Coral dipping is a great substitute for those reefkeepers that do not have a quarantine tank setup to temporarily house new corals for observation and treatment. But this simple process is a commonly looked over step in the acclimation process that often leads to huge problems down the road.
Corals purchased from the local fish store are usually right out of the ocean…whether they are maricultured or wild caught. Mariculture is a specialized branch of aquaculture in which a large, wild parent coral is fragmented, and the “frags” are allowed to grow out into small colonies while remaining in the open ocean, an enclosed section of the ocean, or in tanks, ponds or raceways which are supplied with seawater. When the corals are shipped to the local fish store, they are often not treated for pests, as the treatments are often stressful themselves. It is up to the store owner/workers to properly quarantine and dip all incoming livestock…which rarely happens. So, it is very likely that the coral you purchase either has pests, or has at the very least been in the same aquarium with other infested corals. And there is a whole multitude of coral pests that find their way into the store or home aquarium.
The key is prevention. Once the pest has managed a foot hold in your aquarium, it’s very difficult to eradicate them fully. So, follow the simple dipping procedure I outlined below, and you should put yourself in a better position to avoid aquarium pests.
When you are making your coral purchase, pay close attention to the color, polyp extension, and overall health of the coral. Some pests are clearly visible and others leave behind a trail of visible destruction. So, keep your eyes peeled and give the coral a good look over.
What to look for.
Pay attention to the corals in the same tank as the one you are thinking about purchasing. Look for the same signs as in step #1.
Ask the store owner or employee if they’ve had any pests in their systems…but do not take their word for it. A lot of the time the employee will either be oblivious, or will just flat out lie. It happens, but don’t depend solely on them for your answer.
When you get the coral home, inspect it again. This time, take it out of the water and use a flashlight. Look at the base of the coral, look under branches, etc. It’s not uncommon to find a stowaway.
After the coral has acclimated (hopefully via the drip method) in a bucket for a couple of hours, add the correct mix of your preferred coral dip. Swirl the water around and use a turkey baster to blast your new corals. This should knock any pests off.
After leaving for the recommended period, remove the coral from the bucket and rinse it in a cup of new tank water. Inspect the coral again to see if there are any leftovers.
Now you’re free to put the coral into the aquarium. And by now it should hopefully be pest free.