Going on vacation is problematic for almost all pet owners. Not all animals can be taken with us and not all are welcome at hotels or guest houses. At first glance, it might seem that aquarists are in a particularly poor position. Fish certainly can’t be taken on vacation. However, after a deeper analysis of the problem, it turns out that it is this group of animal lovers that has the least problem. First, because fish doesn’t have to be fed every day. Second, a simple technical solution, like an automatic feeder, allows you to go away for a longer period of time. And most importantly, the fish will not be disturbed by your absence, they will not miss you, refuse to eat, and won’t act offended when you come back. So how to take care of an aquarium during holiday?
One month before holiday
The aquarium will tolerate the absence of the caretaker well if it is properly prepared. Therefore it is advisable to think about the aquarium already a month before your departure, and do a thorough cleaning. Think about biological filters first. This function is usually performed by bucket filters. Filter cartridges used in them should be cleaned as seldom as possible – once every six months or a year depending on the stocking density. However, before longervacation, it’s a good idea to check if the filter performance hasn’t dropped too much. It won’t hurt to rinse filter media.
The aquarium will tolerate the absence of the caretaker well if it is properly prepared.
The basic aquarium maintenance before your vacation should include regular water changes, de-sludging, removal of dead plant fragments and mechanical filter cleaning. Do not leave it until the very last minute. A large tank cleanup the day before you leave will significantly disturb the biological balance. This can result in various problems that no one can solve in your absence.
Why is aquarium cleaning so important?
Clean-up work in the aquarium reduces the concentration of undesired substances in the water. The cleaner you leave the aquarium, the better condition you will find it in when you return home. The greatest danger to the life of an aquarium that is left unattended is the possibility that one of the key pieces of equipment, such as a filter or heater, may fail. In addition, it is possible that due to a power outage, a filter that has been switched off once will not re-saturate the water and will not start its normal operation.
Water filtration and oxygenation
If we don’t use two filters on a daily basis, it’s worth thinking about it while we’re away from home. All you need is an additional small internal filter with an aeration option, which you absolutely must turn on. A simple buzzer will also come in handy and can save the stock when other devices fail. I would like to draw your attention to the necessity of ensuring good oxygenation of the water in the aquarium, as its lack is very often the cause of death of the entire aquarium stock during the absence of the caretaker. Please note that oxygen in the aquarium is taken up by fish, plants as well as microorganisms. The latter are responsible for decomposition of fish feces, food remains or plant fragments, for which they use oxygen. This is why bottom desludging and filter flushing is so important before departure. This removes part of the accumulated organic matter in the aquarium, the decomposition of which consumes large amounts of oxygen which can ultimately lead to a tragedy in the event of a filter failure or prolonged power outage.
It is a good idea to carefully analyze the safety of life support installations in the aquarium in terms of tightness, exposure to moisture/flooding of live components, especially self-made structures. Also check that the hoses connecting the bucket filter, if you have one, with the aquarium are securely fastened. The effect of disconnecting either of them would be devastating.
The second issue troubling aquarists who leave fish unattended is their feeding. All of us heard stories about feeding by friends or family members. Of course, we can laugh at different interpretations of the term “pinch of food,” provided our fish survived this feeding experiment.
So what to do? Limit feeding to a minimum during your absence. Remember how difficult it is for fish to live in their natural environment, where many dangers await them and acquiring food is hard and arduous work. Food resources are usually limited. Fish must compete for food within their own species and often with fish of other species. The availability of food and its quantity varies throughout the year, it is often scarce, and then the competition for it intensifies. Only the best adapted individuals survive such critical moments.
The aquarium, compared to natural conditions, is undoubtedly idyllic. Food is abundant, if not too abundant. We should be more concerned about the consequences of notorious overfeeding than of fish malnutrition. Therefore, let’s not be afraid to leave the fish for a few days without eating. Don’t be scared to recommend feeding them every 3-4 days at the time of your holiday. This will work out well for them for two reasons. Firstly, they will get into shape and lose “excess weight”, and secondly, the aquarium water will retain its good quality for longer. Remember that water change will be possible only after you come back home. Most fish will tolerate a week of starvation well. Note that there is plenty of potential food in a mature aquarium that has been ignored so far.
How often should fish be fed?
It is optimal to ensure that you feed your fish every 3-4 days, especially if you will be away for 2 weeks or more. The easiest way is to prepare ready-made portions, which a friend or a family member will serve to the fish without any problems or dilemmas. You can wrap them in aluminum foil, for example. It is important that the packaging is airtight and impermeable to sunlight, in this way we protect the vitamins and unsaturated fatty acids contained in the food. You can also purchase an electronic feeder and program it accordingly.
The day before departure
It’s a good idea to check the water parameters a day or two before you leave. Water quality can be quickly assessed using the Tropical 6 in 1 strip test. With its help you can check six parameters simultaneously: the pH level, total and carbonate hardness, nitrite (NO2-) and nitrate (NO3-) concentration and chlorine. Check one more time that all devices are working properly. Examine hose connections, filter outlet settings, temperature. And now you’re good to go.
Have a great holiday!
dr inż. (Ph.D.Eng) Aleksandra Kwaśniak-Płacheta