If you were like me, you may have heard about this thing called coral dipping when you were new to saltwater. Before I was ready for corals I keet seeing this on the forums, yet I had no idea what it was for or why?
Coral Dipping is the immersion of a coral specimen in a chemical solution to kill and remove any hitchhiking pests. It also helps to sanitize & heal any flesh wounds created from transportation or cutting from its mother colony. Infections and pests are two of the biggest reasons for coral fatality.
It is a simple process to dip a coral and one that many people seem to be afraid to do, but it is really easy and can save you from losing many corals in your main display tank.
Read on to learn all about it…
Why Do You Need To Dip Corals?
As just mentioned, it is to kill any hitchhiking pests that prey/live on certain corals and if they are allowed to enter your pride and joy, they can wreak havoc and cost you a fortune.
No matter where you get a new coral from it must ALWAYS be dipped. You could have received it from a good friend, family member, trusted local store, trusted online vendor, but the bugs are tiny and do get missed – If you don’t inspect them properly.
Think of this of like a quarantine for coral. Yes, a coral quarantine tank would be nice, but lights are expensive and running another tank just for corals is not feasible for the common aquarist.
Types Of Coral Pests You Need To Remove:
- Acropora Eating Flatworms (AEFW)
- Zoanthid Eating Spiders
- Red Flatworms
- Asternia Starfish
What Coral Dip Do You Need?
There are three main players in the coral dip market:
Coral RX was designed to help remove unwanted pests from corals but also act as a medication to help treat and repair tissue on corals. It is a proprietary blend of natural ingredients and it is also Iodine-free. Iodine has been known to stain some corals.
The only downside to Coral RX is that it is not effective in removing Acropora Red Bugs.
20ml per Gallon of Saltwater
1.25ml per Cup
You can find it HERE at Marine Depot
Two Little Fishes Revive
Revive is mainly designed as a coral cleaner for use in acclimation and coral propagation. It too is a proprietary blend of ingredients that help to remove or kill unwanted pests and is the main competitor to Coral RX.
Two Little Fishes does not list what pests will be eradicated using their solution, but it is highly regarded within the industry. I have used it too and had very good results with it.
40ml per Gallon of saltwater
2.5ml per Cup
You can find it HERE at Marine Depot
Bayer Advanced Insecticide
Bayer Advanced Insecticide is also a great pest removal solution. Not as popular as the other two solutions but does work very well according to many, many aquarists.
I have not personally used it but I am recommending it due to its reviews throughout the community. It is easy to purchase within the US, but may be more difficult in other parts of the world.
160ml per Gallon of Saltwater
10ml per Cup
You can find it HERE at Amazon.com
Any of the solutions will work great and it will come down to personal preference which you chose to use. Many aquarists use a combination in an effort to catch every pest. Again the choice is yours.
I switch between Coral RX and Revive depending on what my local fish store has in stock when I go to buy. I have had great success with both products and can highly recommend either.
What Equipment Is Needed To Dip Corals?
Before you embark on your first coral purchases I really advise you to get setup with your dipping supplies before you go. The following items I have found to be really easy and helpful when you get your new coral frags home:
Used for a really close inspection of your frags. It really helps to create shadows or see any color differences when looking for the tiny pests.
Used in conjunction with the flashlight to look under all the nooks and crannies of the coral. This is where the pests are most likely to be hiding as they were safe from predators here in their previous aquarium.
Used to help gently lift parts of fleshy corals and used to pick off anything suspicious.
Same as Tweezers. Lifting, poking, and scraping.
Used to measure out the required amount of dipping solution and good for sucking up and blasting the corals with the dipping solution/water mix.
Used for measuring out the required amounts of saltwater from your sump/aquarium to provide the correct dipping solution concentration.
Used to blast the coral frags and help remove any pests trying to hang on.
Lay it down on the work surface to help keep your work area clean and soak up the drips. Drips will get everywhere!
Assorted Tupperware Containers
I use a minimum of 3. One for the coral dipping solution, and 2 for washing the frags in aquarium water. Depending on the frag size I will only put 3-4 frags at a time in the dipping solution.
The required amount of your chosen solution. You can use one solution multiple times in one dipping session.
Required amount of water from your sump/aquarium. Do not use freshly mixed saltwater as the chemical elements like Calcium and Alkalinity may be too high and harm your new frags.
Used to remove most frags from their plugs ready for mounting on a fresh frag plug/disk. Fully encrusted SPS and Zoanthids are pretty much the only corals I leave on their plug.
You can find a great pair HERE at Marine Depot.
New Frag Plugs
Ready for mounting your newly dipped coral frags onto.
Find a Great Selection HERE at Amazon.com
Used to glue your new coral frags to their new frag plugs.
If you are unsure about the type of glue to use this article my help you:
Reef-Safe Glues, Adhesives, Silicones & Cements – The Hobbyists Guide
Corals and the dipping solutions can be nasty to you. Protect your eyes from any splashes.
