Aquarium shrimp are delicate creatures that are very sensitive to changes in their environment, and drip acclimation is an excellent method for letting new shrimp slowly adjust to the water quality of your tank.
In order to drip acclimate your shrimp, all you need is the essential supplies and a few hours to construct and observe your setup while it is operating.
Drip acclimation can be more challenging to set up than other acclimation methods, but it is the best overall method to reduce stress on your new shrimp.
Read on to learn more about our recommended steps for drip acclimating your shrimp, including the supplies you’ll need, how to set up your drip-line, and how to care for your shrimp once the acclimation process is complete.
Why use drip acclimation?
Why acclimation is important
Shrimp are susceptible aquatic creatures incapable of tolerating rapid changes in their environmental conditions.
They are also very sensitive to many other environmental factors, such as the strength and quality of lighting in their tanks.
Water quality is among the most critical environmental factors affecting your shrimp.
Chemical properties of your tank water, such as the pH, hardness, total dissolved solids (TDS), phosphates, nitrates, and dissolved oxygen, can all stress out your shrimp if they are not adequately maintained.
Quick changes between water sources that vary in these chemical properties can cause shock in shrimp, which is an extreme form of stress and physical trauma that often leads to rapid death.
Acclimation allows us to avoid these fast changes in water quality so that shrimp have increased chances of survival when introduced to a new environment.
Why drip acclimation is the best
Drip acclimation is the best method for adjusting new shrimp to their new tank’s water because it offers the slowest change in water quality compared to other methods, such as the cup method.
This slow change in environment reduces the stress on your shrimp, increasing the chances of their survival upon introduction to the tank.
Step 1: Before you start
Inspect new shrimp
Before starting the acclimation process, inspect your shrimp in the container you received them in. This may be in a bag, cup, or other types of container from a local fish store or online sources.
When inspecting your shrimp, resist putting your shrimp under an especially bright light for this inspection, as this can cause stress.
Instead, opt for ambient lighting from a window or mild, overhead lighting. A more thorough inspection can occur once your shrimp have had time to settle in.
Check to see if there are any dead shrimp in the bag, and also look for any noticeable signs of disease or parasites.
You should also identify the type of bag, whether it is breathable or non-breathable, and locate any instructions that may have come with your shrimp. Remove any dead shrimp before continuing.
To drip acclimate your new shrimp, you will need a few supplies.
First, you will need a tank-safe bucket that hasn’t been exposed to chemicals or soaps. These are available at most pet supply stores. You may also use another empty aquarium if you have one available.
You will also need airline tubing, typically 5mm in diameter. This can often be found in the section of your local fish store that contains tank aerators, and is also available online from many sources.
For this project, you will need a section of tubing long enough to reach deep into your tank and all the way to your bucket.
You should also purchase a valve for your airline tubing. This valve is used to control how fast water can flow through the line.
If you do not have a valve, you can use other methods to restrict the flow of water through your airline tubing, such as a strong binder clamp, a clothespin, by tying another knot around it, or by partially blocking the end where the water exits.
You will also need an aquarium net to move your shrimp into the main tank after acclimation.
A final optional tool you may want to consider is a small syringe, which can aid in the process of starting a siphon.
Step 2: Temperature acclimate your shrimp
Floating the bag
If you are floating your bag to get your shrimp acclimated to the temperature of your water, make sure that the bag is non-breathable.
Float the bag in the top of your aquarium with the lights dimmed or shut off for about 20-30 minutes so that the water temperature can adjust.
Breathable bags cannot be floated in this same way, or else shrimp are at risk of toxic gas buildup.
In order to temperature acclimate your breathable bag, prop it up in your tank in a way where its water contents are partially exposed to your tank’s water and partially exposed to the air.
This can be done using a tank-side quarantine chamber to hold the bag. Be sure not to leave the bag for more than 30 minutes to minimize risks.
Many people float breather bags with no issue, but we recommend taking these precautions to protect your shrimp.
Step 3: Move shrimp to the acclimation container
Emptying the Bag
After getting your shrimp acclimated to the temperature of your tank’s water, transfer the contents of their bag into the acclimation bucket or other container of your choice.
You should put all contents of the bag inside the bucket, including the water, shrimp, or any plant material such as moss.
Do this slowly and gently so that shrimp are not harmed. Avoid exposing shrimp to the air during this process or making the water fall from above the surface of the bucket.
Step 4: The drip acclimation process
Setting up your drip line
First, attach your valve or valve-substitute to the bucket-end of your drip-line. Then, use a syringe or another method to fill the airline with tank water.
After that, lower the tank-side of your drip-line into the water, and position the valve-end over the bucket containing your shrimp.
Then, open the valve. Make adjustments so that there is a very slow drip of ideally no more than one drop per two seconds, or 30 drops per minute.
Your drip-line water should be sourced from the tank that your shrimp will be moved to. You may need to attach or hold the tank-end of your drip-line to prevent it from falling out.
Slowly adding tank water
Fill the bucket up using the slow drip method until the water has tripled or quadrupled in volume.
When done correctly, this process should take at least two hours, and may take many more. Slower is always better and safer for your shrimp than a fast change in conditions.
Transfer shrimp to the tank
After the bucket has reached the ideal volume of water, disconnect your drip-line and move it to the side. Then, transfer your shrimp to your tank using your aquarium net.
Catch the shrimp gently, and try to do so in a way that avoids startling them or chasing them more than necessary.
Only net one shrimp at a time, so they do not jump out of the net. Be prepared for the shrimp to flail and jump when exposed to the air.
Step 5: After moving your shrimp
Dispose of used water
Even though the water used in your acclimation bucket contains mostly tank water, it still contains the bag water that your fish were transported in, along with any microorganisms such as algae or fungi from their source environment.
For this reason, water used in the acclimation process should always be disposed of rather than added to your tank.
At this time, you should also dispose of any other contents received alongside the shrimp, such as moss.
Slowly refill your tank
Slowly add fresh water to your tank to replenish the amount of water lost in your drip acclimation process.
You can re-add water by using another drip line for consistently slow water quality changes, or the cup method to add very small amounts of freshwater spread out over consistent lengths of time.
Be sure to avoid pouring fresh water near your new shrimp, and always use a diffuser to disperse the water flow if you are not using the drip method to refill your tank.
Diffusers send the water in different directions so that gravel is not disturbed and strong currents do not damage shrimp.
Do not disturb
After completing your acclimation, leave your new shrimp alone for the next 24 hours.
During this period, leave tank lights off or dimmed as low as possible to any maintained plants you may have growing in your tank.
Resist the urge to feed your shrimp until this grace period has passed. Food can be another source of stress for shrimp, and if they are not yet settled in, it can overwhelm them rather than comfort them.
Feeding stressed shrimp also leads to uneaten food, which can contribute to unwanted water pollution.