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Acclimating Fish - Drip Method

Acclimating Fish - Drip Method

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Learn how to properly acclimate your fish to your aquarium using the drip method.
It is vital that you properly acclimate new fish to your aquarium as not doing so can lead to shocked or dead fish. There is nothing worse than purchasing a new fish, getting really excited about it, and then having it die the day after you bring it home. This article will address the proper way to acclimate fish – the drip method.
 
The “Old” Method
 
I refer to this method as the “old method” because it was the one typically used by aquarists in the past. Usually, your local fish store will put your fish in a plastic bag so you can bring them home. The “old method” involves floating this plastic bag in your tank. Many people still use this method to this day, but there is a far more effective method that will be addressed in the next section. The problem with floating the bag is that is does nothing to acclimate your fish to the various water parameters of your tank. All it does is adjust the water temperature of the bag to that of your tank. In fact, it often does not even accomplish this as the temperature at the surface of your tank tends to be warmer than the rest of the water as it is heated by your lights.
 
If you do choose to use this method, please remember to turn off your lights before floating the bag. This will ensure that you do not fry your fish.
 
The Drip Method
 
The drip method is the one preferred by most modern aquarists. It not only allows your fish to get used to the temperature of your tank, but also adjusts them to the pH, hardness, and numerous other water parameters. It is easy to do and only takes about 30 minutes to an hour depending on the speed of dripping. The following discussion will walk you through the drip method in a step-by-step fashion.
 
Materials you will Need
 
       -          3 or 5 gallon bucket
 
       -          Airline tubing
 
       -          Patience

Step 1 – The Ride Home:
 
Ok, so you have purchased the fish and the store has placed them in a plastic bag. If the store does not provide you with a paper bag, bring one with you so you can put the plastic bag inside it. This will reduce the amount of stress your fish are forced to endure on their ride home. Also, be sure to not shake the bag too much or place it by the vents of your car (where the bag can become too hot or cold depending on whether the heater or air conditioner is turned on). You are simply trying to make the trip as nice as possible for your new fish.
 
Step 2 – Transferring the Fish to a Bucket
 
Once you get home, get out your bucket (can also use a pitcher if dealing with small fish) and carefully empty the contents of the plastic bag into it (water and fish). If there is not enough water in the bag to cover the fish once you put them in the bucket, you can tilt the bucket (put something under one side) so the water depth increases. You can then remove this wedge once enough water is added.
 
Step 3 – Setting up the Siphon
 
Now setup a siphon using the airline tubing. The process is the same as when you use a siphon to vacuum your gravel except that you will want to either have some siphon control mechanism that pinches the tubing to reduce the flow rate or you can tie several loose knots in the tubing to control the flow. I would recommend the knot method as it is easiest.
 
Once you have tied two or three loose knots in the tubing, place one end of the tubing in your tank and suck on the other end to start the siphon (be sure to not get any water in your mouth – you should only have to suck on the tubing for a second). Once water starts flowing through the tube, tighten the knots by pulling on them until the flow is about 4-5 drips per second. You can increase this rate slightly (6-7 per second) if you are worried about keeping the fish in the bucket for a long period of time.
 
Step 4 – Removing Half of the Water
  
After the water in the bucket has doubled, stop the siphon and remove half the water from the bucket. Then start the process over again. Once it doubles again, your fish should be properly acclimated to your tank water. As I said before, this process should take between 30 minutes to an hour. It is important to be patient, but if you are worried about your fish being in the bucket for an hour simply increase the drip rate slightly.
 
Step 5 – Putting the Fish in Your Tank
 
Now that the fish are acclimated, it is time to introduce them to your aquarium. Turn off the lights and leave them off for 3-4 hours after the fish are introduced. Catch the fish in the bucket with a net. You want to make sure the net is an appropriate size relative to the fish; it should be much larger than the fish. Once a fish is caught, carefully put the net in the tank water and let the fish swim out. Do not throw or drop the fish from above the surface of the water. Repeat for each of your fish.
 
Do not put any of the water from the bucket into your tank. While most of it is now your own tank water, there is still a portion that came from the fish store. You may trust your fish store, but you do not know anything about their tanks. By introducing their tank water into your tank, you may be introducing diseases or other undesirable things. It is best to just use this as a good time for a water change and fill the tank up with new water.
 
Alternate Method
 
While the drip method is very easy, some people do not like setting it up. An alternative method that is not as good, but it much better than the floating method, is to place the fish in a bucket or pitcher and add a cup of water from your tank every 4-5 minutes. Repeat this until the water volume in the bucket is doubled, discard half the volume, and the repeat until the water volume is doubled again.
 
There really is no difference between this and the drip method, but some people seem to prefer adding the water via a measuring cup rather than dripping it via tubing. The choice is really up to you.
 
Conclusion
 
Using the drip method ensures that your fish are not shocked when they are introduced into your aquarium. You go to so much effort to research fish and provide them with a proper environment – why force them to undergo shock at the very beginning? Hopefully, as word spreads, less people will use the floating method and will jump on board with the most appropriate method for introducing your fish – the drip method.
 
Further Reading
 
For additional information, refer to the following web pages:
 
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