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.
We have over a decade of experience in treating fish. This method is not recommended if you have baby fish and they require regular meals or you will be away for more than one week.
Method 2: Create an Auto Feeder
If you find yourself in one of these special situations, an automatic fish feed dispenser could be the best choice. The feeder can be loaded with either pellets or flakes. Once it is programmed, you can mount it on your aquarium’s rim. To ensure that the feeder is working correctly and it’s dropping the right amount of food, test it several days before you leave. 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 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: Find 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. Also, they might be able to do tank maintenance and water top-offs if necessary. 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. One solution is to use a pill box filled with the right measurements of food for each day. You can remind your pet sitter to not feed excess food from the previous days if they miss a day or more. The fish usually cannot finish all the extra meals, so the surplus of flakes just ends up polluting the water. Instead, you can skip past containers and only give the food 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. You can also label your fish tanks to make it easier for your pet sitter to know how many frozen foods each aquarium needs.
Method 4: Picky Eaters can use live foods
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. Your options are fairly limited, but we still have some suggestions that might 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. 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.
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. Enjoy safe travels and happy fish keeping