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Acclimatising your fish

If you are new to the hobby.

Acclimatising your fish

Postby Mick » Tue Mar 30, 2010 6:45 pm

We often hear the phrase “acclimatising the fish” when we add them to the tank, this is basically the correct term for moving the fish into a new aquarium that may have different water parameters with as little or no stress to the fish as possible. I have heard many times where fish keepers have said “ they are hardy fish, I just put them straight into the tank”, this is the worst thing you can do whatever the species or hardiness of the fish. By introducing the fish slowly into the tank and letting them get used to the water over a period of time we are ensuring that the fish will settle better and not be faced with any sudden changes in water parameters.
One of the biggest fears is pH shock as the fish could suddenly go from soft, a acidic water to hard water or vice versa. This could seriously affect the health of the fish if allowed to happen. Getting the fish into your tank with the least amount of stress doesn't start when you get home, it starts when you first purchase the fish from a supplier or breeder. It is more than likely that your supplier or breeder will not have the same water parameters as yourself, a good tip is to always ask so that you have a good idea how much acclimatisation will be required to get the fish settled into the tank, if the parameters are similar then the job will be a lot easier.
Any supplier that is worth dealing with will always use the same routine when bagging the fish, they should be placed in a decent strength bag and the corners should be taped so that there is no chance of the fish getting stuck inside the bag when being transported or added to the tank. In many cases, especially fish with spines, the fish should be double bagged or even triple bagged so that if the spines tear one bag then the water still cannot escape. Demand that this practice is done if the supplier fails to carry it out. There are some bags available that already have rounded corners but in my experience most suppliers are not prepared to burden themselves with this extra cost. There should be at least twice as much air in the bag as water, the water is not going to leave the bag but the oxygen will be depleted over a period of time, some suppliers will even pump oxygen into the water. Newspaper or a brown bag should then be paced around the plastic bags to reduce the light, this will keep the fish more settled until you get it home.

Adding the fish to the tank
Turn off any aquarium lighting, this can also shock the fish if they leave a dark place to be placed in an illuminated tank straight away. Open the bags and roll down the edges, this will allow the bag to float without tipping over. Float the bags for at least 20 minutes to allow the temperature of the water in the bag to equal the water in the aquarium. The water can now be slowly mixed between the two and the fish is ready to go into the tank. I prefer to net the fish rather than tipping the bag into the aquarium, doing this will prevent any waste or chance of contamination entering your tank.
Allow the fish to explore the tank for a couple of hours before switching the lighting back on, never feed the fish straight away, let them settle first and after a few hours offer them some food, they will be ready for it then.

The fish are now acclimatised, wrong!!!!

It can take weeks before the fish are fully acclimatised to the tank. Always keep a close eye on any new fish for a couple of weeks to make sure that they are showing no signs of stress of the initial symptoms of any disease. Always make sure that they get their fair share of the food added to the tank and are not being intimidated by their tank mates.

If acclimatisation is done correctly the fish will be healthier and have long and happy lives!!

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