There is a myriad of pests a new coral can introduce into your tank including pest anemones, parasites, disease, persistent algae, and even harmful crabs and snails. Being diligent with your new corals when it comes to preventing these pests is one of the most important steps to ensuring your reef tank makes it past the first 12-24 months. 

The process is straightforward; dip all new corals, inspect them closely, and remove observed pests immediately.  As long as you strictly adhere to this regimen, you are drastically reducing your chances of running into an overwhelming problem with pests. You will never be able to eliminate the risk of encountering a pest completely but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in this scenario. One pest can quickly turn into hundreds if left to thrive or replicate in your display. 

Dip Your Corals!

We dip corals in order to remove pests before they can hitchhike their way into your display tank and potentially harm all of your tank's inhabitants. Just like new fish, every single new coral should be dipped using a coral dip solution. The dip is a chemical that will kill or irritate some pests that may be hiding on your coral frag. 

Close inspection of the new coral frag is also important so you can physically remove any observed pests. Sometimes a dip doesn't kill everything, especially the eggs of many coral pests, so physical removal and cleaning of the frags are equally as important. 

Equipment Needed:

Step #1 - Drip & Temperature Acclimation

Temperature acclimation is the most important step with coral, just float the bags or frag cups for 15-30 minutes in your display tank which allows the water temperatures to equalize. You can drip acclimate if you like but the coral will be going through a coral dip using your tank water anyway so drip acclimation is optional.  

Step #2 - Set Up Work Station

While the bags are floating, you can take the time to set your coral dipping station.  Set all four buckets in a row on a flat table or surface, fill each one with +/- one gallon of saltwater from the aquarium they will be housed in. It is a good idea to have an exact measurement of how much water is in the buckets so you can properly administer the coral dip.  Add the appropriate amount of coral dip chemical to bucket #1, referencing the manufacturer's instructions for the correct dosage. This will typically be something like "10 drops per gallon of saltwater" or a similar dosage to create a coral dip solution. 

Step #3 - Remove Frag Plugs

It's a good idea to remove the frag plugs or mounts from your new corals. Plugs and mounts are prime real estate for pests to lay their eggs or taxi themselves into your aquarium. Use your coral shears, a razor blade, or knife to remove the coral.  Some corals are easier to remove than others and if you find the coral is completely encrusted and cannot be removed without damaging it, don't stress too much and proceed to step #4. Place the corals into one of the remaining three buckets that does NOT contain coral dip.  

Step #4 - Visually Inspect and Clean the Corals

Look for pests, remove anything that you see using frag tools. It's also a good time to scrub or scrape away any algae if you can do so without damaging the coral's tissue. Be mindful of the living tissue on the corals do your best not to cause any damage to the tissue, it is very delicate.  Rinse the coral frags in the same bucket of saltwater.

Step #5 - Dip and Agitate

Finally, it's time to move the corals into the coral dip bucket.  After moving all the corals, set a timer for the recommended amount of time.  Each of the various coral dips has a particular amount of appropriate dip time, usually in the 10-20 minute range, but sometimes quicker, sometimes longer depending on the exact dip.  

It is important to use your bulb syringe during this time to gently agitate the dip solution and blow your coral frags. This helps to dislodge pests and increase exposure to the dip solution. Alternatively, you can place the corals in a colander, then move that colander up and down in the solution. 

Step #6 - Rinse The Coral

After the dip time has elapsed, move the corals into a separate container of clean saltwater for rinsing. 

Step #7 - Inspect Again

Inspect each of the corals again for pests that may have been missed or come crawling out.  Sometimes the dip takes a while to have an effect and it's not terribly uncommon to find pests after the initial dip. Remove pests using forceps or tweezers. Scrape away any egg sacs or algae.  

Step #8 - Mount Corals To Clean Plugs

Mount the corals one by one to new frag mounts or plugs if you desire.  Place the corals into your display aquarium or into a coral QT system.

Step #9 - Quarantine Corals (Optional)

Some hobbyists will take the time to quarantine corals, just as they do fish. In this case, you will need a separate coral quarantine tank with a frag rack to hold your new corals for 30 days or more.  During this time, look for pests and keep cleaning the corals.  Repeat dips may be required should you have a particularly pesky pest that shows up.  While fish quarantine is fundamental, coral quarantine is considered optional so long as you follow a strict coral dipping protocol. 

Step #10 - Rinse & Clean Your Dipping Equipment

Always rinse your coral dipping buckets and tools thoroughly with fresh water. Let them dry thoroughly before storage. You don't want to leave any residue of the coral dip on your equipment and you don't want metal tools to be stored with saltwater on them. It is best to keep all of the dipping equipment together and separate from your other maintenance supplies.  Certainly DO NOT USE equipment from your kitchen to dip corals.