How to Acclimate Fish – Properly 1

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How To Acclimate Fish

Properly acclimating new fish to your already established tank requires more than the simple ‘bag float’ method. Most people who have had fish tanks or aquariums of any sort have heard of floating the bag containing the new fish in your aquarium water; however that is only a fraction of what you should do to properly add new fish to a brand new environment.

Within this post, we will discuss the proper way of how to acclimate fish to your aquarium. Don’t worry, the methods we’re about to share below are quite simple and easy.

Step One: Water Testing

Before you even buy a new fish, the first thing you should do should be to test your tank’s nitrate, pH, & ammonia levels.

Read: Essential Aquarium Water Test Kits

Once that is completed and all is found to be well, write the levels down for reference. Bring that sheet of paper to the aquarium store with you, and don’t be afraid to ask someone working there to test the water in whatever tank the fish you would like to purchase are being kept.

After ensuring the water levels are safe, as well as determining how far off your readings are from there, this will give you a better idea as to how to acclimate fish to your tank.

Step Two: Bringing the Fish Home and Acclimating to Your Tank

After everything has come back good with the water level testing, it’s time to purchase a new fish. It’s always best not to add too many fish at once, mainly because of the following reasons:

  • When introducing new fish to the tank, there is always a possibility for infection or disease. To keep that chance low, only attempt to introduce one fish at a time to ensure fish safety.
  • Certain breeds of fish are territorial, and will attack new fish. It’s a shame and a waste of money to buy more than one fish at a time in case the other fish in the tank bully or even kill your new fish.

The Floating Bag Method

After you arrive home, you should do a small water change within the bag that the fish and water is in. Empty about 25% of the water from the bag, and replace it with water from your own aquarium.

This is done to ensure there is not a high ammonia buildup, and as well as to get the fish slowly accustomed to the pH and levels within your tank.

After doing this, you may seal the bag and place the bag into the top of your tank to get accustomed to the water temperature, so as not to shock the fish when you do release it into the tank.

Floating bag method (source)

Floating bag method (source)

The Bucket Method

There is also another method of acclimating fish properly, and that is known as the bucket method.

This method is better than the floating bag method because you don’t run the risk of getting any of the bag water into your own tank, which you should always try to avoid, and allows the fish to be in clean water.

This method is done by putting the fish with the bag into a clean bucket, and as with the floating method, remove about 25% of the bag water, keeping the remainder of that water in the bag, and replacing the 25% which you removed with water from your own tank.

Every 10 minutes you should add about 1 cup of tank water to the bucket, and you should do this for an hour or so. After an hour has passed, you can safely use a small net to retrieve the fish from the bag and introduce the fish to your tank.

How to Acclimate Saltwater Fish: The Drip Method

The method of how to acclimate saltwater fish is a bit different. There is more detail and care taken in this method, which is known as the drip method.

The reason it is more of an intricate process is that saltwater fish are more prone to have adverse reactions to new environments and pH levels as well as other water chemistry levels.

There are a few items necessary to acclimate saltwater fish:

  1. A clean bucket
  2. A vegetable clip with suction cup
  3. Air pump tubing long enough to reach from tank to bucket

After gathering the necessary items, you will begin the process. First, you will put one end of tubing through the vegetable clip and into your tank. You will suction this to your tank with the suction cup.

You will then need to tie a knot into the tubing to ensure you have control over the water flow and rate coming out of your tank into the bucket. Once you get the flow started, place the other end of tubing into the fish bag inside of the bucket.

You will want a very slow drip going. Think of a slow IV drip. There should be about 1 drip per second. Depending on what you are attempting to introduce into your tank, you will use this method for 1-3 hours.

Here’s a good video of the drip method for your reference:

Get the drip acclimating kit similar to the one mentioned in the video here.

Final Say

Ensuring you acclimate saltwater fish properly will increase the chances for survival a great deal, and will ensure good practice for every new fish or invertebrate you introduce to your saltwater tank.

Learning how to properly acclimate fish in general is essential to life in the tank – for both new and already established fish. Anyone can become a fish connoisseur and have success as a fish hobbyist by learning proper acclimation methods.

About Dennis Hanson

Dennis is an experienced aquarist with many years of knowledge and experience in keeping successful tanks. He also has no relations to the pop group Hanson.

One comment on “How to Acclimate Fish – Properly

  1. Reply Joey Burgess Dec 5,2014 5:49 pm

    I am just starting this week, and I am just doing the research right now. This hobby is expensive and I have to get a small amount of it each and every time. I found a bag of what is called PLAY SAND at The Home Depot for like $3.79ish. I was wondering if you KNOW DOES IT CHANG THE PH”? What is the best way to go about it, if someone wants to comment. .

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