FisH2O’s Acclimation Guide
What is acclimation, and why is it important?
All aquatic creatures—fish, corals and other invertebrates—are sensitive to sudden changes in their environments—some more so than others. These changes include temperature, salinity, pH and other components of water chemistry. Should these changes occur too rapidly, these creatures become stressed. Depending upon the severity of this stress, disease or death can result. Proper acclimation is the most important first step in introducing new livestock into your home or office aquarium.
Simply put, acclimation is a process by which your new livestock is gradually introduced to the unique water conditions of their new home. This process is not complicated, and requires only the most basic equipment. However, its importance to the health and longevity of your new livestock cannot be overstated.
What equipment will I need to acclimate my new livestock?
All you really need are a few 3 – 5 gallon pails and several 6 – 8-foot lengths of flexible airline tubing. Add a simple gang valve to the end of each length of airline tubing, and you’re set. It is also advisable to test water parameters—temperature, salinity and pH—during the acclimation process (see below), so testing supplies should be on-hand. Finally, be sure to have ample freshly-mixed saltwater on hand, as you will lose water from your tank during acclimation.
A few “dos” and “don’ts”
- Don’t rush acclimation. The single largest mistake you can make is trying to rush the acclimation process to get your new livestock into your tank too quickly.
- Don’t acclimate fish and invertebrates in the same pail.
- Don’t acclimate corals, clams or anemones in the same pail with fish or invertebrates.
- After your newly-acclimated livestock is introduced into your tank, leave the tank lights off for the remainder of the day. This further reduces the stress on the new livestock, and helps all your livestock “renegotiate” their territories within the tank in less stressful low-light conditions.
- Never expose sponges to open air. They must always be kept fully submerged in water throughout the acclimation process and transfer to your tank.
- Always acclimate sponges separately from all other livestock.
- Be sure to have extra saltwater on hand to replace the water you will remove from your tank during acclimation.
- Never introduce into your tank the water in which your new livestock was packed at the store or in which you have acclimated your new livestock.
The acclimation process
Once again, don’t rush this process.
- Before you begin, test the temperature, salinity and pH of your tank water, and write down those results.
- Place each type of livestock—fish, invertebrates, corals/clams/anemones—into a separate pail, together with all the bag water in which they were packed at the store.
- Run a siphon line of airline tubing from your tank to each pail to begin a slow drip of tank water into each pail.
- Using the gang valve, adjust the drip rate to a moderate drip—drip—drip – something like 1 – 2 drips per second. If in doubt, slow it down. Too fast a drip rate can alter the water conditions in the pail too rapidly and stress your new livestock.
- When the water level in the bucket reaches a volume approximately three times the volume of the bag water, check the water parameters (temperature, salinity and pH). If they’re in line with the parameters in your tank, you’re finished. If not, continue dripping until the parameters match those in your tank. If a pail gets too full, you may remove water from it.
- Once the water parameters in the pail match those in your tank, stop the siphon, and gently transfer the livestock into the tank.
- After all livestock has been transferred into the tank, replace the volume of water lost from the tank through the drip process. Never use the water in the acclimation pails to top off your tank.
A few other tips and reminders
- Some fish exhibit strange behaviors—rapid breathing, lying on their sides—during acclimation and after first being introduced into your tank. Don’t panic. They will soon settle in.
- Many invertebrates will lie motionless during acclimation or when first introduced into your tank. Again, don’t panic.
- As a general rule, invertebrates are more sensitive to changes in water parameters than fish. So, when acclimating invertebrates think slow and long—a slower drip rate, and longer period of acclimation.
- It’s a good idea to dip your new corals into a coral dip before introducing them into your tank. Ask us to help you select the right product for your needs.
- When new corals are first placed in your tank, it’s a good idea to place them low in the tank. Then, over a period of several days, move them closer to the light (depending on the lighting needs of each type coral you have introduced).
- Most corals will take days to fully open. Be patient.
Remember: If you have questions, just call us.