Hey saltwater aquarium fans,

Im worried at the moment, I have been hearing a lot recently of people not acclimating their marine pets correctly when getting them home from the local fish store (or LFS to aquarium geeks ;)).

Please acclimate me correctly!

Please acclimate me correctly!

This is fine if you dont mind playing russian roulete with you probably-quite-expensive new pets life…

Let me explain; it is commonly estimated in the industry that up to 90% of captive marine mortality results from the extreme stresses of capture and handling  from the reef environment and shipping to distant saltwater tanks of dubious water quality.

This is all so taxing to marine fish and invertebrates for the following reasons:

  1. Ecological stress: of being placed into a collection of random, alien marine life, most of which your new fish never even imagined existed! All the evolutionary relationships from your little pets eco-system are gone it needs to forge new ones which is stressful.
  2. Biological stress: is caused by the unwitting introduction of parasites into your aquarium water; never add any of the shipping water to your display tank, under any circumstances! All marine pets need to be quarantined for 30 days before going into your display tank, to learn how to do this correctly buy my book.
  3. Chemical stress: is caused by differences in pH and other water parameters between the different waters (holding tank, shipping water, your tank), which should be gradually adjusted between moves to minimise stress. A major chemical killer is the build up Ammonia in small shipping volumes, this can enter the fishes tissues and when the fish is placed straight into water of a higher pH can rapidly kill it.
  4. Physical stress: results from any difference in water temperature, even small fluctuations in water temperature over time can adversely affect the health of your marine life. Make sure you use a good acclimation technique to gradually bring up or down the temperature.

As you can see, its all pretty stressful to our aquatic friends, so how can we make it easier on them and increase their chances of survival?

pH Test KitYou first should Float the shipping bag in your preprepared acclimation water to gradually bring the temperature up (or down). Next test the pH and ammonia levels of the shipping water, if the ammonia is detectable you should add some acid (or ammonia neutralising chemical) to your pre-prepared acclimation water to reduce the pH in line with the shipping water, this will avoid the potentially fatal problem of a pH increase combined with ammonia in the fishes system as I mentioned earlier.

The method I prefer to use to acclimate is the called the drip method. This is great because it is gentle on your marine life because the addition of new water is very gradual (drip by drip). So you will need some clean small diameter air tubing complete with an air gang valve to adjust the speed of the water flow. Place the acclimation water higher than the vessel holding your new pet and start a siphon (careful sucking will be fine) and regulate the valve so there is a gradual dripping (say one or 2 drips per second), you want the whole process to take over an hour. If the water parameters of the shipping water you tested are highly different from your acclimation water, reduce the water flow to quite slow to give your pet time to adjust to the vastly different conditions of the new water.

After 3 times the level of the original shipping water is reached, test the specific gravity; temperature and pH to see if it matches your aquarium water if so gently add your new pet using a net. If not keep going until it does.

After this is done I recommend you put your new, stresslessly acclimated pet into a quarantine tank for 30 days before it goes into your display saltwater tank.

If you have done all this congratulations! You have just given your marine pet the VERY BEST chance of a happy healthy life in your marine aquarium possible, and if you quarantined as well you have reduced the chance of disease introduction by a whopping 90%!

Saltwater Aquarium Advice