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Holiday and Vacation Fish Care

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Eheim Everyday Auto Feeder

Auto Feeder

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Q: We are going on vacation soon and don't know what to do about the care and feeding of our freshwater aquarium fish. The pet shop has feeder blocks. Are those a good idea? What other feeding options are there for our fish?

A: When going on holiday or vacation I do not recommend using feeder blocks while you are away, because they can impact the aquarium water chemistry. Recently developed gel feeders are less likely to cause harm, but some say their fish won't eat them.

Fortunately, there are two easy options to feed your fish during holiday and vacation periods. One is to find a fish sitter, the other option is to simply let your fish go unfed while you are gone. Before you faint at the second option, read on.

Don't Feed Them
Living in a watery environment has its advantages - fish don't have to wait for you to give them a drink. As for food, freshwater fish are quite capable of going for several days without a meal. In fact, healthy adult fish can go for a week or two without feeding.

That doesn't mean you should routinely skip feedings, but your fish can safely be left without food over a long holiday weekend. However, keep in mind that food is not the only concern when going on holiday.

Get a Timer
Aquarium water temperature should remain fairly constant, and the lights turned off at night and on in the morning. Lighting is easy to handle by purchasing a timer. No need to get a fancy one, just something that will turn the aquarium lights on and off once each day. I'd put the light on a timer and leave it that way all the time. That way your fish have a standard day/night cycle, and you have one less thing to do each day.

Water Temp
Fish are accustomed to cyclic changes in temperature, but if the change is dramatic the stress will make them susceptible to disease. If the holiday is during the cold time of year, so be sure your heater is working and don't turn your furnace down too low.

During summer vacations, set your air conditioning to kick in if the room temperature rises above 80, and your fish will be quite comfortable while you are away. If you do not have air conditioning, it is wise to arrange for someone to come in and check the fish in the event of a heat wave.

Fish Physical
Another important factor is the physical condition of your fish. Just before leaving on your holiday or vacation, examine them to ensure that none of them appear to be sick. If you notice any abnormalities, consult a fish shop before leaving. Otherwise you risk coming home to an aquarium of sick or dying fish.

Fish Sitter
If you are going on an extended vacation or holiday (more than a week), you should have someone tend your fish. The most important thing to impress upon your helper is that they should not overfeed your fish. Excess food will foul the aquarium, and can prove lethal. Many fish will "beg" for more food even when they are well fed (Angelfish are notorious for begging), but should not be indulged.

Food Dispenser
Go to a discount or drug store and purchase an inexpensive plastic pill dispenser - one that has a compartment for each day of the week. The week before you leave, as you feed your fish place the same amount of food in one of the pill compartments. By the end of the week you will have the next week's feedings all prepared for your helper. All they have to do is open the dispenser each day and put the food in the aquarium.

Be sure to provide your fish sitter with a number to reach you at, as well as the number of your pet shop. Regardless of whether you have a fish sitter or not, if you prepare ahead of time you can safely go on trips. Here is a handy checklist of things to do before you leave. Good luck and enjoy your vacation holiday.

Checklist Before Leaving
  • Clean the aquarium a week before you leave
  • Completely top off the aquarium with water the day before you leave
  • Check the water temperature to verify it's in the proper range
  • Check the filter and make sure it's running at full capacity
  • Carefully examine all the fish to ensure they are healthy
  • If you have a fish sitter, measure food into a dispenser for them
  • Give your fish sitter your number and the number of the local pet shop
Now go enjoy the holidays!

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