don't expect the average marine aquarist to do this, 6 weeks in quarantine is the minimum I recommend.

    EVERY and ANY fish can be quarantined. If you have a sandsifter or a fish that burrows, then you can use a substrate of pure silica sand. (Although, keep in mind that most of these fishes really don't need any substrate to go through quarantine.) I prefer putting a deep bowl of silica sand into the QT for the fish. The bowl can be removed (when the fish is out) and the sand cleaned or replaced then returned to the QT. See item 11. below.

    This post is to outline my quarantine process in the context of the acquisition of a new fish; and to further detail some aspects of my quarantine process. Use it all or as much as you want, if you like what I do. Keep in mind that I can't/won't recommend anything less than this. Let's jump into the water. . .:D


    NOTE: Only quarantine one fish at a time. This does not apply to a hospital tank used to treat multiple fishes with the same disease/condition. This does not apply to bonded/mated pairs. This does not apply to a school (several of the same species) of fishes, like some Chromis, that are acquired at the same time and expected to school together in the display tank. You still quarantine all these exceptions; just not alone.

    The Quarantine process, abbreviated and in outline form:

    Equipment and Supplies (The basic setup is often available as a 'special' package)
    1. Properly sized bare-bottomed tank (about 5-7 gallons for every inch of fish, longer and shallow for fish like tangs that travel distances means for a 3" Tang provide a standard 29 gallon tank); this is the quarantine tank (QT)
    2. Lighting (enough for the fish to see their food, at least)
    3. Heater
    4. Simple Sponge Filter (corner filter) -- one per 15-20 gallons of water; with air pump and air tubing
    5. Cleaned PVC piping or resin decorations so fish can hide
    6. A place to put this QT
    7. All the usual test kits (at least ammonia, nitrite, and pH (or pH meter - see 8.), optional: alkalinity)
    8. Measuring devices: BUY the refractometer (forget using a hydrometer for hyposalinity treatments, which you're likely going to have to do sometime if you stay in this hobby more than a couple of years), thermometer, pH meter (if you can afford $60-80 for a handheld field meter), etc.
    9. RO/DI or distilled water and your favorite artificial salt mix. Do not use tap water in the QT or display tank.
    10. Treatment equipment and medications according to: http://www.reefsanctuary.com/forums/saltwater-fish/23117-stocking-marine-fish-medicine-cabinet.html
    11. Optionally, a substrate of clean and pure silica sand is okay ONLY IF you will quarantine a fish that MUST dig into the sand. Some silica sands are contaminated with carbonates and they must not be used. Test 'sand' with a 1:2 dilution of vinegar. If it bubbles, the sand is contaminated with carbonates and must not be used.
    [Note what's not on this list: carbonate substrate, powerheads, circulating pumps, skimmer, UV, ozone unit, landscaping, and carbonate containing rocks (live or otherwise). See 7. below]

    Preparation

    The sponge filter should be in the display system (e.g., sump) and running all the time to be seeded with nitrifying bacteria to be the biological filter for the QT. It takes about 4 to 8 weeks for the sponge to be ready to serve as the QT biological filter. Do not clean, rinse, or wash a seeded sponge (biological) filter for the QT. However ALL the other QT equipment including decorations, PVC, etc. must be cleaned prior to their first use: http://www.reefsanctuary.com/forums/fish-diseases-treatments/31684-tank-cleanup-procedures.html. [You can still perform a quarantine process without having the pre-seeded or operational biological filter. Start the filter anyway, then you can use extra water changes to control ammonia and nitrites (large changes when ammonia is detected and/or when nitrites are detected above 0.05ppm), or a combo of large water changes and chemical filtration.]

    Starting the QT
    1. Fill QT with water from the display tank or make up fresh saltwater.
    2. Add cleaned PVC pipes for hiding places and/or use resin decorations properly cleaned: http://www.reefsanctuary.com/forums/fish-diseases-treatments/31684-tank-cleanup-procedures.html
    3. Add a bowl of the cleaned silica sand IF the fish being quarantined burrows or is a sandsifter.
    4. Start bio-filter (add sponge from display tank to QT and run it).
    5. Tests: ammonia, nitrite, pH, specific gravity, and temperature of the QT water.
    6. Make adjustments as needed.
    7. The QT is ready for use.

    Prepare and keep on hand saltwater made from artificial salts -- all future water changes will use this water not display tank water.


    [NOTE: if the QT will not be used within a couple of days, the aquarist should keep the biological filter going by adding food to the QT and not removing it (see After Use below). Just before fish is added, siphon off any leftover foods and detritus. Just before adding fish, perform again the above (and 1. below) series of water quality tests.]

