Perhaps the title for this article should be “Expect the Unexpected,” but that struck me as a little too prescient for the average aquarium hobbyist. If you plan to keep your prized aquarium running through thick and thin, there are some steps you can take to prepare for unexpected events:

    • Nature Strikes: There will be times when the power goes out.  Mother nature, human error, or freak accident, the power will go out eventually. Short term outages may not require much but you may consider having a battery operated air pump. Air pumps help to maintain some water circulation and proper oxygenation of the water for longer outages. If the tank starts to cool too fast, you can wrap blankets around the tank for warmth. You can also fill a 2 liter bottle with hot water and float it in the aquarium as a quick alternative. If the power stays off for more than a few hours, you will want to clean out all the filter media and replace it to avoid pumping dirty, stale water into the tank when the power comes back on. You can place the biomedia in the aquarium to keep most of the biological filter active.
    • Social Gatherings:  It’s great to be proud of your aquarium. You care for it, enjoy it and it makes sense that you want to share it with friends and family. While most guests may understand, others may not know proper aquarium etiquette and bang or tap on the tank to get a fishs’ attention. They may even think the fish look thirsty and offer them a beer! Sometimes, just the number of people in the room and the increase in the CO2 levels will stress the fish. You should plan on checking the filter and doing a partial water change after the party to help prevent undue stress, and possibly add a general treatment, like MelaFix.
    • Behavioral Changes: Eventually the fish in the aquarium will mature and start to behave like teenagers. They will bicker with their tankmates, try to impress the females, and engage in “improper” behavior. If some fish start to pair up, they may start to show aggression toward the other fish. If this happens you either need to provide a separate “spawning” aquarium for the pair or maybe add more décor in the  aquarium to distract the parents and provide more cover for the tankmates.
    • Unexpected Arrivals: If your fish are  getting frsiky, you may find yourself with some unplanned new additions to the aquarium. You may want to have a “baby saver” container or another smaller tank to raise the babies. Many a fish room has started with the arrival of a few new born fish! If you cannot offer the new arrivals hiding places or a separate aquarium, be ready to explain the concept of “survival of the fittest” to those with a squeamish stomach.
    • General Maintenance: Aquarium products are improving in quality and performance. Like everything else, you will eventually need to replace or repair a vital piece of equipment. Always have extra water pumps for water circulation or an air pump and airstone combo to help oxygenate the water. A spare heater is a must to prevent temperature swings that can stress out the fish. Replacement lights are not crucial unless you have a mini-reef or planted aquarium, where long term darkness would be detrimental to your fish. Spare bulbs are inexpensive but if you don’t have any you could order online and get them in a few days.
    • You ignore the rules and pay the price: Most of us do not use a quarantine system.  Without one, we run the risk of introducing a new pathogen to the aquarium that can wreck havoc with our fish. Some of these problems can be controlled with a general bacterial treatment, like Melafix. For most freshwater applications, even a parasite infestation can be easily treated with Formalin-MS or Rid Ich+. Unfortunately the Parasite treatment is a bit more difficult for a marine reef tank. There are reef safe treatment for white spot/Ich like No Ich Marine or Stop Parasite. The key to success is having these treatments on hand for immediate treatment at the first sign of trouble!
    • Vacations/Emergency absence: Your aquarium should be able to survive your absence if you are gone for just a couple of days. For vacations or longer commitments, find a reliable or experienced person to do general maintenance and feeding for the aquarium. The food (flake/pellet or frozen) can be pre-measured using ice cube trays, and leave instructions to feed once a day.  For a marine aquarium, it will help to have 20-30 gallons of premixed salt water ready for quick use. Developing a good relationship with a local store or animal expert can come in handy in case of an emergency!

Perhaps you have noticed I did not mention anything about algae. This is because I can GUARANTEE you will have bouts of trouble controlling it. This is not unexpected; it is a certainty! It will also be a certainty that you will get a desire to set up a bigger aquarium!!

About The Author Don Roberts

comments (2)

  • “There are reef safe treatment for white spot/Ich like No Ich Marine or Stop Parasite.” Sadly no reef safe treatment exists. The only way to fully remove ICH from a reef tank is to remove all fish and place them in QT and treat with Cupramine or tank transfer method. You must leave the display tank fallow for 90 days.

    I suggest anyone who reads this, please do not just use one source for info.

    • While I have found the extensive and very intense discussions on the topic of ich to be interesting over the years at places such as Reef Central, I have yet to see any scientific proof from either side of that conversation which shows the solutions marketed as reef safe as either working or not working. If you have study information conducted in a lab using scientific method, I would very much enjoy reading it. I have kept my eyes open for something like that for quite some time.

      Are the tried and true standards of quarantine and copper, non quarantine with continued feeding and water changes combined with natural cleaners like shrimp or wrasse, and things of that nature still the quickest way toward a solution to an outbreak? Most definitely, and that is the way I would go if I were dealing with an outbreak.

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