How to Care for Aquarium Fish While on Vacation
It can be difficult to find care for pets when you are 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. A partial water change is necessary. Use an aquarium siphon to vacuum the substrate and clean the filter, if necessary. 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
If your situation fits one of those special cases, then an automatic fish food dispenser is your best friend. You can fill the feeder with either flakes or pellets and program the feeding times. Finally, mount the feeder on the aquarium 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. There are advantages. Your pet sitter can notify you if the fish is sick and send you photos and video to help you troubleshoot. They might also be able, if needed, to maintain the tank and top off water. 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. 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, 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.
It is a good idea to ask your pet sitter for frozen food instead of dry foods. The fish will eat it less often and won’t get sick as often. 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
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. 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 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.
These four tips should be helpful in your preparations for your next business or holiday trip. Happy fish keeping and safe travels!