    In Use Procedures
    1. Monitor and test for ammonia, nitrite, pH, specific gravity and temperature daily.
    2. Hold water quality constant and good.
      (IF the biological/sponge filter was not seeded or it stops working during a treatment, control ammonia and nitrites by large water changes OR use chemical absorbents (e.g., Algone) so long as the chemicals won't and don't interfere with any medication. Make water changes whenever any ammonia is detected; make water changes when 0.05 ppm or more nitrite is detected when quarantine is performed on fish.)
    3. Make adjustments to water daily to hold water test results in their proper range and to keep them steady (Make adjustments more often (2-3 times per day) if the biological filter is not or stops functioning.)
    4. Remove uneaten foods 1 hour after each feeding time.
    5. The bowl of silica sand can be taken out and replaced when the fish isn't 'in it.'
    6. Make 50% or larger water changes every week or more frequently -- assuming no treatment is being administered. Follow good water change techniques. (If a treatment is administered, change water according to medication instructions. If water changes are needed during treatment and the treatment isn't over, medication must be added back to the QT water to keep medication at a constant, recommended concentration.)
    After Use

    The QT can remain running, with food (0.5 gram frozen food per 20 gallons) added every other day to keep the biological filter running,
    OR
    Return sponge filter (if not treated with copper meds) to display tank system (e.g., sump) and keep it running until needed again.
    Tare down the QT; wash and rinse it out thoroughly. If copper was used, there needs to be a special cleaning process IF the QT will be used to quarantine invertebrates, LR, corals, and such. IF the QT will only be used for marine fish, a thorough cleaning will be all that is needed. After cleaning, let the equipment go bone dry before using again.


    Things Not To Do/Use
    1. Don't use live rock in a QT. It may seem like a 'short cut' for a biological filter, but you won't be able to treat the fish with medications -- most fish treatments will turn the live rock into base rock. See 7. below
    2. Don't use any carbon or general absorbing media -- it will interfere with any medication you might want to administer.
    3. Avoid the use of any 'high-end' filtration system. Stick with a simple sponge filter. The benefits include: easy to move it into and from the display system for keeping it alive; it has no intake to injure a fish; it gently moves the water's surface; and doesn't create too much of a current. Your best control over water quality will be testing and making water changes. HOWEVER, if you do have to use a medication in the QT, then you might need carbon to remove the medication.
    4. Don't count upon any of those products that say they will start your tank's biological filter by adding bacteria. They usually won't help you and since you may be using medication, they definitely won't be able to help. When you use medication, many of the bacteria will die or just fail to come out of their dormant state.
    5. Don't attempt to quarantine multiple fishes. (NOTE: this is for newly acquired fishes NOT when the QT is used as a hospital tank. When treating multiple fish with the same disease, they may be put together).
    5.a If you would like a pair of Anemonefishes, for instance, either use two quarantine tanks or quarantine them one at a time. Another method is to setup a large QT and insert a divider to separate them. There's no rush and there's absolutely no need to put them into your display at the same time. If your display tank is smallish, then two fish shouldn't be put in together -- it will shock the biological system of the display.
    5.b One problem with putting multiple fishes through the same quarantine is that one fish can have a disease and give it to the rest. Now you're treating fish that weren't ill to begin with. Or. . .The nightmare: Every fish in the QT can have a different disease or condition and they require different treatments. It's not worth the trouble, risk, or likely loss.
    5.c Another problem is that putting multiple fishes through quarantine defeats many of the above listed benefits of using a quarantine process. Check out that list. Which of the listed benefits of using a quarantine process would be lost if multiple fishes were in the QT?
    6. Don't assume everything is fine. Keep checking the water quality and especially pH. A water change can mend a world of hurts! :D
    7. Don't use live sand, live rock, or any carbonate-based decorations. When you medicate with copper and/or other meds, this material interferes with the proper dosage. Also, if using copper, the life will die in the sand and the rock and cause a spike of ammonia and nitrite. For a sick fish, this can be near instant death. You can decorate the QT with artificial and resin-based items. If the fish needs 'sand' then use silica sand which doesn't cause any problems noted above. I wish hobbyists would stop trying to second guess these instructions. No live rock or live sand!
    8. Save your money. Don't buy any 'bacteria' to 'seed' your system with. This is insane. The bacteria that run the biological filter free and they are everywhere -- land, sea, and air. When they are in a bottle and in stasis -- non-active state -- they don't do anything for a few weeks anyway. Might as well have waited for the filter to get seeded on its own. AND, adding 'old' display water does not speed up 'seeding' the biological filter. NO SHORTCUTS. Nature will take its time.



    I have done the above (or a version of the above) for more than 35 years now. For over 35 years my display tanks have been free of parasites, disease microbes, flukes, intestinal worms, etc., etc. Together with reduced stress the fish will live a long and healthy life (oldest one is now 17 years old). The above may look daunting or arduous, but it was written in great detail for those who enjoy the details. Once the aquarist has the equipment, it is an easy process. Doing this has a great payback!

