New fish require a gradual process of introduction into their new aquarium. Aquarists call this acclimating the fish to the new tank. You should acclimate all new arrivals to your quarantine tank as described below. Moving them to the display aquarium later does not call for another acclimation routine, provided conditions match in the two tanks.
First, make sure your quarantine tank is in good shape before you plop in any newcomers. Do a partial water change a couple of days before you expect to bring a fish home. Placing an already stressed (from the move) fish into poor water conditions practically guarantees problems.
Bringing Out the Best in Saltwater Aquariums 49
The dealer will place the fish in a plastic bag filled about halfway. Most dealers fill the bags with oxygen, add a second bag to help guard against a puncture and then place the bag in darkness as soon as possible. All this trouble helps reduce fish stress, but will be moot if you do not take precautions, also. Please don't make the fish store your first stop on an extended shopping excursion; head straight home with your new acquisition. Don't stop at the supermarket on the way. If you leave the bag sitting in a hot or frigid car, you are asking for trouble. You might even parboil the fish in the bag.
As soon as you arrive home, turn off the aquarium lights. Darkness helps to calm the new fish. Float the unopened bag in the quarantine tank for thirty minutes. Then gently open the bag and roll down the top like a sock. Next, transfer about a cup of water from the tank to the bag. Continue dipping water from tank to bag every ten minutes until the bag sinks, allowing the fish to swim out. Some aquarists do not allow the bag to sink. They scrupulously avoid introducing any of the water from the bag into their aquarium. Instead, they remove the bag and dump it through a net, straining out the fish, which is then plopped into the tank. The stress imposed on the fish by this treatment probably outweighs any benefit. You also run the risk of the fish becoming entangled in the net.
Should the fish exhibit obvious signs of distress during acclimation, go ahead and remove it from the bag and place it immediately in the tank. Leave the lights off until the next morning. It may take a few days for the fish to start eating. Some species hide for a while at first. By the end of a week, though, your new fish should be searching for food. Offer live food, if possible, or whatever the dealer says the fish has been eating previously, at the first sign of interest. Once the fish starts eating, stick to the same schedule as you follow for the display tank, which depends upon the type of fish.
During the quarantine period, check daily for signs of disease. See "Selecting Healthy Fish" on page 13, as well as the information on identifying and controlling disease problems in chapter 6.
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