Acclimating your new arrival is one of the most important steps an aquarist can take to ensure good health, and smooth transition to its new home. Whereas your new fish, coral or invertebrate will arrive in a bag that may have different temperature, pH, and salinity parameters than your aquarium, it's imperative to slowly adjust them to the parameters of your aquarium. Fish, and especially coral and invertebrates, are very sensitive to minor changes in these parameters, so although properly acclimating your new arrival is time consuming, it's definitely worth the effort.
Either acclimation method explained below is required to help with the transition to your aquarium.
We highly recommend that all new arrivals be quarantined in a separate aquarium for a period of two weeks or more to reduce the possibility of introducing diseases and parasites into your aquarium. The use of a quarantine aquarium will also allow you to ensure they are accepting food, eating properly, and are in optimum health before their final transition to your main display.
- Turn off aquarium lights during acclimation and a few hours thereafter.
- Dim the lights in the room where the bag will be opened. Never open the bag in bright light - severe stress or trauma may result from sudden exposure to bright light.
- Float the sealed bag in the aquarium for 15 - 20 minutes. Never open the bag at this time. This allows the water in the bag to equalize to the temperature in the aquarium, while maintaining a high level of dissolved oxygen.
- After floating the sealed bag for 15 -20 minutes, cut or remove the closing band and roll the top edge of the bag down one inch to create an air pocket within the lip of the bag. This will enable the bag to float on the surface of the water. For heavy pieces of live coral that will submerge the bag, place the bag containing the coral in a plastic bowl or specimen container.
- Add 1/2 cup of aquarium water to the bag.
- Repeat step 5 every four to five minutes until the bag is full.
- Lift the bag from the aquarium and discard half of the water.
- Float the bag in the aquarium again and proceed to add 1/2 cup of aquarium water to the bag every four to five minutes until the bag is full.
- Net aquatic life from the bag and release into the aquarium.
- Remove the filled bag from the aquarium and discard the water. Never release bagged water directly into the aquarium.
This method is considered more advanced. It is geared toward sensitive inhabitants such as shrimp, sea stars, and wrasses. You will need airline tubing and must be willing to monitor the entire process. Gather a clean, 3 or 5-gallon bucket designated for aquarium use
- Start with Steps 1-3 of the floating method to acclimate water temperature.
- Carefully empty the contents of the bags (including the water) into the bucket, making sure not to expose sensitive invertebrates to the air. Depending on the amount of water in each bag, this may require tilting the bucket at a 45 degree angle to make sure the animals are fully submerged. You may need a prop or wedge to help hold the bucket in this position until there is enough liquid in the bucket to put it back to a level position.
- Using airline tubing, set up and run a siphon drip line from the main aquarium to each bucket. You’ll need separate airline tubing for each bucket used. Tie several loose knots in the airline tubing, or use a plastic or other non-metal airline control valve, to regulate flow from the aquarium. It is also a good idea to secure the airline tubing in place with an airline holder.
- Begin a siphon by sucking on the end of the airline tubing you'll be placing into each of the buckets. When water begins flowing through the tubing, adjust the drip by tightening one of the knots or adjusting the control valve to a rate of about 2-4 drips per second.
- When the water volume in the bucket doubles, discard half and begin the drip again until the volume doubles once more – about one hour.
- After steps 1-5 are completed, the specimens can be transferred to the aquarium. Sponges, clams, and gorgonias should never be directly exposed to air. Gently scoop them out of the drip bucket with the specimen bag, making sure they’re fully covered in water. Submerge the bag underwater in the aquarium and gently remove the specimen from the bag. Next, seal off the bag underwater by twisting the opening, and remove it from the aquarium. Discard both the bag and the enclosed water. A tiny amount of the diluted water will escape into the aquarium; this is O.K. Also, to avoid damage, please remember never to touch the "fleshy" part of live coral when handling. Only, if acclimating both fish and invertebrates, use a separate bucket for each.
NOTE: Most invertebrates and marine plants are more sensitive than fish to changes in specific gravity. It is imperative to acclimate invertebrates to a specific gravity of 1.023-1.025 or severe stress or trauma may result. Test specific gravity with a hydrometer or refractometer.
- Be patient - never rush the acclimation procedure. The total acclimation time for your new arrival should take no longer than one hour
- Always follow the acclimation procedure even if your new arrival appears to be dead. Some fish and invertebrates can appear as though they are dead when they arrive and will usually revive when the above procedure is followed correctly
- Never place an airstone into the sealed bag when acclimating your new arrival. This will increase the pH of the bag water too quickly and expose your new arrival to lethal ammonia
- Keep aquarium lights off for at least four hours after the new arrival is introduced into the aquarium
- Most invertebrates and marine plants are more sensitive than fish to salinity changes. It is imperative to acclimate invertebrates to a specific gravity of 1.023-1.025 or severe stress or trauma may result
- Sponges, clams, scallops, and gorgonias should never be directly exposed to air. Follow the acclimation procedure, but instead of netting the specimen out of the bag, submerge the bag underwater in the aquarium and remove the marine life from the bag. Seal off the bag underwater by twisting the opening, and remove it from the aquarium. Discard both the bag and the enclosed water. A tiny amount of the diluted bag water will escape into the aquarium. Don't be alarmed; this will have no adverse effect on the tank inhabitants
- In some instances, your new tank mate will be chased and harassed by one or all of your existing tank mates
Solution 1: A plastic spaghetti strainer (found at your local discount store) can be used to contain a tank bully within the aquarium for several hours until the new arrival adjusts to its surroundings. Just float the perforated plastic basket in the aquarium. Net the tank bully and place in the floating basket for approximately four hours while the new arrival adjusts to your aquarium. Never place the new arrival in this basket; the new specimen must get familiar with your aquarium. By placing the tank bully in a perforated basket, you'll reduce the stress on your newest tank mate.
Solution 2: A perforated plastic lighting grid can be purchased at your local hardware store to cut down the width of your aquarium. This grid may be used to section off a small portion of the aquarium to separate territorial or aggressive fish from the newest tank mate. After the new addition adjusts to the unfamiliar environment, the divider can be removed.