How To Drip Acclimate Shrimp

Why it's important

Dwarf shrimp are very sensitive to changes in their water parameters, such as going from hard water to soft water, acidic to alkali, hot to cold, etc.

Cherry shrimp are pretty hardy and will usually be able to adapt to a wide range of water chemistry, provided they're acclimated slowly enough.

It's a good idea to try and find out what parameters the shrimp are currently living in so that you can try and replicate those conditions in your tank, or at least to have some idea of how long the acclimation process will need to take.

If you rush acclimation, or move shrimp into different water without letting them adjust to it, you'll be putting them under a large amount of stress that could cause molting issues or even early death.

Drip acclimation is the process of setting up a small tube to slowly drip your new water from a cycled tank into their current water until the majority of the water is new.

Before you begin

Reduce lighting

When receiving new shrimp via a courier, it's likely they've been in almost complete darkness for a day, or longer. Suddenly exposing them to bright aquarium lights can cause them to be feel vulnerable and stressed, especially in a jug where when there's nothing to hide behind.

Turning off your aquarium and room lights temporarily can help make this a calm experience for them while they adjust to their new home.

Inspect

Look at all of your new shrimp to check everything looks healthy. If you notice any white fuzz around their face for example, they could have a disease and need to be quarantined ASAP.

Other useful things to check for include:

  • Identify their sex: try and see what your ratio of male to female shrimp is
  • Sizing: are they all adult sized? Younger shrimp generally adjust to new water parameters better
  • Behaviour:
    • Are any shrimp appearing lethargic? This could be a sign of struggling with water parameter changes
    • Are any shrimp darting around? This could also mean there's a problem with the water parameters, or the shrimp is getting stressed
  • Temperature: a large difference in temperature will require a longer acclimation period
    • If the temperatures are quite different, place the bag of shrimp near their tank and let their temperature equalize before starting drip acclimation

Opening the bag

Opening the bag with the shrimp in sounds totally harmless, but if the bag is “non-breathable” it's possible that trapped carbon dioxide (CO2) can escape and make the water toxic. This is generally only a minor concern if they've been shipped to you as a “next day” service, but more of a risk when kept in the same closed bag for days.

The shrimp will be producing waste like ammonia in the water whilst they travel but it won't be as toxic (almost harmless) due to trapped CO2 dissolving into the water and lowering the pH (becoming more acidic).

As soon as the CO2 has a change to escape out of the water, it will cause the pH to rise, making the water more alkali and the ammonia more toxic.

You can avoid this problem by adding a drop of a detoxifier, like Seachem Prime, to make the ammonia harmless.

Getting started

A simple setup for drip acclimation will require a few easy to source items.

What you'll need

  • Airline tubing
  • A jug, or container for the new water
  • (Optional) Airline valve

How to drip acclimate

  1. Fill a jug with around 3x the amount of water the shrimp are currently in. e.g. if your new shrimp have come in a bag with 500ml of water in, collect 1500ml of new water
  2. Place the jug on a shelf, or somewhere higher than the container with your new shrimp in
  3. If using an airline valve then attach it to one end of the airline tubing, otherwise tie a knot in the tubing to reduce water flow
  4. Put one end of the airline tube into the new water source/jug and suck on the other end until you've created a siphon and the water flows on its own into the lower container with the shrimp in
  5. Aim for around 1-2 drops per second coming through the tube by tightening the knot or adjusting the valve
  6. Keep the other end of the tube dripping until 75% of the water is new
  7. Net the shrimp out into your new tank, this is to avoid potentially contaminating your tank with anything bad that might be in their old water

This process should typically take 1-2 hours depending on how different the water is, but if the water is drastically different or your shrimp species is sensitive then a longer acclimation is highly recommended.

What to look out for

If all of the shrimp are swimming around frantically:

  • Your new water might be being added too quickly
    • Try to slow the dripping
  • Your new water might not be ready to use