When your Acropora coral frag arrives, it is a very exciting time, and often, reef hobbyists forget to acclimate their coral, which causes many headaches down the line.
Do You Need To Acclimate Acropora?
While many reef hobbyists will dive straight in and place a new coral frag into a reef tank, it is strongly not recommended.
Your Acropora has had quite the journey, therefore, placing it straight into a new environment will cause extreme stress. Acclimating corals gradually allows a coral to adjust to the new water conditions. Every reef tank is different, therefore the water conditions where your Acro frag came from will be different from your aquarium set up. A good rule of thumb is to buy coral frags as locally as possible to reduce shipping stress.
Acclimating corals also allows them to slime up. When corals slime up, they build up a mucus barrier which you will see if you lift your Acro out of the water. This mucus is important as it plays a vital role in cleaning your coral from dirt and protects your coral from bacterial infections.
How Do You Acclimate Acropora Corals?
Proper acclimation is critical for your Acropora, therefore, there are a few general procedures you need to follow:
- Turn off your aquarium lights.
- Place your new Acro frag into a container.
- Add ½ a cup of your aquarium water into the container, every few minutes.
- Dip your Acro coral.
- Place your coral into the reef tank at the bottom and slowly move it up.
Drip Acclimation Method
As the name suggests, drip acclimation is where you add a controlled amount of droplets of aquarium water per second. This method is extremely precise, which greatly reduces stress for your Acropora coral.
Drip acclimation is generally not necessary for SPS (small polyp stony) corals, however, it is significant when there is a big difference in the salinity between your aquarium water and the source water.
How To Drip Acclimate Acropora Corals
- Place your Acro frag in a small container.
- Slowly add your aquarium water (a pipette or turkey baster is great!). This dilutes the water your Acro frag arrived in, to the water you have in your reef tank.
- Continue the dripping method for 30 minutes – 1 hour.
- After dripping, add your Acropora coral to your reef tank.
Acclimating Corals To Lighting
While water parameters such as pH, salinity, and temperature are the most important factors when acclimating corals, it is also essential to consider the lighting.
Lighting plays a critical role in coral survival. Corals like your Acropora contain zooxanthellae, symbiotic algae that photosynthesize from the aquarium lighting, providing your Acro with around 85% of its nutritional requirements (feeding Acros makes up the rest).
When acclimating your Acropora coral to its new lighting conditions, you should avoid dramatically changing the lighting schedule, as this can affect the rest of the tank. When placing new corals into a tank, particularly less forgiving corals like SPS corals, start off placing your Acro frag low on a frag rack or the sand bed, then slowly move them up to the final destination. Around 1 inch every few days will allow them to settle into their new home.
Your Acro may take off from day one, while other times they may turn brown for the first few months and color back up after it has accustomed to its new conditions. One thing that should cause a little concern, is if your Acro starts turning white, as this is usually the start of coral bleaching from too much light. These color shifts are due to varying zooxanthellae concentrations inside your Acropora’s tissues.
The best advice is to get yourself a PAR meter and ask the store you bought your Acro from what PAR level they cultivate their corals in.
Many reef hobbyists swear by LED-only lighting, and while they are great lighting fixtures for most corals, Acropora corals prefer to grow under metal halide or LED and metal halide hybrid lighting fixtures. However, if you do have LED lighting, here are a few tips to help your Acropora settle right in!
Tips For Acclimating With LED Lighting
- Raise your lighting fixture and slowly lower it over 1-2 weeks.
- Reduce the photoperiod to 6-9 hours per day.
- Lower the daylight light intensity by 20-30%.
- Place new corals near the bottom of the tank for a few days.
Do Acropora Corals Also Require A Coral Dip?
Yes, after the acclimation process, you should also dip your corals to prevent any unwanted guests from hitchhiking their way into your reef tank. Acropora corals are prone to carrying Acropora-eating flatworms (AEFW), red bugs, Asterina starfish, and blue-eyed crabs. Once these critters get into your reef tank they are extremely difficult to eradicate, therefore, a quick coral dip will hopefully prevent them from causing chaos.
For pests, Coral RX is most often used, and for bacterial infections, Lugol’s Iodine is recommended.
When dipping your coral, always check the amount of dip you are adding to your dipping container, as improper dipping is the number one contributor to new coral death.
What To Do After Acclimation & Dipping?
Now, it is the exciting part. It is time to place your Acropora in your reef tank!
Firstly, you should remove your Acro from its shipping frag plug – a Stanley knife is recommended, just watch your fingers when doing so!
If your Acropora has been heavily encrusted on its original frag, it is best to leave them there. This reduces any further stress and prevents any damage to its precious tissues.
Once your Acro has acclimated to its new home, and you have done a coral dip, try and keep the water conditions stable. Stability is key to successfully keeping corals!
Every hobbyist will have a different setup, but any new coral frags should be acclimated. You should try to buy locally to reduce shipping stress, dip your coral to remove any pests, and place your coral lower down in your reef tank, slowly moving it to its desired location.
Always remember, that an acclimated coral will be more successful than a coral that has been placed into a reef tank straight away. For more information on how to acclimate your coral, check out our guide on Acropora coral care.