Acclimation

The reason we acclimate our livestock is simple, the water that the fish or corals are packaged in has different temperature, pH, and salinity parameters than your quarantine tank. Acclimation simply means equalizing the water conditions within the shipping bag to the tank parameters in a slow manner as not to shock the livestock. Fish and especially invertebrates or corals are very sensitive to even minor changes in water parameters, so proper acclimation is the key to ensuring their best chance of survival.  We will describe what we do for fishes versus invertebrates or corals.

You can acclimate your new livestock in one of two ways, float or drip.  The most important thing to remember with the acclimation process is never rushed. Fishes catch disease when stressed and you want to keep stress to a minimum.  Also, remember to keep your quarantine tank lights off for at least four hours after the specimens are introduced into the tank to help them further adjust.

For our own livestock, we quarantine 2 months before they are introduced into our display tanks. We recommend no less than 2 weeks to reduce the possibility of introducing diseases and parasites into your display tank and to observe and ensure new livestock is eating properly before introducing to display tank. In my over 30 years in this hobby, I have heard too many times that a parasite or disease hit the main display because of no quarantine measures and entire tank wipe out from the disease or parasite. Hard earn money and time to collect all the different species were a total loss because there was no quarantine measure. We experienced it 2 times ourselves within our quarantine system were we could not eradicate the disease quickly enough and this was before we starting treating all fishes while in quarantine.

Floating Method
If you prefer visual than reading, there are already a lot of good YouTube videos:  Float Acclimation YouTube

1.       Dim room lights and turn off tank lights, so neither the opening of the livestock box is exposed to bright lights as this could shock the new livestock.

2.       Float the sealed bag in the tank for 15-20 minutes as this allows the water temperature within the bag to equalize with the new tank. Never open the shipping bag at this time.

3.       After floating the sealed shipping bag for 15-20 minutes, cut open the bag and add 1/2 cup of tank water to the shipping bag. We usually add a few drops of ammonia remover before adding the tank water.

4.       Repeat adding 1/2 cup of tank water to the shipping bag every 5 minutes until the shipping bag is full.

5.       Pour out 1/2 the water from the shipping bag float the shipping bag in the aquarium again and repeat adding 1/2 cup of aquarium water to the shipping bag every 5 minutes until the bag is full again.

6.       Net aquatic life from the shipping bag and release into the tank.  On this step is where our in house process is different.  Since we quarantine our livestock, we pour all water within the shipping bags into our quarantine tank, so the livestock can continue quarantine in a mixture of original water and new water and the few drops of ammonia remover should have removed any ammonia from reaching dangerous levels.

7.       Also, the extra step we do is there’s a 10mg/L solution of chloroquine added to fish quarantine tank a disease prevention safeguard.  Chloroquine cannot be used with corals or invertebrates, fish only.

Drip Method
This is our preferred method of acclimation as it acclimates very slowly sensitive livestock such as corals, invertebrate and fishes like wrasses.  You will need an acclimation box like Reef Gently, an acclimation kit that includes airline tubing, clip and shut-off valve, or just simple airline tubing. You also need a clean 3 to 5 gallon bucket designated for aquarium use only. If acclimating both fish and invertebrates, use a separate buckets for each.  If you prefer visual demo rather than reading, there are already some good YouTube videos:  Drip Acclimation YouTube

1.       Dim room lights and turn off tank lights, so neither the opening of the livestock box is exposed to bright lights as this could shock the new livestock.

2.       Float the sealed bag in the tank for 15-20 minutes as this allows the water temperature within the bag to equalize with the new tank. Never open the shipping bag at this time.

3.       After floating the sealed shipping bag for 15-20 minutes, cut open the bag and carefully pour water and livestock into bucket making sure not to expose corals that are sensitive to air. We usually add a few drops of ammonia remover before we start dripping tank water.

4.       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. Use the shutoff valve or tie several loose knots in the airline tubing to control the dripping. You should secure the airline tubing in place with an airline holder or an acclimation kit. We like to use the Reef Gently acclimation box as we pour the livestock into box and the kit already has the airline tubing and shutoff valve built into the box.

5.       Begin a siphon by sucking on the end of the airline tubing you’ll be placing into the buckets. When water begins flowing through the tubing, adjust the drip by tightening one of the knots or adjusting the shutoff valve to a rate of about 3-4 drops per second.

6.       When the water volume in the bucket doubles, discard half and begin the drip again until the volume doubles again. This process should take 45 minutes to an hour.  If the water becomes cold during the drip process, rebag the fishes and float in tank 15 minutes before releasing.

7.       At this point, the specimens can be transferred to your quarantine tank. At this step is where our in house process is different.  Since we quarantine our livestock, we pour all water within the shipping bags into our quarantine tank, so the livestock can continue quarantine in a mixture of their original water and new tank water to minimize water parameter differences.  The few drops of ammonia remover should have removed any ammonia from reaching dangerous levels within the bags.

8.       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 are fully covered in water. Submerge the bag underwater in the aquarium and gently remove the specimen from the bag. To avoid damage, remember to avoid touching the “fleshy” part of live coral when handling.