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…
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.
Our fish store has a decade-long history of treating thousands of fish using preventative medication and no feedings for seven consecutive days. 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: Install 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. 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 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. 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. Also, they might be able to do tank maintenance and water top-offs if necessary. However, not all pet sitters are well-versed with aquariums, so they can sometimes end up doing 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. 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 food can be substituted for fish flakes and pellets because they are often packaged in cubes that make it easy to measure 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: Use Live Foods 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. There are not many options, but there are some things that might 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. To make sure that live foods don’t go bad, you can place them in a plastic container. It will be difficult for fish to get into, but they can crawl or swim out of the container.
Daphnia are tiny swimming crustaceans that are often used as live foods for feeding fry and smaller fish.
It may be obvious that we do not recommend using vacation feeder or other time release banquet block. 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.
We hope you find one of these methods useful as you prepare for your next vacation or business trip. Happy fish keeping and safe travels!