    Feel free to ask for any explanation for why I do any of the above, or ask if you have any questions.
     
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    Last edited: Sep 9, 2012
  2. Woodstock

    Woodstock The Wand Geek was here. ;)
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    Lee, I am currently using pure ammonia (plus some thawed fish food) to cycle my hospital tank. Do you recommend this method?
     
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  3. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    I have found using ammonia alone isn't enough. What adding just ammonia products does is launch the nitrification bacteria. But if the person is aware of what's really going on, they realize that there are thousands of other kinds of bacteria at work.

    So adding ammonia AND another organic source, such as the thawed fish food is a very good idea. Don't short the thawed fish food. In fact you can slightly overdose it in the unoccupied QT and then clean it out before using the tank.
     
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  4. BarbMazz

    BarbMazz New Member

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    Lee, this makes very good sense to me. I am very interested in setting up a reef tank and I'm doing my ahead-of-time research so that I'm prepared as I can be before I actually do it.

    When I do set up my tank how do I set up a QT in conjunction with it? I would like to have the QT available when I'm ready to start adding fish. I understand about the sponge filter, and allowing it to get ready in the sump. Do I start the sponge when I actually first set up my display and sump/refugium system?

    What about the other creatures that go into a display tank; corals, inverts, clean up guys, etc etc... do they need quarantine as well?

    Any tips or advice you can send a newbie's way will be much appreciated.
    Thanks!
    Barb
     
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  5. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    Thanks for posting Barb.

    I have in another post indicated a beginner's approach to setting up an aquarium. In step 18. I recommend putting the first fish through quarantine.

    The biological filter for the QT is put into the initial setup of the marine system to seed it with bacteria -- a step in the process shows when to do this.

    The post is here: http://www.reefsanctuary.com/forums...-first-fo-fowlr-marine-system.html#post357677
     
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  6. BarbMazz

    BarbMazz New Member

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    Lee, thanks for the good link! I've printed it out and will add it to me reef binder. I'm getting closer to actually making purchases and starting setup...this sort of advice is invaluable!

    Barb
     
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  7. cracker

    cracker Well-Known Member

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    My 20 gl qt has been cycleing about 10 days now. I'm using a w/d with bioballs for the filter. The Ammonia came up to 2.0 & has stayed at this level for several days now. Should it be higher? I added a few frozen cubes of brine shrimp A big pinch of flake & a small fresh shrimp. Shoud I add some more fish food? Can I add a few drops of pure ammonia even though I'm not following that proceedure? Thanks.
    I guess I'm looking for a stronger cycle.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 27, 2007
  8. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    I'm unsure what you mean by a 'stronger' cycle. You just want it to cycle -- properly. Nature insists upon time and that can't be easily altered. The size of the numbers is not as important as the fact that these chemicals are there and measurable.

    As long as there is ammonia and nitrites present then the numbers of bacteria aren't there to handle these wastes. I would not recommend the use of flakes. Hold off on the food now until the ammonia goes down. It takes time.:thumbup:

     
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  9. cracker

    cracker Well-Known Member

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    Thanks again . I will wait !
     
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  10. CMG

    CMG New Member

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    I am setting up a QT tank. I have a 10g tank with a hood and I have left overs from my freshwater tank, heaters, air pump, etc.

    I have 2 questions about the sponge filter I am trying to use.

    1) I am just confused about how this thing works with an air pump. I totaly understand attaching a powerhead to the tube (tube not shown in pic) will suck water in through the sponge creating the necessary water/bacteria contact. But how does pumping air down into the sponge create water movement? Wont the air in the form of bubbles just go down the little air pump tube and come out and then float back up through the big sponge filter tube? And what about the second air pump tube? The pump has two outlets???

    2) In order to get good bacteria into the sponge do I just put the sponge in the main display or do I need to put the whole sponge filter runnig with the air pump in the display?

    Thank you!
     

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  11. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    Thanks for posting.

    A tube from the top of the center of the filter will act like a riser. Instead of a mechanical draw, an airstone near the middle of the filter running with air, will draw water through the sponge. The air mixed with water in the tube is 'lighter' water than the surrounding water and that water rises in the tube. This action draws water through the filter. It is the same principle hat an undergravel filter operates. You might check out how they look and how air stones are used in those 'riser' tubes.

    The sponge filter operating with the air and drawing water through the sponge, is put into the sump or established marine system. That is all that is needed to 'seed' the sponge with the desirable bacteria. However, like the first cycle on your new aquarium, the seeding takes a few weeks.
     
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  12. CMG

    CMG New Member

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    Ohhhhhh! Very interesting. Thank you.

    So I not only need to hook up the airpump tube to the top of the bullseye on sponge filter but I also need to use an airstone? I think this is attached to the bottom side of the bullseye.

