Basic steps to ensure your fish survive in a power outage.
The flowers are slowly coming, the temperature is increasing, snow is melting. Summer is just around the corner.
This time of year can signify the start of violent weather situations for many areas. The main threats being increased severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, flooding from rains.
What do you do when and if in some cases Mother Nature lets loose and you lose power to your tanks?
While many power outages may only last a few minutes, hours, in a serious situation power can be lost for several days / weeks, so what can you do to help minimize stress / potential loss of your fish.
The power goes out, you lose electrical supplies to your heater, filter and other equipment. While a tank in spring / summer will lose heat slower than a tank without electrical heat in winter. The waste produced by the fish can poison water quickly. So what can be done to prevent this?
Having a tank overstocked with fish, while in some cases necessary to prevent aggression, should not be the normal approach, you dont have to cram your tank full of fish to make it look good. Having a filter or filters running at maximum and barely being able to cope with the bioload (waste your fish produce) can turn an already bad situation quickly worse. With no power, your filter is useless. Oxygen levels will quickly start to fall as fish respiration and waste are produced. Toxic levels of Ammonia and Nitrite can quickly burn a fishes gills and damage a fish for life. Fish with ammonia burn, nitrite poisoning will be more susceptible to disease and illness.
There is a small list of items which would be beneficial for everyone to have in their supplies for the tank.
1) Battery Powered Air Pump why you ask?, Gas exchange, having bubbles breaking the surface are aiding in removing Carbon Dioxide and replacing it with Oxygen. They also nearly always come with a small airstone.
2) Small length of Plastic tubing This with the addition of your airstone from the battery powered air pump give you 90% of what you need to create a working sponge filter.
3) Store Bought Sponge filter Those with large tanks may consider getting one and hiding it towards the rear of the tank, it does not have to be up and running. Having it sat in your main tank will serve two purposes. 1) You can remove it should you need to setup an emergency hospital or Quarantine tank as it will be seeded with good bacteria. 2) You can use it in the event of a power loss to provide biological filtration.
Three basic items that wont cost a lot but can save a tank from crashing and causing fish deaths very quickly.
What other steps can be taken in the event of a power loss.
1) In summer and hot weather, remove glass tops, this will serve two purposes, allow you to get into the tank easily to perform basic small waterchanges with minimum hassle and also to help keep excess heat from your tank. Temperatures in some places can rise very very quickly if power is lost to air conditioning systems or fans.
2) Unplug ALL your tank equipment from the power. More often than not, power will flicker on and off several times as Utility companies reconfigure and re route power, this flickering can cause severe damage to many sensitive electrical components. This is good practice for all other household electrical equipment as well, you need one or two lights on at most to know when the power comes back on. You dont need your expensive in some cases, aquarium equipment being fried by a power surge which occur regularly on power restoration.
3) Tank Temperature, this is vitally important in both winter and summer. The fish are sensitive to temperature changes and can only withstand a fairly small range drop / increase before it effects them.
In winter months heating from a wood burning stove or other non electrical appliance may be enough to keep the tank level stable but in a lot of cases will not. So what can be done? Having a small canister camping stove can serve multiple purposes. It not only give you a place to cook warm food / beverages on in winter, but it also gives you a place to be able to heat some water.
Heating the tank with any sort of heater during a power outage unless it is your aquarium heater running off a generator should be AVOIDED at all costs. This can be extremely dangerous as it can cause a very rapid increase in temperature stressing the fish or it can potentially cause your tank to fracture and break from heat stress.
If you cannot keep the tank stable or a steep drop / increase occurs, look at putting blankets around the tank although ALL electrical equipment must be unplugged if doing this to reduce fire risk if the power comes back on. In summer opening a window if safe to do so will allow air into the house, it may take some time to start cooling but it will.
While a power outage situation is NEVER a good thing, there are some simple steps which can be taken to minimize the effect it will have you fish.
Thank you so much for posting this. Hopefully everyone takes the time to read through it BEFORE the electricity goes, and can prepare. . . A 5 day power out last summer was a 'fun' new experience for me, lol. This is a subject on which every fish-keeper should be informed. :)
Nice write up! I had to learn all of this the hard way a few years back lost all my equip to some surges. ever since I keep a battery op air pump and the components for a sponge filter not to mention a fuse loaded surge protector that all equip gets plugged into.(all of our expensive electronic devices also get a fuse loaded surge protection)
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