Acclimating Corals In A Marine Tank

Acclimating Corals In A Marine Tank

Acclimating new corals to a saltwater or reef tank can require some special care. The corals will need to adapt to the new environment first before being added to your tank. Please follow the steps below to ensure a successful acclimation.

Acclimation Of New Corals

Please, always take the time to acclimate new corals.

Step 1: Float the bag with the coral in the aquarium water (away from lights!) for about 20 minutes to stabilize the temperature.

Step 2: Open the bag and test the salinity of the bag water.

Step 3: Add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of tank water to the bag every 10-20 minutes until the bag water and tank water are approximately the same salinity. You can add less water over longer periods of time to acclimate more slowly for more sensitive animals (or when the bag water and tank water have substantially different salinity).

Step 4. Add a coral dip solution to kill off any unwanted hitchhikers from the coral. This will help prevent any infestation from introducing the new corals.

Acclimation can also be done in a bucket (rather than the transport bag). However, the bucket water temperature can get closer to room temperature than tank water temperature (especially for slow acclimation’s). Insulating the bucket in a Styrofoam box or cooler during acclimation should help.

Pay Attention To Coral Sensitivity And Tolerance

The sensitivity and tolerance of any given coral in your tank will depend on species, health when collected or purchased the coral, how long it’s been in captivity, and other factors that may or may not be knowable.

Sensitivity Scale:
Level 1 – These corals are easy to care for, good for the novice aquarists.
Level 2 – These corals require slightly more attention than level 1 corals but are generally tolerant and forgiving.
Level 3 – These corals require stable, established aquariums and care by an experienced aquarist.
Level 4 – These corals should only be kept by the most experienced aquarists.
Level 5 – These corals are not known to be able to survive in aquariums even when under the care of the most experienced aquarists

Note that this scale is not set in stone, but based on the numerous experiences and reports of professional and hobby aquarists.

Acclimating Corals To LED Light

To acclimate to new lighting conditions, first, place the coral in a less light intense area of the tank. Every few days, move the coral towards more direct lighting until it is where you want it to be. If it begins to bleach at any point, move it back to a less light intense area. After the coral recovers, commence moving towards more direct light more slowly.

How much (and what kind of) light actually reaches the corals in your tank also depends on the type of reflector in the light fixture, the temperature of the bulbs/lamps, the clarity of your tank water, etc.

It’s also important to note that different individual corals, even of the same species, can have very different lighting requirements and ideals. Often times, the same types and species of wild-caught corals come from different depths and different water clarities. It’s nearly impossible to know what kind or how much light was getting to your coral when it was first taken from the wild.

Lighting Scale (approximations):
Level 0 – no light
Level 3 – one foot below modest VHO or T5 fluorescent lighting
Level 5 – two feet below extensive VHO or T5 fluorescent lighting
Level 6 – one foot below extensive VHO or T5 fluorescent lighting
Level 7 – two feet below 250-watt single ended MH light (or 150-175 watt MH with HQI ballast)
Level 8 – one foot below 250-watt single ended MH light (or 150-175 watt MH with HQI ballast)
Level 10 – one foot below 400-watt single ended MH (or 250 watt MH with HQI ballast)

Note that this scale is quite crude and only meant to provide a rough idea of the different levels of light intensities.

One advantage of aqua-cultured corals is that you can know what light they were grown under.

Beyond health, the color of any given zooxanthellate (photosynthetic) coral will change and adapt in response to the lighting it is placed under. All corals are vulnerable to bleaching if not allowed to acclimate to a change to more intense lighting. If your coral begins to bleach, move it to an area of lower lighting and feed it especially well.

We hope these steps have helped with acclimating corals to your tank. Done correctly this can save you many headaches and frustration in the future.

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