Don't Risk It - This Is WHY We Dip It!

Hobbyists dip corals in an attempt to eradicate parasites, prevent disease and reduce the chances of infection. There are a variety of different dips available, each with its intended application. It is not uncommon for hobbyists to use multiple dips (separately- never mix coral dips together!) and come up with a multi-stage comprehensive dipping routine designed to target a variety of threats corals face as they acclimate into aquarium life.

The question of whether or not to use a coral quarantine tank is up to you, but it can certainly aid in the process of keeping harmful pests out of your display aquarium.

Parasites and disease-causing pathogens can be downright annoying. They can proliferate in your display, prey on your corals, and cause severe stress to the point of perishing. Pests hitchhike their way into your tank on corals, frags, frag mounts, and rock. They can even be suspended in the water column or hidden in the sand meaning simply sharing water or sand from another tank can infect your display.

Corals can also experience infections when they are damaged or purposefully cut for making coral frags. Some coral dips are designed to target infectious bacteria and aid in the healing process.

In the case of coral pests, it is always better to be proactive rather than reactive. ALWAYS DIP NEW CORALS, whether you see something wrong or not and regardless of where it came from.

Common Coral Pests and Diseases

Here is a list of common coral pests or ailments that you might encounter on corals. Keep in mind. these are just the ones we can successfully ID and attack, there are likely a variety of things we still have to figure out. One of the reasons doing everything you can to prevent the spread of these things is recommended.

  • Red Bugs
  • Red Flatworms
  • Acropora Eating Flat Worms
  • Montipora Eating Nudibranchs
  • Zoanthid Eating Nudibranchs
  • Zoanthid Eating Spiders
  • Sundial Snails
  • Bristleworms
  • Nuisance Algae
  • Brown Jelly
  • Bacterial Infections

Coral Dips
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Is it Safe?

The first step is to determine the right dip for your particular coral and whether or not it is safe for use.  Not all dips will work on all corals, and there is no bullet-proof coral dip.  Sometimes it takes repeat dosage and sometimes multiple dips are going to be the best approach to cover your... coral's assets.

Many coral dips are not safe for use around invertebrates. In fact, the toxicity to mobile invertebrates is how or why coral dips are so effective, they target harmful inverts but are safe for use on corals. This is why proper coral dipping is done in a separate container, outside of the display aquarium with an extra rinse in the process, to avoid exposure to your anemones, crabs, shrimps, and various other desirable tank mates.

There are a variety of DIY coral dips that are very effective including freshwater dips, peroxide, and even homebrew made from Bayer brand insecticides, just to name a few. Just do your research as best you can before choosing the right solution for you and your tank.  Online forums and consulting your local fish store, reef mentors, and/or experienced hobbyists will be a great additional resource.

For all intents and purposes, these instructions are just general guidelines and good practice. Always defer to the manufacturer's instructions when using a commercial coral dip. Safety precautions including what type of corals can handle the dip should be listed on the bottle. That said, dips can be stressful on a coral and if the coral is in a weakened state, it may not handle a dip all that well regardless of the species.

Equipment Needed

  • Two Small buckets or containers, large enough to hold at least one gallon each of aquarium water.
  • Coral Dip
  • Small Powerhead, Air Pump w/ Stone, or Bulb Syringe
  • Forceps
  • Fragging Sheers (optional for removing frags from plugs)
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Eye Protection
  • Apron or just wear old clothing
  • Towels (you will spill or drip water)
  • Clean Saltwater (to replenish your aquarium)

How to Dip Coral: Step-by-Step

  1. Float coral bags in the tank to temperature acclimate while setting up.
  2. Put on your gloves and goggles.
  3. Fill both your dip and rinse the container with one gallon of saltwater each from your tank. Replenish the tank with clean saltwater.
  4. Add coral dip as directed to container #1.  Take note of suggested concentrations and if using larger containers with more water, adjust accordingly.
  5. Place a powerhead or air stone in the bucket to circulate the water and help mix the dip.
  6. Remove coral frags from plug or mount (optional).
  7. Add new corals into container #1, dip for the recommended time from the manufacturer’s instructions. This can vary from 5 - 20 minutes depending on the exact dip. Inspect closely for dead or dying pests, manually remove them if you have to.
  8. Place coral into container #2 for rinsing. Clean frag mounts free of any algae if you can during this step.
  9. Add the rinsed coral back into your tank.
  10. Discard the dip water and rinse water from both containers to clean, dry, and store for next time.

If you don't have a coral quarantine tank, it is best to make use of frag racks in your display tank which will help corals acclimate and allow for close observation before you glue the frags onto your aquascape.

Dipping Tips

  • Removing coral frags from the coral plug or mount they came on can really help reduce the risk of pests surviving the dip.  Plugs are very common carriers of eggs and pests. 
  • Infected corals can be dipped regularly until no parasites are seen falling off in the dip water. Fleshy corals like LPS retract when dipped and may need multiple dips to eradicate parasites that are caught or hiding in the folds of the retracted coral tissue.
  • Using a powerhead in the dip container helps mix the dipping solution in the water and flush the parasites off coral tissue. A bulb syringe or manual removal with forceps works as well. 
  • Always rinse the corals in another separate container of saltwater after dipping to wash the dip off, then discard both rinse water and dip water when finished.
  • NEVER mix coral dips in the same container and ALWAYS rinse corals before they go back into your display tank.
  • A coral quarantine tank can greatly reduce the chances of introducing pests into your display tank.