Acclimating New Livestock
One of the most important things to know about in this hobby in order to ensure the health of your aquatic livestock is to know how to properly acclimate them. A common newbie mistake is to think that it is okay to buy a fish or invert at a LFS and then add them straight to their aquarium when they get home. The problem with this is that most likely the water parameters at your LFS do not match the water parameters of your aquarium. By simply adding the new fish or invert to your aquarium without acclimating them first, you shock the poor critter, which can lead to the new fish or invert becoming susceptible to disease or death. In order to reduce the stress of transferring a new fish or invert from the store aquarium to your aquarium, you must properly acclimate them.
Methods of Acclimating New Livestock:
There are three main ways to acclimate new livestock...
1. Floating Method
The simplest way to acclimate a new addition is to float the bag containing the fish or invert in your aquarium for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, you can add the new critter to your aquarium.
Pros: Quick and Easy.
Cons: Only acclimates the new fish or invert to a new temperature, other water parameters like salinity, alkalinity, pH, nitrates, etc. can still shock the fish or invert when added to the new aquarium.
2. Cup Method
The Cup Method involves placing your new fish/invert in a bucket containing the water that the fish/invert came in from the store. Every 5 minutes, add 1/2 cup of water from your aquarium to the bucket. After 25 minutes, add the new fish/invert to your aquarium.
Pros: Still pretty quick and easy. This method allows the fish/invert to acclimate better than the Floating Method because you actually use water from your tank to slowly acclimate the fish to your water's parameters.
Cons: Adding water to the bucket in 1/2 cup quantities is not very gradual and could potentially still shock the new fish/invert.
3. Drip Method
The Drip Method is the best acclimation method. The Drip Method consists of placing your new fish/invert in a bucket containing the water that the fish/invert came in from the store. Next, you run a few feet of airline tubing from your aquarium to the bucket. With one end of the tubing inside of your aquarium (either held in place by a suction cup, your aquarium lid, etc.), suck on the other end of the tubing. This will start a siphon and water will continue to flow from your aquarium out of the tubing. Let the other end of the tubing drain into your bucket (make sure that the bucket is placed lower than your aquarium otherwise the siphon will break). Tie a loose knot into the tubing to slow the flow down to a drip (hence the name "Drip" Method). Let water from your aquarium "drip" into the bucket containing the new fish/invert for an hour or longer, and then you can add the new fish/invert to your aquarium. After about 30 minutes, you can increase the speed of the drip by loosening the knot tied if you desire. Also, you can use an air valve connected to the airline tubing to slow the flow to a drip instead of tying a knot in the tubing if you have an air valve around.
Pros: The most thorough method. Acclimates the new fish/invert the most gradually, reducing stress.
Cons: Takes longer and requires more work.