Vacation Advice

So you’re going on vacation, but don’t know what to do with your fish?

Don’t worry, it’s probably not as big of a deal as your initial thoughts may imply. In fact, it’s downright easy for most trips.

So you’ll be out of the house for a week, week and a half, maybe even 2 weeks, what should you do? Nothing.

Yes, you heard me correctly, nothing. Well, almost nothing. Before leaving for an extended period you should do a nice good, big water change, 50% is a good amount. It’s also a good idea to do a water change even on shorter trips if you’ll be gone on your normal water change day. Follow this up with another 50% change when you return.

For your tanks lights, buy a cheap timer from the hardware store or department store. Set it to have the lights on for 8-12 hours a day. If you don’t wish to do that, it’s best to leave the lights off the entire time (assuming you have no live plants). They’ll get plenty of ambient light to see during the day, and leaving the lights on the whole time is recipe for an algae disaster.

Fish can easily go over a week without any food added at all, really, they can. And it may not be such a bad idea, after all, a hungry fish is a healthy fish. What?!? How can I say that? Simple =)

Fish in nature do not have a constant supply of food appear above their heads each day, they must swim around endlessly searching for morsels of food wherever they can find it. In fact, that’s pretty much all wild fish do their entire lives. They are genetically programed through instinct to search out and eat all the food them can find, even if they are not hungry. They do this because they do not know the next time they will find any food.

Yes, they will be hungry during the time you are away, but here are the alternatives and why I recommend doing nothing as the best approach.

Vacation Feeders:
These are the white blocks of food that slowly dissolves over time letting out little pieces of food as it goes. These things have a notorious reputation for fouling up the water in a tank. I have used them myself a couple times when I first started fishkeeping. In my own experience that’s mostly true. My water wasn’t horribly cloudy, but didn’t look as clear either. However, the remains of the block itself was disturbingly gross and looked to have fungus growth on it.

Gels may work better than the white blocks, so use that if you absolutly must.

Automatic Feeders:
Sounds like the perfect solution right? Well, if everything worked perfectly that would be true … but if it fails… The problems with these devices is the amount of food dispensed can be inconsistent, and a common complaint is their failure which dumps too much food in. If you’re not around to see that, and remove the excess… then it decays into ammonia causing problems for your fish.

Another potential issue to these feeders is they are not hermetically sealed, which means moisture enters them due to the high humidity above a tank. That will cause the food to turn to mush and decay within the dispenser.

Neighbor/Friend:
Just as good as if you were home right? Until you realize that your ‘pinch’ of food is very different from what they call a ‘pinch’. No two people will feed the same amount of food, and those who are not familiar with keeping fish far more often than not overfeed because fish always have that poor puppy dog look to their eyes when they sense food may be coming.

The only viable alternative for this is to pre-portion out food into individual containers or packets. One for each tank, and each day that the person is to feed the fish. This can work well actually if they will be over anyways to feed other pets like cats or dogs.

If you are gone for an extended vacation of over two weeks this is really your only option and I strongly suggest you pre-portion the food. Even if you show them how much food you feed, they’ll still feed a different amount on their own. However, if you are gone for over two weeks do not have them feed your fish daily! Every 3 or 4 days is plenty. The reason for this is you are not home to do water changes, and thus there is no outlet for the waste that food ultimately creates. It is best for all the fish that you keep water parameters as good as possible while away.

The last consideration about using a friend or neighbor is you are going to have to give them access to your house. Make dead certain you can trust them, alone, in your house while you are gone. Trust that they won’t snoop, trust that they won’t take anything, and trust that they’ll lock the door when they leave.

Last of all, my final note on leaving for vacation is to keep your house comfortable. That means air conditioner in the summer, and heat in the winter. The tank water will rise with room temperature, your tank will never be colder than the air. So if you leave in the middle of┬ásummer when it is 90 degrees outside and you leave your A/C off … your house is going to get quite toasty and so are your fish! Same goes in the winter, setting your thermostat all the way back to 50 degrees sounds nice for your heating bill, but that means your tanks heaters have to try and keep the water ~28 degrees higher than the room … that’s more then they are probably sized for and your fish could end up getting chilled.

I hope you find this advice helpful, and if you have any questions feel free to share them below.

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