As life hopefully starts to normalize, we should all be looking forward to our next vacation. Remember vacations?
Going out of town can be stressful for aquarium owners. Feeding, water top off, dosing and monitoring water quality are some basic issues. Having an aquarium-sitter look after your aquarium is one solution. But, unless your aquarium-sitter is an aquarist, there is a good chance they will over-feed, be unable to notice problems as they arise, and not know what to do when in most situations. Fortunately, there are several strategies that will make being away from your aquarium less stressful.
FEEDINGSera Holiday Tablets
are a good choice for most community freshwater tanks. They are tablets of fish food that slowly dissolve over timeóreleasing particles of food that the fish can graze on. Simply drop it in the aquarium and the fish will be satisfied for over a week.
With saltwater aquariums, and tanks with larger fish that require more protein, we recommend using an automatic fish feeder. Fish feeders are simply food holders that turn and open a door to drop food into the aquarium at specified times.
The OASE FishGuard Automatic Fish Feeder
is easily adjustable and can supply your fish up to four times daily with a maximum of 3 doses per feed. This battery-powered unit has an easy to read LCD display.
When using a fish feeder, pellets are better than flake foods if the food is in the feeder for more than a few days. New Life Spectrum pellet foods
are a great choice for all feeders. They come in a variety of pellet sizes and for a variety of fish types.
These days itís pretty common to have an LED light with a built in timer, or a controller made specifically for your light. For those without a dedicated light timer, you can use a Coralife Digital Power Center Timer
to turn your lights on and off. Itís capable of having two independent timing schedules, allowing you to have separate schedules for your actinic and daylight bulbs. There are eight outlets, and some can be used for turning off powerheads during feeding, which will keep the food from flowing into the filter and polluting up the water.
ATOs (Auto Top Offs)
Evaporation is inevitable. For saltwater aquariums itís extremely important to have constant top off because if your salinity gets high due to evaporation it can really stress out fish and coral. Adding too much at a time can also stress out the livestock.
When out of town you could have an aquarium-sitter top off your aquarium water. Or, you could use an ATO (Auto Top Off). An ATO has a sensor at the preferred water height and a pump in a reservoir that pumps water into your aquarium.
An ATO is a great solution because it adds small amounts of water throughout the day. We carry the Ice Cap ATO
, JBJ ATO
, Auto Aqua Smart ATO
and Hydor Smart Level Control
and Tunze auto top offs. The Tunze Osmolator
is the most trusted because it turns off after 5 minutes of filling to prevent overflow. Unlike other top offs, the Osmolator is not affected by debris, light or magnetic fields.
Even if you never take a vacation, ATOs are recommended. Adding water slowly throughout the day is a best practice. And, keep in mind, if enough water evaporates and your pump runs dry, it could start a fire.
Dosing is obviously critical. Letting your calcium and alkalinity get low when out of town can be disastrous. There are three choices for dosing when youíre out of town. You can have your aquarium-sitter do it, you can use a dosing pump, or you can use a dosing block. Unless your aquarium-sitter is an aquarist, you probably donít want them dosing your aquarium.
A dosing block is the simplest choice. Sea-Lab #28
blocks are filled with the necessary minerals and trace elements for saltwater aquariums. The block slowly disintegratesóreleasing the proper amount of elements needed. The blocks will not overdose.
Dosing pumps are more exact than blocks and will slowly dose exactly what you want in the desired amounts. Neptune
have dosers that can be set to add the specific amounts of any desired additive. Dosing pumps can also dose freshwater additives such as Seachem Flourish, Seachem Advance, and Seachem Excel.
Power outages caused by bad weather, car accidents, tripped breakers, or simply poor wiring, can kill all the animals in your tank in a matter of hours. What if youíre on vacation when there is a power outage? Please read our ďPreparing Your Aquarium For A Power Outage
Ē article on this subject.
You can have a feeder, light timer, ATO and doser and still not have real of peace of mind. If your aquarium investment is in the thousands perhaps itís time for the next levelóthe Neptune System Apex
. Apex Controllers can control any single pump, light, reactor, chiller, heater or doser remotely through your phone (and WiFi at the source). They have probes for measuring pH, salinity, temperature and ORP. You can also have notifications sent to your phone if a pump has stopped working or a leak is present.
What if a heater
fails while on vacation? Think about redundancy.
Using more than one heater is advisable because heaters can fail, and having a backup heater will keep your tank temperature from fluctuating wildly if one heater fails. Heater failure can either be one heater not turning off or one heater not turning on. Both are a problem, but usually a heater not turning off is a bigger problem, as it results in the tank overheating. If you have two 100W heaters, and one does not turn off, then the other should not turn on and your tank should not overheat. If, on the other hand, you just had one 200W heater and it didn't turn off, that could spell disaster.
All aquariums should also have multiple pumps. All pumps will eventually fail, and it may happen when youíre on vacation. Using multiple circulation pumps to create wave action is a good practice. If you have a main system return pump, using additional circulation pumps is also a good practice and will give you redundancy if one pump fails.
All these arguments for redundancy while on vacation also apply to when youíre not on vacation. Pump and heater failure can do damage in just a couple hours.