    So what does an airstone do? Does it just diffuse the air coming out of the tube so that its not a just a strong flow but instead a spread of bubbles?

    In my picture here the blue box is the air pump and the green is the tube for the pump that goes down inside the sponge filters tube (not pictured) and attaches to what the box says is a bullseye. and underneath the bullseye is another connection point that the airstone (pruple) would go on?
     

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  13. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    I think we are maybe both using words we don't quite understand. :eek:h:

    That green flexible tubing goes inside a pipe (a 'riser' not shown) that goes into the center of the sponge filter, but not down the inside. The end of that pipe should stop at the top of the center of the sponge, so the inside of the sponge does not have a pipe blocking the inside of the sponge. At the end of the green flexible tubing is an airstone. The airstone goes as far into the center of the sponge as practical (maybe half-way or, to avoid bubbles in the sponge, just where the tube connects to the center of the sponge). Air is pumped through the tubing, into the airstone that diffuses the air into small bubbles when this is then put into water. The bubbles rise in the tube and come out the top.

    This action disturbs the surface of the water (a good thing) and draws water from outside the sponge to the inside of the sponge -- the 'filtration' part of the biological filtration.

    Hope this helps.

    Try to find a diagram of an undergravel filter and I think you'll better understand how the airstone and pipe (what I call the lift or riser) is setup.
     
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  14. ZaNe

    ZaNe New Member

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    Hi Lee,

    I have a question. I know that you said not to use a skimmer but my uncle has upgrade his tank and gave me his old skimmer and filter. Can I setup my quarantine with them ?? Because I will save some money and I'm still a student so it would be really great.

    I probably will have to shut down the skimmer during treatment but can I use a normal filter laready used in SW tank ?

    Thank you
     
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  15. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    The skimmer is okay, providing there is no treatment in progress. A skimmer will not function properly if you perform a hyposalinity treatment, also.
     
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  16. bommh18

    bommh18 New Member

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    i need to set up a QT to perform hyposalinity treatment. can i just use water from the Display tank and use it immediately or do i have to wait for the QT to cycle? also, can i use a Marineland Penguin hang on filter?
     
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  17. Dentoid

    Dentoid Smile Maker
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  18. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    The start up of a QT can use the aquarium water IF you have been using a QT process all along and there is no disease in your display system. If you are just beginning to utilize a quarantine process, I would suggest using brand new water.

    NOW, in your particular case, the fish from the display system are infected (I assume) and you are setting up the QT to treat them. In this case, using the aquarium water to begin with is okay.

    A simple sponge filter is the best choice. It moves the water surface around nicely without creating a strong current on sick fishes. Any outside filter or power filter creates a problem for sick fish in that they are easily 'sucked up' by or stick to intake pipes.

    Please read through that link, provided by Dentoid.

    :)

     
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  19. franklingt3

    franklingt3 New Member

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    OK, let me see if I have this correct. I have likely contracted MI in my 14 gallon BioCube. I have 2 small fish, a 1 1/2 " damsel and a 1 1/2" clown as well as a green crab, fireshrimp and a turbo snail. I understand I need to run my display tank for 8 weeks without fish to rid it or starve the MI.

    Is it sufficient to quarintine and treat these critters together in an established QT? Will a 10 gallon size be sufficient, as my space is limited.

    Am I correct that I can start with a fresh mix of RO water and my salt mix. Should I seed the sponge filter with a commercial bacteria or by dipping it or running it for a short time in my display tank? (won't that introduce the MI to the new tank?)

    Finally, appx. how long will it take for my QT to cycle, if I seed it with food as indicated?

    Thanks in advance for a great newbee-friendly forum set!
     
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  20. leebca

    leebca New Member

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    In answer to your concerns and questions:

    Only move and treat the fish.

    Use a seeded sponge from contaminated tank. You can use the water from the original tank, too. The reason why you aren't concerned is two-fold -- the fish are carrying the disease anyway, right? The purpose of the move is to treat for the disease. Once treatment commences, there is to be no cross-over or further use of anything from the contaminated tank.

    Since I doubt you will get the new filter 'seeded' in time, you may just have to do water changes at the outset, UNLESS by seeding you mean taking the floss or filter media from the filter of the contaminated tank and using it in the QT. That is okay, too (for the above reasons).

    Store bought bacteria is a mistake in my opinion. Bought bacteria are not 'active.' They are in a state of metabolic arrest (type of hibernation). It takes them a few weeks to gear up, which is no advantage than having the bacteria in the air and water do the same thing. Save your money. In short, no one rushes Mother Nature.

    See above answer. It would take about 4-8 weeks. Too much time if you're starting from 'scratch.' You need to begin treatment ASAP.


    You're welcome! :)







     
    #20
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