Drip method is a way to gradually acclimate fish to your aquarium

Acclimating fish using drip method

Any time you buy a saltwater fish, it is important to slowly, gradually acclimate the fish to the specific conditions of your aquarium. There are a couple of reasons why you need to do this. This article will show you why and how you can start acclimating fish using drip method right away.

Drip method is a way to gradually acclimate fish to your aquarium

Any time you buy a saltwater fish, it is important to slowly, gradually acclimate the fish to the specific conditions of your aquarium. There are a couple of reasons why you need to do this. This article will show you why and how you can start acclimating fish using drip method right away.

1) It is almost impossible for the conditions of your aquarium to be identical to the conditions from your local fish store. So right from the beginning, the chemistry of the water inside the bag is very likely to be different from the chemistry of the water inside your aquarium.

2) From the very second the water and fish were put into the bag for transportation back to your home, the water quality in that bag began to degrade.

Because of these two reasons, you need to get your fish used to the water in your tank gradually. The process of gradually getting your fish used to the water is called acclimation. If you were to just drop your fish right into your aquarium, the fish would very likely suffer from shock–and could ultimately die.

Rather than shock your fish, you should acclimate fish gradually by using the drip method.

What is acclimating fish using drip method?

A very simple comparison here that may help illustrate this point is to think about the difference between jumping right into an extremely cold pool vs. gradually dipping your toe in first, followed by your foot, then your ankle, hands, and wrists. That gradual process of getting used to the temperature of the pool–that you would have done instinctively–is the same principle used when acclimating your fish.

But it is difficult to dip a fish’s toe into the water first–because they don’t have toes–and because they are quite slippery–and because…well, it doesn’t make much sense. Instead, what you can do is acclimate the fish using drip method.

So what exactly is the drip method?

The drip method is one way you can acclimate your fish gradually, over time–reducing the risk of shock and improving the odds of your success in the saltwater aquarium hobby.

Equipment needed to acclimate using the drip method:

  • Bucket
  • Turkey Baster
  • Airline tubing or An AccuDrip Acclimator (a product made by Innovative Marine)

Step-by-step instructions on how to use the drip method acclimating fish:

  1. Open up the bag and put the fish and all the water from the bag inside your bucket
  2. Insert one end of the air tubing into your aquarium so that the tip of the tube is submerged under the water by 10 centimeters or more. Close the aquarium lid to hold the air tubing into place
  3. Position the other end of the air tubing over the bucket so that water will drip into the bucket
  4. Squeeze the ball of the turkey baster (to expel the air inside) and place the end up to the air tubing. Try to make this connection as tight as possible
  5. Release the ball of the turkey baster to create suction inside the air tubing. This should result in a siphon that will draw water from your aquarium down into your bucket.
  6. Tie the end of the airline tubing into a knot to restrict the flow of water to about one drip every second.
  7. After five minutes, loosen the knot slightly to increase the water flow
  8. Wait another 10 minutes and then loosen the knot again
  9. Wait 15 minutes and loosen the knot even further
  10. Wait 15 minutes and loosen the knot completely
  11. Remove the tubing from the aquarium (allow it to drain into the bucket) and safely add your fish to your aquarium

Product Review: The AccuDrip Acclimator by Innovative Marine

A simple but helpful little gadget. Shop for the AccuDrip on Amazon.com.

This is a small exaggeration, but the Innovative Marine AccuDrip Acclimator is one of my favorite aquarium gadgets under $15. Elegantly simple and makes one of the most exciting times in the hobby a little easier.

The best time in the hobby is the 30-minute period right before and after you add a new saltwater fish, shrimp or coral to your aquarium–and now I use the Innovative Marine AccuDrip to make drip acclimation a bit easier.

How I used to acclimate fish before the Innovative Marine AccuDrip:

I wrote about acclimating fish previously. This is how I used to acclimate fish:

I used to take a length of airline tubing and insert one end into the aquarium and drape the rest of it down into the acclimation bucket. About one out of every three times, the line would fall out before I could close the glass lid and pinch it inside. Not the biggest issue ever, but a small hassle, nonetheless.

Then I would use a turkey baster to suck the air out of the airline tubing to start the siphon. This was slightly tricky, because if you didn’t remove the air fast enough, the siphon wouldn’t start.

If you sucked the air out too quickly, the water would rush through the tube, which made the next step…a bit wet.

Then I would tie a knot in the airline tubing to restrict the flow.


  • Airline tubing (enough to fit inside the tank by a few inches and extend down to the ground)
  • Turkey baster

While imprecise and certainly inexpensive, my old technique worked well but was a bit sloppy.


The first upgrade

For a period of time, I did “upgrade” my gear to include an airline valve. The reason for adding the valve was to make it easier to adjust the flow of the water–but it also made it more difficult to start the siphon, because the turkey basters never quite fit properly.

The second upgrade

Determined to find a better way to restrict the flow, I found a tubing clamp. It’s actually a medical device, but it works fairly well. You slide the tube through the clamp and close the clamp to restrict the flow.

The part of the tube I would put inside the tank would still fall out occasionally, and the small clamp would get misplaced, but all-in-all, the set up worked.

What I use now

What I found a year or two ago and use now is the Innovative Marine AccuDrip Acclimator. The AccuDrip is an all-in-one drip acclimation device.

What I like about it is the rounded, hard plastic end that you insert into the tank. It fits right over the lip of the tank. No more slips, no more spills.

accudrip by innovative marine

Next, the restrictor clamp is a little wheel you move with your thumb. I can very precisely control the drip with ease–and the clamp never gets lost, because it’s right there, on the line.

There’s a little reservoir here, where the water collects, so it gives you a chance to restrict the flow before the onslaught of water makes its way all the way through the tube

The pros

  • Drip acclimation is a breeze, and I feel like a nurse or scientist, using the proper tool, rather than like a hack, causing a mess with some strange contraption.
  • No more spills, no more misplaced gear.

The cons

  • For a small plastic device, the Innovative Marine AccuDrip is a bit expensive–but the price does vary some–check out the prices now
  • The diameter of the tubing is pretty narrow. That’s not a big deal, because it also means even at peak flow, the water flow rate is still in the right range for acclimation, but what I have found is that the tube never dries out–and it is too narrow to hook up to an air pump–so the water just sits there.
  • The way I deal with that is that I try to remember to flush the line out (into a waste container) prior to dripping the water into the tank, but you and I both know that there is some stuff growing in the tube if it never dries out.

See for yourself

Check out the product video here. You may want to turn the sound down…haha…the music got to me

How To Video: Innovative Marine AccuDrip Acclimation Kit


If you’re looking for a moderately priced gadget for your birthday, Christmas or other holiday that will class up your drip acclimation, the AccuDrip by Innovative Marine is a well crafted tool that legitimately makes the job better and lets you spend a little more time focused on your new fish, shrimp or coral and a little less time drying your hands and cleaning up drips.

Check out the Innovative Marine AccuDrip Acclimator on Amazon for the latest prices and to send yourself a present. You deserve it.innovative marine accudrip

 A few tips for acclimating using the drip method

-Do not leave buckets unattended
-Monitor the water level frequently to ensure you don’t overflow the bucket
-If there is not much water in the bag–you can first pour the fish (and contents of the bag) into a small specimen container and place that inside the bucket–use a very slow drip and when the specimen container is full you can then pour the entire contents into the bucket and resume acclimation.

If you found this article useful, or know of someone starting out in the hobby who may want to know how to use the drip acclimation method, please share this link.

Image was by Leszek.Leszczynski under creative commons license from Flickr

You can also find more information about acclimating fish here

Written by Albert B. Ulrich III.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *