How to Care for Aquarium Fish While on Vacation
It can be difficult to find care for pets when you are out of town. 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. Perform a partial water change and vacuum the substrate using an aquarium siphon. If necessary, clean the filter. 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 to begin with, they are equipped to go without eating for a week or even more, depending on the species.
We have over a decade of experience in treating fish. The corner cases where this method should not be used are if a) you are raising baby fish that require daily meals, b) your fish are not completely healthy and need regular feedings to help with the recovery process, or c) you will be gone for more than a week.
Method 2: Install an auto feeder
If your situation fits one of those special cases, then an automatic fish food dispenser is your best friend. Load the feeder with flakes or pellets, program what times you want it to feed each day, and mount it on the rim of the aquarium. You should test the feeder several days prior to your departure to ensure it is functioning properly and that it drops the correct amount of food. In general, we recommend only feeding just enough food to get them through your trip, since heavy meals result in more fish waste building up while you’re gone.
The Aquarium Company-Op Auto Feeder lets you feed your fish up to four times per day. The battery can also be recharged up to three months.
Method 3: Find a Pet Sitter
There are pros and cons to asking family, friends, or hired pet sitters to look after your fish. 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.
A common problem is overfeeding because the pet sitter feels like “the fish looked hungry,” which results in poor water quality and potentially loss of life. A pill box with the correct amount of food can be used to provide the best nutrition for your pet. You can remind your pet sitter to not feed excess food from the previous days if they miss a day or more. Fish are not able to finish extra meals so excess flakes end up polluting their water. Instead, skip the past containers and only feed the food assigned for the remaining days.
Frozen foods are an alternative to fish flakes or pellets. They often come in cubes which make it easy to measure 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. It is a good idea to label your fish tanks so your pet sitter can know how many containers of frozen food each aquarium should have.
Method 4: Choose live food 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. We have some ideas that may work. If your fish will only take a live or frozen diet, you can seed the tank with live freshwater foods such as blackworms, daphnia, scuds, and snails. 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.
You may notice that we did not recommend using vacation feeder blocks or other time release banquet blocks. While they may be appropriate for adding more calcium to the diet of your fish and invertebrates, they have the tendency to cause ammonia spikes and algae blooms when used during vacations because they often dissolve into a mess of tiny particles that larger fish can’t eat.
Hopefully, you found one of these four methods helpful as you get ready for your next holiday or business trip. Happy fish keeping and safe travels!