How and How Long Acclimate Corals?

How and How Long Acclimate Corals (Step-by-Step)

Acclimation is an indispensable practice that has long existed in the aquarium hobby. Before the introduction of newly acquired fish and corals, it’s important to first acclimate them to the new tank’s conditions.

Not only does the practice help the corals adjust to your new tank’s conditions, but acclimation also aids minimize and possibly relieve them of stress undergone during the handling and shipping process.

Despite being a good protective measure, some saltwater aquarists neglect this practice — and yet their corals settle in successfully. That said, your corals may thrive with or without prior acclimation to the new aquarium’s conditions, but it’s undeniably safer to acclimate them to mitigate stress and reduce the potential risk of harm and loss.

Keep reading to be enlightened on how to drip-acclimate corals before adding them to an established reef tank.

Is Coral Acclimation Necessary?

Although some corals species are relatively hardy and tough, there is no reason to test their limits.

As for the delicate and sensitive coral species, they will definitely react to certain changes or fluctuations in water parameters.

Also, corals are shipped in a water-filled plastic bag (obtained from the previous aquarium), and the parameters of this water will most likely vary with that of your saltwater aquarium.

The distinction in the water parameters, that is, the temperature, pH, and salinity between both waters is what necessitates acclimation.

Therefore, it’s important to properly acclimate your corals to the new conditions, else you may lose them to severe shock as they transition to their new home.

Sure, some corals can easily survive without acclimation but the risk will always remain. That is why it is recommended to play safe.

The Drip Acclimation Method

There are different methods of acclimating corals to a new aquarium; we have:

  1. The floating method (temperature acclimation – place the bag with corals into the tank and let the water warm it up to the same temperature as the aquarium. It usually takes 10-15 minutes),
  2. The dip method (Generally, this is a combination of floating method and pest control),
  3. The drip acclimation method.

All three methods are quite effective, safe, and easy to carry out, however, the drip acclimation method allows a thorough and more gradual transition to the new tank conditions.

This is done by slowly dripping aquarium water on the new specimens through a slightly knotted airline tubing.

Note that the drip method of acclimation is meant to make the transition more gradual but at the expense of a slight temperature change.

Through drip acclimation, the newly acquired corals can adjust to the new conditions: pH, water temperature, and salinity before being transferred to the main tank. This process should last about 30 – 45 hours or an hour at most.

Critical Approach towards The drip acclimation method

Many aquarists do not do drip acclimate corals and prefer the floating-dip method.

They say that the quicker you can get corals out of a bag and put them in the display tank the less stressful it is on the corals. Compared to being in a bucket with changing temperatures and no adequate flow or lighting.

They also refer to the practice of large companies and online stores that raise and propagate

Corals. In most cases, these companies do not drip acclimate corals, they only match the temperature and dip them.

Well, it is true, such practice exists and lots of aquarists also have success with it. At the same time, we should not forget that these companies have to deal with dozens or even hundreds of corals every day.

Thus, the drip acclimation method will require more time and resources than other methods. Obviously, they won’t do that.

In any case, so far, there have not been studies and experiments that would allow us to know what is better for the corals.

Acclimating Corals Using Drip Method (Step-by-Step)

How and How Long Acclimate Corals - what you needThe drip method of acclimation is an easy and fairly quick process. For this, you will need:

Once you have gathered the aforementioned items, follow these steps to acclimate your new corals:

1. Turn off the lights in the room:

While in transit, your corals will have to cope with dark conditions for minutes, hours, or even days. Thus, it’s recommended to allow them to adjust to new lighting gradually.

Don’t make the mistake of exposing them to bright lighting within the first few hours because that will stress them and may impact their health negatively.

2. Visual inspection:

The next thing you do is a visual inspection of the corals before even taking them out of the bag. There are several reasons for this.

  • Most live arrival guarantees are dependent on you getting photographs of the corals before you remove them from the bag. So, if you see some problems – take pictures from different angles or even make a short video about it. The seller must see corals in the bag before you open it.
  • It is ways easier to notice parasites and hitchhikers. It can be especially helpful when you decide to drip acclimate coral from different bags at the same time.

3. Insert the newly acquired corals in a container:

Next, pour the new corals in a container or bucket together with the water they came in. The corals should be completely submerged.

If the water is not enough to cover them fully, all you need to do is tilt the bucket slightly and wedge it or simply pour the water into a smaller container like a cup before setting it into the large basin.

4. Start the drip acclimation:

It’s time to set up the drip line from the display tank to the container or bucket. Simply place one end of the airline tubing into the tank and the other end into the drip bucket.

Also, make sure to tie several loose knots in the airline and aim for a drip rate of at least 2 drips per second. You can adjust the drip rate by tightening one of the knots or adjusting the control valve (if present).

Note: Having a drip acclimation kit will further ease the acclimation process, so you may grab one from local fish stores.

Lastly, allow the drip to last for 30 – 45 minutes or more, but no longer than an hour due to the temperature drop that may result when the process is prolonged.

Important: Do not place the end of the airline tubing too deep into the tank. Otherwise, you will have to check it periodically to make sure it doesn’t overflow.

5. Follow-up with a coral dip:

Although optional but highly recommended, immersing your new corals in a coral dip e.g. solution of Coral RX ® Coral dip, Seachem Reef Dip, or similar products.

Tip: During this process, you can use a turkey baster to dislodge pests and potential hitchhikers that have been stunned by the solution but are not seen.

This step will help eliminate pests and tackle parasites that you could miss during visual inspection.

Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions to achieve the required effect, especially if you don’t plan on quarantining the corals in a hospital tank.

How and How Long Acclimate Corals - dip solutionsLinks to check the price on Amazon:

6. Temperature acclimation

Some people do temperature acclimation as the first step. They float the new corals to stabilize the water temperature. It is perfectly fine if you do only dip acclimation.

However, if you do drip acclimation, it is not recommended to do temperature acclimation as the first step. The main problem here is that during acclimating the corals in a smaller separate container, the water temperature will drop again anyway.

That is why acclimation of the corals to tank temperature should be the last step.

7. Add the specimens to the aquarium:

At this point, the corals can be transferred to the reef tank.

Ensure to place them in areas with dim lighting and moderate water flow so they don’t get stressed. You can move them over the next few days to places that suit this species better.

Points to Note

  1. Acclimation of corals should be carried out with patience. It’s best not to rush the process, so you need to wait at least 30 minutes for the new corals to gradually adjust to the new conditions.
  2. Your newly acquired corals may look dead when they arrive, but that doesn’t mean that they are. Corals tend to undergo a lot of stress during shipping, and it’s vital to acclimate them properly. Afterward, transfer the corals to the aquarium, allow them to recover and revitalize them through feeding.
  3. Maintain a low drip rate (about 2 – 4 drips per second) during acclimation.
  4. It’s normal for the polyps to remain shut after introduction to the aquarium; give them a few days and they will most likely come alive.

In Conclusion

Drip acclimation is a simple yet effective method that allows new arrivals to adjust fully to the new water conditions before moving them into the main tank.

During this process, you are to wait out 30 – 45 minutes for the corals to adjust and slowly transition to the water parameters of their new aquatic home.

Ultimately, acclimation will minimize shipping stress; hence aiding your new corals to settle in with ease, stay healthy, and thrive in the reef tank. 

2 thoughts on “How and How Long Acclimate Corals?

  1. Why not combine temperature and drip acclimation by placing the drip acclimation container in the sump?
    That is, if your setup contains sump.

    1. Hi Kim Nilsson,
      Good point. Thank you!
      Best regards,

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