Are You Properly Acclimating Your Livestock?
Ok, you arrive home with arms full of plastic bags and that ONE thing you went up to your local fish store for. You quietly tip toe past your wife to avoid the scornful look of “really” and settle in behind closed doors where comforting sound of trickling water and smell of percolating skimmate await. It is difficult to keep yourself from taking a razor to all of those bags and setting free all of your new corals to watch their polyps open and their colors flood your tank with their pastel brilliance. This is the critical cross roads between success and failure. To open up those bags to your tank could be like running out into the snow naked! Worse yet, there could be an angry swarm of bees that are there to greet you!
Too many fish and corals meet an untimely end before having a chance to live and thrive. Whether we blame careless shipping, lack of effort or knowledge on behalf of the local fish store, or the same on the part of the consumer, too many fragile marine creatures perish every year. It is a sad statistic, and a blight on the marine aquarium hobby as a whole, but it doesn’t have to be. Following just a few simple steps can prevent many of these deaths and go a long way in educating folks on how to care for other fragile marine organisms. We owe it to the fragile ecosystems where these creatures come from to make sure we put our best foot forward when transporting them into a captivity.
Packaging and Shipping Marine Life
As a marine organism is transported from ocean–>distributor–>local fish store–>consumer the same water parameters that would be monitored in the aquarium need to be maintained in transport. Specifically, during transport it is critical that salinity, temperature and dissolved oxygen need to be maintained at levels that minimize stress in these fragile creatures. Just like in humans, stress isn’t always a direct killer, but rather a doorway and accelerant to disease. A stressed fish for example is more likely to have a disease like Ich take over their immune system than a happy healthy fish that is able to keep this disease contained in its gills and not visible on its body.
Both distributors and local fish stores play an important role in the survival rate of marine life by managing how they are packaged and shipped around the world. Too many organisms in a small amount of water can lead to a quick lack of oxygen. Sometimes pure O2 will be added to these packages in order to provide an added boost for a long journey. Heat and cold also play a role in shipping depending on where and what time of the year the shipment is going out. Heat packs, insulated boxes and ice packs can be used to buffer the temperature, but they are just a buffer.
Acclimating Corals To Your Reef
The simple point here is that you need to slowly adjust your new corals to the temperature, salinity, and chemistry of the local fish store to your own tank ecosystem. The simplest and easiest way to do this is with a drip line. Place all your new corals and the water they came with into a bucket. Then take a simple piece of airline hose tied in a knot and slowly allow your tank system water to slowly drip ( about one drop a second) into the bucket for a good 20-30 minutes. Make sure that the location you do this isn’t too hot or cold as the slow drip will not be enough to affect the temperature of the water in the bucket. Also, be sure to ask the shop keeper what alkalinity and salinity they keep their corals at so that you can gauge and start to gain a feel for how long this drip acclimation should run for.
In my experience, the biggest thing to watch out for is if your alkalinity is more than 1.5dkH off from the LFS water. If this is the case, it would probably be smart to wait and either setup a temporary system that you can use to acclimate the corals over a few days or slowly adjust your system alkalinity if it happens to be way off. Again, no more than 1.5 dkh in 24 hours or you will see tissue receede a few days later.
Once the corals are acclimated to the chemistry of your tank, check the temperature to make sure it is pretty close to that of your tank. As you add the corals to your tank, make sure to put them in a low/medium light area for a few days so that they aren’t shocked. If they are SPS or high light corals, in a few days they can be located higher up on your reef in order to give them their natural conditions.
The Larger Picture of the Marine Organism Trade
Simple tips and practices like these can prevent many of the premature deaths marine organisms suffer after being captured. Keeping all the beautiful creatures that we do in our homes also comes with a responsibility to care for them and to minimize their demise. Taking this a step further, our goal at ReefNation as well as many other aquaculture facilities is to move the needle in the other direction completely with our farming and cultivation efforts. By raising tank bred corals and fish, we are first reducing the stress on wild populations and of equal importance, learning volumes about their biology. Each piece of information that is learned though warrants an increased respect of the ecosystems that these creatures come from in the wild.
Are there some acclimation steps that you use and would like to share?