I advise you to read my article HERE on Palytoxin Poisoning now you are getting into corals. It’s good to be aware of this. Be sure to Download my Free Symptoms Guide too and make your family aware of the symptoms – You may not notice them!
Protect your hands too. Hangnails and cuts are the perfect place to allow any coral toxin to enter your body. Stay safe.
How To Dip Corals – The Dipping Process
Now you have all your equipment ready its time to go frag shopping. This is by far one of the most enjoyable times for me personally. I think I enjoy it more than fish shopping!
Once you get back home here is the process that I have used successfully for years, and to date (Touch Wood) never a single pest!
STEP 1 – Float Bags
Your coral frags will have cooled during their journey, be it in your car or in the delivery truck. Now is the time to get them back up to your aquarium temperature.
If you have a sump this is the best place to do it because it is dark. If not turn off your display lights. Floating bags under the full intensity of your lighting is a sure way to kill or bleach your new additions!
30 minutes is what I would recommend. The small bags don’t take long to slowly warm up.
STEP 2 – Prepare Fresh Salt Mix
When you remove some of the water for your coral dipping you will need to replace that water back into your aquarium or your ATO System will do it for you, but with fresh water!
I usually just mix up a gallon of new mix and that is plenty to use for topping back off what I take out for dipping.
If you are unsure what an ATO system is, read my article HERE..
STEP 3 – Layout Towel and Equipment
Find a place near your aquarium/sump where you can work comfortably. A bench, table, kitchen counter works well for this.
Lay out your towel and place your equipment on it in the order in which it will be used. A spare towel for drying your hands is a good addition too.
I usually set out left to right for my flow.
STEP 4 – Prepare Dipping Solution
Don your safety glasses and gloves.
Take one of the Tupperware (or similar) containers and measure out your dipping solution and tank water using the measuring jugs and syringe.
I normally prepare:
2 cups of aquarium water to 5 ml of Revive
2 cups of aquarium water to 2.5 ml of Coral Rx
STEP 5 – Prepare Rinse Waters
I usually have 1 cup of aquarium water in each rinse container. Two containers in total. One for initial rinse, then one for post gluing rinse.
STEP 6 – Select First Frags
I usually have a selection of frags when I come back from the store. But if this is your first time and you only have one or two, the process is the same for each coral frag.
Select your first 3-4 frags and remove them from the bag. Discard the bags and water.
STEP 7 – Place In Dipping Solutions
Place the first frags into the dipping solution container for 10 minutes. Swirl the container and blast the frags with the turkey baster. You will start to see bugs jumping off!
STEP 8 – Remove & First Rinse
Remove each frag and place into the first rinse container. Swirl and turkey baste to help remove the dipping solution.
STEP 9 – Inspect
Remove one frag at a time and carefully inspect every millimeter of it using the magnifying glass and flashlight. Use the tweezers and toothpicks to remove anything you see left over.
Carefully hold the frag by the base and swish it one final time in the first rinse container.
STEP 10 – Glue Onto New Base
Use the coral/bone cutters to pry the coral off its old frag plug and dab the base dry. Place a good blob of Superglue Gel onto the new frag plug and place the coral frag onto the glueball and hold for a few seconds to allow to set. A drop or two of water speeds up the process.
STEP 11 – Second Rinse
Once the frag is set on its new plug its time to give it a second rinse. Again just place it in the second rinse container and swirl it for a few seconds.
STEP 12 – Repeat With All Other Frags
Just repeat the process with each frag but be sure not to take too long if you have many frags, as your solutions will cool quickly. If you have many frags I would make a new set of solutions after 8 frags. 4 per Dipping Container.
STEP 12 – Place On Sand Bed To Acclimate
As your frags become processed I would place them in groups on the sand bed in a shady spot to begin the acclimation process. They have just been through a stressful time and will need time to slowly adapt to their new home.
STEP 13 – Clean Up
Pour all used water/solutions down the drain and dispose of all the travel bags if you are unable to save them. If you can save them its great for when you get to a point of selling frags! Just give them a good rinse with freshwater and hang them up to dry.
Saltwater is terrible on tools, even Stainless Steel. Be sure to give all your tools a really good rinse in freshwater and then completely dry them if you want to keep them in pristine order.
I keep all my dipping tools and containers together so it makes it easy to dip if I have an impromptu stop by the fish store!
Lastly, be sure to give your hands and arms a really good wash with hot water and soap. Corals can leach toxins when stressed and you have been stressing the heck out of them!
Coral dipping is a simple process and to many, it may seem overkill, but if you see what an aquarium owner goes through when a pest destroys ten years of coral growth in a beautiful aquarium, you will never add a coral without dipping again!
With time you will become faster and it does not take me long to do a dozen corals in one shot if you have everything prepared.
Just like fish quarantine – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Enjoy your new frags!
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