We all enjoy that exciting feeling of going to your local fish store and picking out some new corals to stock in a reef tank. With all that excitement, you may be tempted to quickly acclimate the corals to your system and toss them right into the tank. However, failing to inspect and then dip any coral is not a shortcut one should take. In this article, we will discuss both the importance and the process of dipping your corals to ensure they are safe to add to your aquarium.
Why Dipping is Important
Dipping removes unwanted pests and improves coral health. Various pests can wreak havoc on an aquarium and turn a beautiful reef into a coral cemetery in days. In addition to protecting your reef from invasive pests, dipping your corals, whether it be in a dipping solution or conducting a freshwater dip, is a great way to revive the health of your coral frags by reducing stress and regenerating damaged coral tissue. Coral dipping treats the common pests listed below and many others.
Zoanthid-Eating Nudibranchs: Zoa Eating Nudibranchs are small brown snail-looking nudibranchs that can come in on many wild zoanthid colonies. Nudi’s eat all sorts of polyp varieties and are difficult to remove once they are in the tank. A powerful coral dip with plenty of flow is required to remove the Nudi’s and their eggs off the coral.
Acropora-Eating Flatworms: Acro Eating Flatworms are smaller than a half-inch, brownish-clear flatworms that only attack Acropora. These pests consume the Zooxanthellae that give Acropora their color, leaving them unhealthy, bleached, and on life-support, if not addressed immediately.
Red Bugs: Red Bugs are similar to Acro Eating Flatworms in that they only seem to go after Acropora. Red bugs generally target smooth-skinned Acros, and most dips should take care of them. They usually do far less damage than other pests; however, they still can wreak havoc on your corals.
Bristle Worms: Bristleworms are less concerning, and many reefers aren’t bothered by their presence within a reef tank. That said, they do bite and can repopulate quickly. Many wrasse fish will also hunt and remove bristle worms from an aquarium.
Asterina Starfish: If you’ve ever seen mini starfish on the walls of an aquarium, chances are that it was an Asterina star. Mostly, these little guys are harmless, besides quickly overpopulating your tank. Although, some subspecies will go after some polyp coral varieties. Dipping will take care of these guys, but if you already have a large population of them in your reef, introducing a Harlequin Shrimp is a great option.
When to Dip Your Corals
There are three common times for coral dipping.
- Adding New Coral: Dipping new corals before adding them to your aquarium prevents the transition of potential pests from their old home to their new one.
- Presence of Pests: Many reefers dip their corals if they notice pests within their aquarium.
- Fragging: Many reef hobbyists and local fish stores dip their coral frags after fragging them to kickstart the coral tissue healing process. Many coral dips stimulate regrowth on a recently cut specimen and help heal a frag that isn’t opening to its fullest potential.
How to Dip Different Types of Corals
|Type of Coral/ Factors||Safe to Dip||Dipping Duration||Coral Sensitivity||Flow Requirements |
|Soft Corals||Yes||15-20 Minutes||Hardy||High Flow|
|LPS Corals||Yes||15-20 Minutes||Somewhat Sensitive||Medium Flow|
|SPS Corals||Yes||<10 minutes||Very Sensitive||Medium Flow|
|Non-Photosynthetic||Depends on types||<10 Minutes||Sensitive||Medium Flow|
*** Warning: Some corals, including chalices, smooth skin & deep water Acropora, anemones, and all non-photosynthetic corals, are sensitive to coral dip. Please research each species individually to ensure a safe and healthy dipping process that sets up the coral specimen for sustained success. ***
What You Need to Dip
- Float the bag in the fish tank to acclimate the new coral to the temperature of your aquarium.
- Mix two gallons of saltwater and place a gallon of it in each of your two containers; one container for dipping and another container for rinsing.
- Calculate the proper dosage of coral dip based on the amount of saltwater you add to one of the containers and the instructions for the coral dip.
- Add a mini-powerhead to the dipping container or have a baster ready to agitate the coral with the dipping solution.
- Remove the corals from the bag and dispose of the water within the bag. Then, add the coral frag(s) into the container with the dipping solution and power on the powerhead, or begin agitating the coral using the baster.
- Continue dipping the corals based on the dipping duration for each type of coral in the above chart.
- Once you reach the dipping duration, inspect the coral and what has come off the coral. It is generally a good idea to dip again if there are a lot of pests and detritus in the bottom of the container.
- If you are happy with the outcome of your dipping session, you can rinse the coral in the other container with just the fresh saltwater you mixed earlier.
- If possible, quarantine your freshly purchased and dipped coral. Most hobbyists do not have a separate quarantine area and choose to add their new coral directly to their tank.
We hope this article has emphasized the importance of dipping your coral while explaining how you can accomplish this task in a manageable and thorough way. Although dipping can be frustrating, it is the best way to ensure that you aren’t introducing dangerous pests to your reef tank.
Please contact our support team if you have additional questions about how to dip your corals.