How to Care for Aquarium Fish While on Vacation
When going out of town, it can be stressful trying to arrange care for your pets. Thankfully, aquarium fish are generally on the easier side of care requirements because you don’t need to walk them, let them out to use the restroom, or even feed them every day. Here are four methods we recommend for ensuring your fish stay happy and healthy while you’re away.
Before You Leave…
Give your fish tank a good cleaning a couple of days before your departure. Do a partial water change, vacuum the substrate with an aquarium siphon, and clean the filter if needed. The tank maintenance is completed 48 hours in advance so that you have time afterwards to observe the fish and make sure everything’s working well before you leave. For example, some fish keepers have rushed their water changes at the last minute and then forgotten a tiny detail – like turning on the filter again – thus leaving their fish in a precarious situation while on vacation.
Clean your aquarium a day or two before leaving so you have time to make sure your fish, water parameters, and equipment are all doing well.
Method 1: Don’t Feed Your Fish
If you’re only leaving for a week or less, the easiest method is to not feed your fish. This may sound harsh, but remember that in the wild, fish must find their own food and are not guaranteed a meal every day. If your fish are healthy, they can go for weeks without eating, depending on their species.
As part of the regular quarantine process in our fish store, we have a decade of experience treating thousands of fish with preventative medications and no feedings for seven days in a row. This method is not recommended if you have baby fish and they require regular meals or you will be away for more than one week.
Method 2: Install an auto feeder
If you find yourself in one of these special situations, an automatic fish feed dispenser could be the best choice. The feeder can be loaded with either pellets or flakes. Once it is programmed, you can mount it on your aquarium’s rim. To ensure that the feeder is working correctly and it’s dropping the right amount of food, test it several days before you leave. Since heavy meals can cause more fish waste to build up, we recommend that you only feed your pets enough food to make it through the trip.
The Aquarium Co-Op Automatic Feeder can be used to feed up 4 times per day. It also comes with a rechargeable lithium battery that can last up to 3 months.
Method 3: Locate a pet sitter
Asking friends, family members, or a hired pet sitter to watch your fish has both pros and cons. There are advantages. Your pet sitter can notify you if the fish is sick and send you photos and video to help you troubleshoot. If necessary, they may be able to perform tank maintenance or water top-offs. However, not all pet sitters are well-versed with aquariums, so they can sometimes end up doing more harm than good.
Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality and possibly death. You can use a pillbox that contains the appropriate amount of food for each day. The pet sitter should remind them that they cannot make up lost days by giving excess food from previous days. The fish usually cannot finish all the extra meals, so the surplus of flakes just ends up polluting the water. Instead, discard the old containers and only eat the food that was assigned to you for the rest of the days.
Frozen foods can be used instead of fish flakes and pellets, since they often come in cubes that are easy to measure out for each tank.
Asking your pet sitter to fed frozen foods instead of dry foods is a great alternative, since it is a “cleaner” food that won’t dirty the water as easily and the fish rarely leave any leftovers. You can also label your fish tanks to make it easier for your pet sitter to know how many frozen foods each aquarium needs.
Method 4: Use Live Foods for Picky Eaters
What happens if you’re away from home for more than one week? You can’t hire a pet sitter and your fish won’t be able to eat pellets from an auto feeder. Your options are fairly limited, but we still have some suggestions that might work. You can also seed your tank with freshwater foods like blackworms and scuds if your fish won’t eat a frozen or live diet. You can make live foods last longer by placing them in a floating container. The hole should be small enough to prevent fish from getting inside but large enough so that food can crawl out or swim out.
Daphnia are tiny swimming crustaceans that are often used as live foods for feeding fry and smaller fish.
We don’t recommend vacation feeder blocks or other time-release banquet blocks. They can be used to add calcium to your fish and invertebrates’ diets, but they can also cause ammonia spikes or algae blooms if they are used on vacations. This is because they often dissolve into tiny particles that the larger fish cannot eat.
We hope you find one of these methods useful as you prepare for your next vacation or business trip. Enjoy safe travels and happy fish keeping