Most hobbyists know how to acclimate marine fish to a new aquarium. If you don't, checkout this article. When it comes to inverts, things get a little shaky. This is mostly because the term "invertebrates" refers to the widest range of marine organisms. Everything from copepods to clams to snails to corals are inverts. Each of those things are acclimated differently (or not at all). In this article, we'll go over some things you should know when acclimating your invertebrates. Don't worry, it is not too difficult to understand. You'll get it in no time!
This article will talk about how to acclimate both captive-bred and wild-caught inverts. Captive-bred inverts
are much hardier and better adapted to aquarium life. However, this doesn't change anything about how they should acclimated. Sure, captive-bred inverts might undergo less shock when being added directly to a new tank, but that's not a sure thing. You should acclimate captive-bred inverts the same way you would acclimate wild-caught ones.
Why should you acclimate invertebrates to a new aquarium?
Sometimes, hobbyists do things just because it is how everyone else does it. Hobbyists like to keep tradition. Unfortunately, things are not as easy as one simple answer or method. There needs to be more critical thought involved. For everything you do in your aquarium, you should ask why you do it. Why do you use sand or not use sand? What function does your aquarium controller serve? Why do you put your refugium last in your sump? It is important to know why you do certain things in this hobby instead of doing it just because that's is what is always done. This applies to acclimation as well.
In order to properly know how to acclimate marine animals to new environments, you need to know why this is done. Acclimating is something you certainly need to do (most of the time). So, why do we do it? When an animal is moved from one environment to another, it can be shocking and stressful. In some cases, the stress can cause the animal to die. Acclimation offers the animal a chance to adapt and get acquainted to its new environment. Moving and organism from one environment to a new one is going to be stressful no matter what, but acclimation makes it less stressful. Invertebrates are especially sensitive to changes in salinity. Sudden changes in salinity can easily cause a hardy cleaner shrimp to kick the bucket.
Before we talk about the process of acclimating inverts such as anemones and snails, let's go over why you don't need to acclimate your corals. Yes, that's right. This is why you don't need to acclimate your corals.
To be specific, we are talking about drip acclimation or acclimation of the corals to the water. The tissue on corals gives them a natural barrier between them and the water outside of them, so they sort of "acclimate" themselves. Also, it is more stressful for corals to be in a bag or container that doesn't match their needs than to be put directly into a new tank. Ideally, corals will be in a shipping or transportation bag for as little amount of time as possible. Here's something else to think about: a lot of hobbyists will take up to 30 minutes carefully acclimating their corals and then blast them with a more than shocking chemical filled dip right afterwards. Acclimating corals is mundane on its own, but that practice makes it even more silly. What is the point of spending time acclimating the corals only to dip them right after. There are some corals that can benefit from acclimation, but those corals will be "mad" no matter what you do. Actually, drip acclimating corals or floating them can be harmful because the water in the bag may not be ideal. Get them in the tank as soon as possible.
The only situation in which acclimating corals makes sense is if your water chemistry is out of the range of what corals require. At that point, you probably shouldn't be adding corals. Not drip acclimating your corals can feel a little wrong at first, but once you add them and see that they are totally fine, you won't think about it.
While acclimating corals to the water is silly, there are some other ways that corals need to be acclimated. For example, acclimating corals to light is incredibly important. Even light demanding corals need to be acclimated. Why? Well, if you don't, the coral has a high chance of bleaching if the light is too strong (which it almost always is). It is difficult to tell if a light is too strong without harming the coral, so adjust your lights to be undoubtedly low. Then, slowly raise the intensity over a long period of time. Another way to do this is to start a coral at the bottom of the tank in a shaded area and slowly move it up until it is where that species of coral usually prefers to be. You can also acclimate certain corals to higher amounts of flow, but if a coral is getting too much flow, it is getting too much flow and needs to be moved.
Acclimating other inverts
Although corals do not need to be acclimated to water, inverts such as shrimp, snails, crabs, calms, and anemones need to be acclimated carefully. There is no specific rule for acclimating to such inverts, but it is recommended that you use a drip acclimation device. The AccuDrip Acclimation Kit from Innovative Marine is great for this. Generally, you can use a rate of 2-3 drips per second for hermit crabs. For snails, shrimp, clams, starfish, crabs, and anemones set the rate to 1-2 drips per second. Wait until the water has been diluted by a factor of 4 or 5. When you move the animal, use your hand to remove it from the container and into the aquarium. That's all there is to it. If you notice your inverts are acting unusual after adding them to your aquarium, this could be an indication that something is wrong with your aquarium water. Remember to test your water regularly.
Here's the step by step process for acclimating most inverts:
- Float the inverts in the bag in the aquarium for about 15 minutes.
- Open the bag and place the inverts in a container with some of the original water. Use a different container for inverts that arrived in a different bag.
- Set up a drip acclimation system and adjust the flow rate.
- After the water is diluted by a factor of 4 or 5, use your hands to remove the inverts from the container carefully, and place them in the aquarium. If you are adding snails, it is best if you place them upright.
- Avoid adding any of the water from the container into the aquarium.
That is a lot of information, but it is very important to understand those ideas. At this point, you will have no problem giving your inverts a smooth transition into your aquarium! Happy reefing, and enjoy your captive-bred inverts.