How to Care for Aquarium Fish While on Vacation
When going out of town, it can be stressful trying to arrange care for your pets. 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. 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: Set up an Auto Feeder
An automatic fish food dispenser will be your best friend if your situation is one of these rare cases. 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. You should test the feeder several days prior to your departure to ensure it is functioning properly and that it drops the correct amount of food. 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 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
Asking friends, family members, or a hired pet sitter to watch your fish has both pros and cons. 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. You can use a pillbox that contains the appropriate amount of food for each day. The pet sitter should remind them that they cannot make up lost days by giving excess food from previous days. Fish are not able to finish extra meals so excess flakes end up polluting their 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: Choose live food for picky eaters
What if you will be gone for more than a week, there’s no way to hire a pet sitter, and your picky fish won’t eat pellet foods 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. 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 is a tiny, swimming crustacean that’s often used to feed fry and other small fish.
It may be obvious that we do not recommend using vacation feeder or other time release banquet block. These blocks can be useful for adding calcium to your fish’s diet, and may also be beneficial for invertebrates and fish. However, they can cause ammonia spikes as they dissolve into small particles that are difficult to eat by larger fish.
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!