Drip Acclimation

How to drip acclimate your livestock step by step

Aquarium maintenance

What is Drip Acclimation?

Slow and steady wins the race. This philosophy is the key to success when it come to saltwater aquariums and it’s no different when it comes to adding marine fish to your aquarium. No two aquariums are the same and water used to ship fish, invertebrates and corals should never enter your aquarium.  It will contain different water parameters such as temp, pH, and salinity (not to mention possibly disease and parasites). Fish, invertebrates and corals are very sensitive to even minor changes in water parameters, so proper acclimation is the key to ensuring a successful acclimation.

I highly recommend, that all new fish should be placed into a quarantine tank for a few weeks before being added to the display tank. This will reduce the possibility of introducing diseases and parasites into your aquarium. During the quarantine process, make sure the new fish accepting foods, eating properly, and is in good health before adding them to the display tank.

The drip acclimation method may sound complicated, but it’s really not. There are drip acclimation kits available in just about any fish store but you can make one for a lot less.

How to make a Drip Acclimation Kit.

Get about four feet of aquarium air hose and put a regular airline valve on one end.  yup, thats it.

Drip Acclimation Supply List:

  • 4 feet of Airline tubing.
  • 1 Airline valve.
  • 2 Chip clips.
  • 5 gallon bucket.
  • Pre-mixed saltwater.

Step by Step Drip Acclimation.

Drip acclimation is considered more advanced by some, but it shouldn’t be. Drip Acclimation is easy and the safest way to introduce livestock to a saltwater aquarium.

I strongly recommend that you are present to monitor the entire acclimation process (remember: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong). Have a clean 5-gallon bucket (or buckets), designated for drip acclimation only. It’s best to have multiple buckets for acclimating multiple species at one time.

Acclimation Tip: One day I was drip acclimating a few scarlet red hermit crabs and an emerald crab in the same container (because I didn’t have enough pre-mixed saltwater on hand). To make a long story short the scarlet red hermit crabs did not last long with the emerald crab. From that day on I have never mixed any species together while acclimating and always had a fair amount of pre-mixed saltwater on hand. Learn from my mistake.


  • Turn off the aquarium lights.
  • Dim the lights in the room where the shipping box will be opened. Never open the box in bright light.
  • Float the sealed bag in the aquarium for 15 minutes. Do not open the bag at this time. Doing this will allow the water in the shipping bag to adjust to the temperature in the aquarium.
  • Remove the bag from the aquarium.
  • Carefully cut the bag open over the 5 gallon bucket and gently empty the the bag, the livestock and including the water, into the bucket.
  • Using the airline tubing clip one end in the aquarium and clipping the other to the inside of the bucket. This step should be repeated for each bucket if you are acclimating multiply species at one time. You’ll need separate airline tubing for each bucket used.
  • Begin a siphon by sucking on the end of the airline tubing, then place the airline into the bucket. When water begins flowing through the tubing, adjust the drip using the airline valve, to a rate of 2-4 drips per second.
  • When the water volume in the bucket doubles, remove half and begin the drip again until the volume doubles a second time. Total acclimation time should be about one to two hours.
  • The livestock can now be added to the aquarium.
  • Disgard the remaining acclimation water in the buckets and replace the removed display tank water with fresh pre-mixed saltwater.

Acclimation Tip: Never expose sponges, clams, and gorgonian to air. Gently scoop them out of the drip bucket using a specimen container, making sure they’re fully submerged in water the whole time.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me at: Jeff@madhattersreef.com

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