As all of this recent severe weather has shown us, you need to be prepared to keep your aquarium inhabitants alive when the power goes out for an extended amount of time. The following are a few simple steps you can take to help your fish survive the ordeal.
- The oxygen level in the water is actually the most critical component to successfully keeping your fish alive. You do not need massive amounts of surface water movement, but some is required to help de-gas the CO2 and allow more O2 to enter the water. Battery operated air pumps can be life savers when the power is out. The Marina Battery Operated Air Pump is a purely manual item you need to put in place and physically turn on. It will run 1 to 2 airstones. The Silent Air Battery Pump should always be plugged into a wall socket, and when it senses the power has gone out, it turns on automatically. Both of these use D cell batteries and can run for several hours per battery. A more powerful and automatic back up air pump would be the AirPod. This unit plugs into the wall and works like a standard air pump, producing a large volume of air with a built in rheostat to allow you to fine tune the amount of air. When the power goes out, it switches to run off four D cell batteries and will run for several hours. With its two outlets, it can run 2 to 4 air stones with no problem.If you do not have any battery operated air pumps, you can simply agitate the surface of the tank with a whisk or eggbeater, or take a bowl and lift water out and pour back in like a waterfall. Obviously, you will need to repeat this several times an hour and is a bit labor intensive. Best to have a battery air pump!
- While we have a bit more leeway when it comes to the drop in temperature of the tank, you still want to try to keep it as close to normal as possible. Larger bodies of water lose thermal energy slowly, and if we can insulate the tank, the loss of heat will be even slower. This can be simply strapping blankets/towels to the outside of the tank. Or better yet, if you plan ahead, get a sheet of the bubble wrap style insulating strips and simply wrap them around the tank and tape into place.If you have a gas water heater or gas stove, you can take hot water and fill old 2-liter pop bottles with the hot water and float them in the aquarium. These will lose their heat rather quickly, so you should be ready to swap out the bottles for hot bottles. You can also do a 20-30 percent water change with slightly warmer water to warm up the aquarium. You could repeat this every 4 hours or so, but watch the fish for signs of stress and do not gravel vacuum while changing the water.
- If the power has been off for more than 2 hours, you should clean out all your filters and place all new media in the filter(s) to prevent any foul water from developing during the power outage. The bio-media can be carefully rinsed in water from the aquarium and stored wet in a plastic bag, but it is best to not add it to the filter system until the power comes back on.
- Once the power is back on and everything returns to normal, be on the lookout for bacterial outbreaks and parasitic infestations since the fish would have been under stress and their immune system would have been compromised. This is a perfect storm for developing parasite infestations, and we want to attack the parasites before they get too large of a foothold in the aquarium.
Being prepared in advance to care for your aquarium for serious weather can make all the difference in the survival of your aquatic inhabitants.