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. A partial water change is necessary. Use an aquarium siphon to vacuum the substrate and clean the filter, if necessary. 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. Your fish will be able to survive for up to seven days without food if they are healthy.
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. If you are caring for baby fish, a) they need daily food, b), your fish require regular feedings, or c), you will be gone more than a week.
Method 2: Create 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. To ensure that the feeder is working correctly and it’s dropping the right amount of food, test it several days before you leave. We recommend feeding your fish only enough food to last you the trip. Fish waste builds up faster when there aren’t many people around.
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
Both the pros and cons of asking friends, family, or a hired pet caretaker to watch your fish are both positives. The advantage is that your pet sitter can let you know if the fish are unwell and send you pictures and video to help with troubleshooting. They might also be able, if needed, to maintain the tank and top off water. Pet sitters may not be as familiar with aquariums and can cause more harm than good.
Overfeeding is a common problem. The pet sitter feels that the fish looks hungry, which can cause poor water quality and even death. You can use a pillbox that contains the appropriate amount of food for each day. Just remind the pet sitter that if they accidentally miss a day (or more), do not try to make up for it by feeding excess food from those previous days. Fish are not able to finish extra meals so excess flakes end up polluting their 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. To make things easier, you can label the fish tanks so that your pet sitter knows how many cubes of frozen food to feed each aquarium.
Method 4: Choose live food for picky eaters
If you are going to be away for longer than a week, it is impossible to find a pet sitter. Your fish will not eat pellet food from an auto feeder. We have some ideas that may work. If your fish can only eat frozen or live food, you might seed the tank with live freshwater foods, such as snails, blackworms, daphnia and scuds. 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, tiny swimming crustaceans, are used often as live foods to feed fish and fry.
It may be obvious that we do not recommend using vacation feeder or other time release banquet block. 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.
Hopefully, you found one of these four methods helpful as you get ready for your next holiday or business trip. Safe travels and happy fish keeping!