If your tank is brand new, you shouldn’t add fish right away. Make sure your tank is “cycled” first. I have an entire article dedicated to the aquarium cycle , please give that a read before you add fish. Adding fish before your tank is cycled will result in dead fish and a waste of your money.
Before you make any purchases, make a roster of the fish you want to put in your tank. LiveAquaria.com has details on every fish species and an amazing compatibility chart so you can see what fish can cohabitate without taking each other out. Have an idea, or you’ll buy a fish on impulse and find out later that you can’t add any other fish. Do some research, you’ll be much happier!
When you purchase fish at the local fish store, check their health. Most of the chain stores are notorious for sending customers home with sick fish… mainly from ‘ich’, a parasite that attacks fish when they’re stressed or put into a tank with other fish that have it. It looks like white specks of salt on their fins and body. Ich doesn’t need to be a death wish for the fish. It’s easy to combat if you’re experience and have a quarantine tank at home. If not, steer clear. Don’t put sick fish in your tank or you run the risk of giving it to everything in your system.
Taking the fish home
The fish store will put your new pet into a clear, plastic bag, but I recommend bringing a brown paper bag along. If your fish is inside a darker bag, it’ll be less stressed during the move. Keep in mind, it’s been caught, bagged, shipped, floated, put into a new tank, then caught, bagged, and now it’s about to transported again… this time, to your house. Reducing stress is important to keeping your fish healthy.
Why the ‘floating’ method isn’t the best
Simply floating the clear bag, with your fish inside, was pretty standard. The idea being, the water inside the fish bag equals the temp inside your tank. Good theory, but everyone’s water parameters are different, especially in saltwater systems. That’s why the ‘drip’ method is ONLY method you should be using.
Utilizing the drip method is, hands down, the best way to introduce a new fish and it takes about an hour. In a nutshell, your slowly adding water from your tank to the water the fish came in to get it used to your water parameters before slamming the fish into a new system. Again, less stress is best. Here’s how it works:
- Dump your fish and the water from the bag into a bucket. If the water isn’t deep enough for the fish, then place a rock under the bucket so it tips and the water pools to one side.
- Grab an air-hose tube and put a valve on the end of it so you can control the flow. (They also sell drip kits online)
- Put the open end of the tube into your tank and secure it with a clamp. Let the other end sit on the edge of your bucket so the water can drip into the water below.
- Suck on the tube and get the water flowing into the bucket, then dial it back to about 3 or 4 drips per second.
- Once you’ve double the amount of water in the bucket, grab a cup and remove half of the water, then let it continue to drip until the water doubles up again.
- Once you’ve run through the process, net your fish and put it into your display tank. Don’t dump the acclimation water into your tank. Never put any fish store water into your tank because you don’t know what’s in it! I’d also recommend turning your lights off for a few hours, it’ll allow your fish to swim around and get used to the tank and be less stressed. You can turn the lights down in the room as well.
Here’s a video of the ‘drip acclimation’ process when you’re getting fish shipped to your house: