by mickeywallace


It is every fish keepers dilemma, what to do when going on holidays? It doesn't matter if it's a short break or the annual trip to the sun, we all have concerns for our pet's health while we are away! Some of us are lucky to have friends or family who are hobbyist with the knowledge and know how to cope, but for the rest of us there is the only other option, ask a friend to check on our wee friends or no one at all.


Thus the dilemma what to do. There are a few simple options we can take. But there are a few things that must be remembered.


- For every action,ere is a reaction.

- Every time we feed our fish, we should allow time for them eat it then remove what is not eaten as it effects water quality. When we are away there is no one there to stop this reaction thus water quality is effected which will become harmful to our fish.




I do not approve of holiday feeding blocks. In the past I tested these, lucky enough I did it before I went away and I found that they dissolved after two or three days and/or the fish broke them up while feeding. Within hours, my water tests showed the results! I can only image the outcome of the tank on my return if I had of used them without checking first.





Personally I have not used one but I would still have concerns about their effect on water quality while I am away. Although, I will admit that they do provide the option of feeding reduced amounts of food at regular intervals, which is decided by you. This could be a short period option for a weekend break etc.



But we are still left with the problem of long term holidays of one or two weeks. I find the best way to cope with this is simple - plan ahead! We usually plan our holidays in advance so it is only natural to plan our aquarium care ahead of time too and using the time prior to our departure wisely and effectively will show the rewards when you return home..


How I planned and worked in the weeks coming up to my breaks.


I am lucky in that a friend who calls regularly volunteered to look after all my pets and with a little training was up to the task.


First on his regular visits I would try to do two things at once - talk while cleaning one of the filters . This way he would have a basic knowledge of their operation and the cleaning process if required, this was also a basics in water changes. Add to this peoples natural curiosity, I was able to teach him about water tests and the correct levels required.


Thus the simple basis is laid for a successful results on your return!!!!!


Two weeks prior to departure:

In the two weeks prior to my departure, I adjusted my feeding routine so the fry gained one extra feed per day. The biggest difference I made was in my adult stock, I added one extra feed which was high protein foods (normally I would not do this because of the risk of liver damage but for short periods this is okay). I also allowed longer time for the fish to feed, this is where a balance must be kept to avoid water quality problems. So I added an extra small daily water change of two or three litres on the bigger tanks and 10% on the smaller ones, for convenience I done this by measuring the water level divided it by ten and the result was measured from the water level down and a piece of tape was the mark I used to measure my water changed (this was for speed while changing water on eight tanks!!).


One week prior to departure:

this is a short week” This week is broken in two and is where water changes and equipment maintenance is essential for a successful outcome on your return.


This week all my strata hovering was done to the maximum, lifting all objects to try and ensure the removal of hazardous waste and anything that may become dangerous. The plants are trimmed and the fish are carefully observed for any signs of potential problems.


If possible, I would add another feed plus I use Immuvit and Lipovit from Tropic Marin, this ensures that all fish have extra vitamins and minerals which will enable the fish to cope with any problems this world will throw at them.


Three days prior to departure I give my last feed in the morning. That same evening again I do the hoovering of the strata.


Two days prior to departure I hoover out fish the waste and check the water parameters.


One day prior to departure is spent hoovering the strata but also today, I check all my equipment and their parts and wires! Today I also added one dose of Esha 2000 and Organic Aqua health treatment, this is just precautionary but I always find it's a wise choice.


In the last few days I copy my practice from exporters and considered the amount of fish that travel thousands of miles safely every week so it can't be wrong!


Lastly I leave out any spares that I have or that may be needed, blankets that can be used in an emergency, battery's for the air pump and test kits that should be enough for one week. I ask my friend to add stress zyme twice a week with two or three days between each dose, to protect friendly and useful bacteria and to protect against harmful or unwanted bacteria.


For a holiday that's longer, the practise is similar except I would add a mid feed, for example, if I was away for four weeks, I'd ask my friend to feed the fish at the end of week two. Usually I would suggest something like frozen daphina or brime shrimp, in this case I would ask them to defrost the food first and remove the fluid before the feed and ensure that whoever is looking after your wet pets checks the water quality the next day!


There are other options which can be used during extended breaks, for example, ask your friend to use measuring spoons that would be used in cooking. This will allow the correct measure of food that you want to be given. But I would advice against trying to follow the normal routine that you would normally use, as we have insight into our tanks that others will never have. But with the spoons it is possible to add some food under a controlled environment but it must be at a reduced amount and over longer intervals to avoid water problems. Really I would only see this as choice for periods over 14 days.



On your return!

On return form the trip, all rested and relaxed, we tend to go straight back to the fish husbandry routine but DO NOT DO THIS. Just as you built the fish up quickly before, now you must ensure that you do not overfeed. Remember, fish will feed very quickly, they will be hungry and may overfeed. Secondly, the friendly bacteria will need time to become fully effective again and we need to give everybody in the tank time to return to normal. This will only take a few days to do but better to allow those few days, plus it allows you to ease yourself back into your beloved hobby.



Things to expect on your return:

There are somethings that will happen no matter what you do, its nature. Fish will die for no other reason than natural causes. These death(s), though hard, would probably have happened if you were there. Fry may be lost, I lost ten Guppies while away but also came home to an extra fifty fry.


Plus in this modern age, mobile phones are the best tool available to you. The peace of mind they provide and you are a simply call or text away if any questions need to be answered, for example, while I was away, one filter had moved slightly and the impeller was rubbing ans making noise so by simply placing the phone right up to the tank I was able to tell my friend what to do to correct the problem.



© – October 2008