When you purchase a new fish, coral or invertebrate for your saltwater aquarium, it's only natural to be anxious to add them to your tank. After all, you've put a lot of work and patience into your tank and adding life to it is your reward. But, just as maintaining a saltwater tank takes time and patience, you have to have patience when adding new marine life to your tank. Properly acclimating new additions to your tank gives them a better chance of being healthy and surviving. And, it also protects your existing aquarium community. We recommend the Drip Acclimation method with a quarantine tank to every customer.
Whether you have purchased your fish at a local pet shop, or had them shipped to your home, they go through a lot of stress before they arrive at your tank. Even if you have purchased your fish within miles of your home and went straight home, they still need time to adjust to a new aquarium environment. Even slight changes in temperature and water conditions can send the fish into shock and cause a lot of stress. And, some diseases such as ich are induced by stress.
Use A Quarantine Tank
Any time that you purchase saltwater fish, it is highly recommended that you use a quarantine tank. Even if the fish looks and acts healthy it still could introduce a disease into your aquarium. It needs to be kept separate from the rest of the tank community and monitored for two or three weeks. If the fish is sick, it is easier to treat it in a quarantine tank than it is to have to treat your entire aquarium.
The safest way to acclimate new fish or invertebrates into your aquarium is with the drip method. Basically all you need is a bucket, a piece of tubing that is long enough to reach from inside your tank to the bucket and something to secure the tubing to the top of your tank. It is crucial that you make sure that you are using a clean container. A container or bucket that has been used for other purposes could contain chemicals, bacteria or other things that could be dangerous to the fish.
If the fish is in a large bag and there is sufficient water, you can simply empty the contents into the container. If the bag doesn't contain enough water, you will need to place the entire bag into the container. Prop the bag up on one side and make a hole in the top of the bag to insert the tubing. Next you will need to begin a siphon. You can do this by gently sucking on the tube or by using a siphoning pump if you have one.
The goal is to adjust the flow so that you have water entering the bag at about one drip per second. You can simply tie a loose knot in the tubing and tighten it to adjust the water flow. After the water volume has doubled in size, remove about half of the water and let it fill back up. Once you have twice the amount of water again you can test the water to see if the pH and salinity matches that of your aquarium water. If it is the same you can go ahead and add the fish to the tank.
If the pH and salinity levels still don't match those of your aquarium you will need to repeat the process again. Generally most fish can be acclimated using two cycles of this method. However, to be safe a third cycle is recommended for acclimating more sensitive fish or invertebrate. Don't rush the process, it is much better to be safe than to add your fish too soon and experience problems.
If you are acclimating invertebrates or sponges that can't be removed from the water you will have to pour some of the water into the tank. You can remove as much water as possible from the bag and place the bag into the water and slide them out. There is literally no way that you can prevent a small amount of the acclimation water from entering your tank. But, because you have used water from your tank there won't be enough foreign water to cause concern.
Floating Bag Acclimation
The most common acclimation process is the floating bag method. While this method is more suited for freshwater fish, you can use it for saltwater fish as well. Keep in mind that when using this method you are literally risking the health of your entire saltwater community. It is always better to be cautious and quarantine any new specimens before adding them to the aquarium.
This is the fastest method you can use. The first thing you need to do is to open the bag and remove approximately 25% of the water. Replace the amount of water you remove with water from your tank. Secure the bag and let it float in the tank. Every ten minutes add about one more cup of water from your tank to the bag. Keep adding some of the tank water to the bag for about an hour. If the bag is small you can add less each time.
After you have completed the process remove the fish from the bag and place it in the water. Never just dump the entire bag out into the water. There could be parasites and other unwanted bacteria in the water. If the bag is too small to use a net, you can pour the water through the net to catch the fish. Hold the net over a large bowl or bucket and slowly pour the water through the net until you have caught the fish.
The bucket method is exactly the same as the floating bag method except you are floating the bag in a bucket instead of your aquarium. This method is actually safer since you don't risk the chance of any water from the bag leaking into your aquarium. You will need to place some of the aquarium water into the bucket to make sure that the fish is acclimated to the same temperature as your tank. Simply follow the same directions for acclimating by the floating bag method.