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Introducing new fish into an existing set up

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.
It is always a challenge to add new fish to an established reef, primarily because of territorial issues. Each fish in the tank has already picked out their favorite haunt, and they are not prepared to share space with a newcomer. As hobbyists, we always try to come up with ways that might work: dump them in and pray, add them after lights out, introduce many at once (shock and awe), or put them in a section divided off from the rest of the reef.

Several years ago, a friend of mine made a "Social Acclimation" box that hung in his tank. He runs Triggers Systems, the company that builds beautiful acrylic gear. He has a CNC-router to fabricate nearly anything, and I kept thinking I really need to buy one from him for my tank. He would put new fish in it (as well as damaged fish) to keep them in the system but safe from any neighbor aggression. In recent years, new boxes are available like Reef Gently or CPR's First Aide. These boxes didn't fit my particular set up. The front and back panel of my tank is 3/4" glass. The eurobracing is 1" thick. What would hold the box where I needed it, and would have the space to hold any fish I might add?

Yesterday evening, I had new fish drip-acclimating... and two dwarf angels still in my quarantine tank, essentially in the way of the newer arrivals. I decided it was time I made a box that fit my needs. This box would have to hang in the center of the tank, be supported on the eurobracing, allow circulation of water, and keep jumpers inside. Using 1/4" cast acrylic for the box itself, I drilled 42 holes 5/16" in diameter. Each hole took about 90 seconds to drill, if not two minutes. Drilling faster would have chipped the material, but I wanted this to look clean and professional so I had to take my time.

The box hangs between the front and back panels, and doesn't interfere with the Penductor returns. It is 11 3/4" long, 6" wide, and 8" tall. The top section was made with 3/8" acrylic to reduce bowing (it is 33 1/4" long and 7" wide), and a 3/8" thick lid was placed on top to keep jumpers in the box. A hole in the lid was drilled to add food easily via pipette.

The two temporary dwellers are: a Flame Angel (Centropyge loriculus) and an African Flameback Angel (Centropyge acanthops).

After the box had time to cure for an hour or two, I routed it and installed it. Black PVC fittings give the fish a place to duck into in case anything spooked them, like an aggressive fish or even my activity near the tank. The key is to keep the fish stress free and visible to the others so that once released, they are less inclined to fight.

The lid was reinforced with some 3/8" rails to help prevent bowing, but it probably will do so just the same. Acrylic will absorb moisture, and the lighting from above adds heat to the opposite side. The rails are 1.5" tall, so perhaps it will keep its shape for the most part.

I'll keep the fish in the box for a few days and watch the interaction as well as any curiosity by my reeflings. As soon as the fish are released into the reef, I'll remove it and clean it up for next time. It might be practical to use when fragging and gluing corals into the tank, giving me a spot to put down tools or set down corals in the water prior to final placement. I may call this thing "The Peacemaker" unless something else better pops into my head.

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Updated 02-15-2012 at 03:33 AM by melev

DIY projects , ‎ melevsreef


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  1. Blake's Avatar
    love the idea marc the box looks great! When u Quarantine do you just use water from your reef or do you mix new salt water? also still need help on my briopsis blog ( sorry for being a pest about it haha)
  2. DJ in WV's Avatar
    I have had no luck adding single fish when I add a pair they make it in the display but a single last about 4 days and disappears. I have thought of using breeders nets for awhile but I like this idea marc. I got some extra acrylic left from a build I may have to try this out.
  3. Jnarowe's Avatar
    I love the box Marc. I had really good luck with adding after lights out, but I had a large water volume and didn't do it often enough to consider it "protocol".
  4. Blown76mav's Avatar
    Great idea, I've just been doing the shock and awe here lately.
  5. blakew's Avatar
    Cool idea Marc. Because I have more curiousity than a cat, what's the two long green straw looking things sticking down into the rockwork?
  6. melev's Avatar
    Those are acrylic rods that are acting as a barrier to keep an anemone off a nearby coral. It's temporary, since the anemone may change its mind again and pick a different spot to stretch and touch soon.
  7. melev's Avatar
    Added a picture with the lid off per request.
  8. Hat39406's Avatar
    I float the bags for a while so fish in tank has plenty of time to "check-out" the new fish. And, new fish can check out the tank. Also gives the new fish time for temperature acclimation. Then I proceed with adding a little water to bag at a time, repeat this process for a while. Lastly, when I release the fish, I feed the tank. If new fish eat with the others that is usually a good sign.
  9. melev's Avatar
    Floating the bags may work for you, Henry. However, what I was doing was letting the other fish see the new ones for three days prior to introduction into the neighborhood.
  10. Hat39406's Avatar
    Yeah, I wish that I could've used one of those when I bought a copperband a while back. All the fish treated him bad. He would never eat. And, he finally died.
  11. Blake's Avatar
    Hey @melev how long do you age ur new salt water when you use it for your quarantine tank?
  12. melev's Avatar
    It has to be mixed at least 48 hours first. Ideally, I make enough so it can provide all the water needed for daily water changes from a single batch. Alternately, I can drain off water from my reef instead.
  13. Blake's Avatar
    Wait. You do a water change daily on your qt tank?
  14. melev's Avatar
    Yes, when I have fish being fed I need to keep their water quality up. Water changes daily does that.
  15. Blake's Avatar
    what percent do you change daily? and if u use ur reef water do u keep draining ur reef for the QT or do u just make up new water??
  16. melev's Avatar
    I change out about 80% of the water in the QT since it's rather small. The water taken out of my reef is replaced with aged saltwater, which gives my reef a small water change. 10g daily for a week is a 70g water change to the 400g.
  17. Blake's Avatar
    what size is ur qt tank? cuz i cant do 80% a day on mine thats 15 gallons of water everyday for 8 weeks haha
  18. melev's Avatar
    My QT is about 15g of water. When I have corals in it, I don't do water changes at all. But with six fish in there, I have to be more proactive. Usually 10% daily will do the job nicely if everything is reasonable, but I tend to have too much stuff in there at once and thus I overdo it.
  19. Blake's Avatar
    Im looking to only do 1 fish at a time in my 20 gallon so 10%? And ya I hear you about the corals I have a seperate 10 gallon QT for them with no water changes
  20. melev's Avatar
    It all comes down to pollution. The more food you add to the QT, the quicker the water goes south. One of my friends feeds his QT eight times per day to get the fish fat and happy prior to introduction to his reef. He does 100% water changes. For a single fish with light feedings, 10% daily should be fine (and economical).
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