Fishbowl Adviser

How to Safely Acclimate New Fish to Your Tank

Getting your new pet is easy, but acclimating it to its new environment is not. Do you know how to add your new fish to the tank? Once you get your fish, you need to set up your fish tank and make sure that your fish reacts well to its new environment.

The main purpose of acclimation is to make sure that the water and fish will go together. The water that was the previous home of your fish has different temperature, salinity, and pH parameters than the water in your tank has.  Fish are very sensitive to any minor change in any of these parameters, and because of that, it needs proper acclimation to make sure they have a successful relocation.

But how can you safely acclimate your new fish to its new tank?

Rainbow fish in the water

Floating the Fish Bag

The temperature difference is one of the most common issues that arise when you’re acclimating a new fish to a tank. Even though the temperature of the pet store’s tank might be similar to yours, even the slightest difference can be problematic and cause some shock to your new pet. To properly adapt your fish to its new environment, you can float the bag inside the aquarium. How do you do that?

Place the bag inside the fish tank and leave it there for 15 minutes so that it can gradually warm up and get close to the tank’s temperature. That way, your fish will be able to start getting used to the new temperature. Once the temperatures get equalized, you can add your fish to the tank. Just make sure you don’t get any of the pet store water into the tank.

Pet store aquariums are often crowded and filled with poor water quality, and adding any of that water to the tank can potentially introduce some parasites, bacteria, viruses, or fungal spores.

Drip Acclimation

If you need to acclimate the fish to water that has different pH or salinity, you should use the drip acclimation system.

This method is very straightforward. What you’re doing is basically creating a siphon to transfer the water into the bucket. You’ll first have to let the bag float until the temperature of the bag equalizes with the water temperature in the tank. After that, you’ll have to slowly and gently put the fish into a bucket that needs to be placed near the aquarium.

You’ll also need to get fresh airline tubing and tie 2 or 3 loose knots in the line that can be adjusted for flow control. After you set the knots, place the end of the tubing in the aquarium and keep the other end in your hand. Then suck the water into the tubing until it has passed the lip of the aquarium and then release it into the bucket.

Once this is done, adjust the knots to make the flow get to around 2 drops per second, but allow the water volume that is in the bucket to get doubled in capacity and discard half of this water afterward. Then, do it again, but without discarding the water after the water volume doubles. After that, you’re ready to add your fish to its new home.

Test the Water

Testing the water should be a part of your regular aquarium maintenance, but it is also something you must do before putting any fish into your tank. Checking the water quality in the aquarium will allow you to see if it is appropriate for your new fish.

What should you check? You’ll need to test the water for pH, nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, alkalinity, hardness, and temperature. Once you make sure that the water quality parameters are okay, you can add your fish to the tank.

Acclimating Saltwater and Freshwater Fish

When acclimating your fish to its new water, you need to make sure you properly set everything for the species you’re getting. Many new fish that thrust into new environments have a risk of dying from pH or temperature shock, which is something most fish owners don’t realize.

Different fish species originate from different places – from ponds and rivers to lakes and oceans. Different origin places mean they prefer different conditions. There is a difference in acclimating saltwater and freshwater fish, and you need to do proper research to what type of conditions the fish species you get will need. For example, saltwater fish will prefer an alkaline pH of 8.0 or even above, but freshwater fish will need a range lower than that, between 5.5 and 7.5.

You’ll need to make sure you take care of your goldfish and betta fish even before placing them in the tank (or even bringing them home) and set the pH, salinity, and temperature to fit their needs. And the same goes for any other species.

Fish on green background

Preventing Problems During Acclimation

The most common problem for new fish is that they are sensitive to any change in the environment. With even the slightest change in the water, fish can die from temperature or pH shock after they’ve been added to their new tank. Because of that, acclimating is very important.

You’ll need to learn about the proper water parameters your fish needs and set it right.  And you’ll need to slowly acclimate your fish to the tank’s water so that the change goes gradually and slowly. By doing everything slowly, you will prevent any shock that your fish can experience and help them stay healthy and live long lives.


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