How to Care for Aquarium Fish While on Vacation
It can be stressful to organize care for your pet when you’re 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…
A couple of days prior to your departure, give your fish tanks a thorough cleaning. 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. Some fish keepers forget to turn on the filter again, or rush their water changes. This can leave their fish in an awkward situation while they are 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 going to be away for less than a week it’s best not to feed your fish. This may sound harsh, however, it is important to remember that fish in nature must find their own food, and are not guaranteed meals every day. Your fish can go for weeks without eating if they are healthy.
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 – Set up an auto feeder
An automatic fish food dispenser will be your best friend if your situation is one of these rare cases. You can fill the feeder with either flakes or pellets and program the feeding times. Finally, mount the feeder on the aquarium rim. Make sure to test the feeder several days before your departure to confirm that it’s working properly and the amount of food it’s dropping is appropriate. As heavy meals cause fish waste and more problems, we recommend giving them only enough food for the duration of your trip.
The Aquarium Co-Op Auto Feeder allows you to feed up to 4 times a day and comes with a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 3-6 months per charge.
Method 3 – Find a Pet Sitter
There are pros and cons to asking family, friends, or hired pet sitters to look after your fish. Your pet sitter will be able to let you know if your fish are sick and can send you video and pictures to assist with problem solving. Also, they might be able to do tank maintenance and water top-offs if necessary. But not all pet sitters have the same knowledge about aquariums. They can sometimes do more harm than good.
Overfeeding the fish can be a problem. This leads to poor water quality, and possibly even death. You can use a pillbox that contains the appropriate amount of food for each day. It is important to remind the pet sitter that pets can’t eat too much food from previous days. Fish are not able to finish extra meals so any excess food ends 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. It is a good idea to label your fish tanks so that your petsitter knows how many containers of frozen food each aquarium should have.
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. We have some ideas that may 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. If you want to prolong the life of your live foods, place them in a floating plastic container that has a small hole so the fish can’t reach it. However, the food can be slowly crawled or swam out over time.
Daphnia, tiny swimming crustaceans, are used often as live foods to feed fish and fry.
We don’t recommend 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!