76 Prepping for the hols — what about the fish tank?
You’ve got the flights booked, or the tents packed, and you’re bristling with excitement. Two weeks of sun and hedonism await. Now, about that fish tank…
Should I, or shouldn’t I feed while I’m gone? That’s what everyone wants to know. The answer will depend a lot on your fish. If you’ve got a single, plump ambush predator that can go for weeks between meals in the wild, then the answer should be obvious. If you’ve got a community tank of assorted bits, all with different feeding rates, then the need for intervention increases.
For a weekend away, you can usually skip feeding. The only time this becomes an issue is when you have either fry or fish that graze perpetually — seahorses and anthias are good examples.
For the less confident aquarist, weekend blocks and sticks are available. However, how they last is down to how ravenous your fish are. I’ve seen whole sticks reduced to nothing within minutes of hitting substrate. With bigger fish, I’ve seen them go down the hatch in one.
Avoid the temptation to ‘uberfeed’ just before you go. Loading your fish up with heaps of protein before leaving them is a recipe for disaster — they won’t slowly digest and store the food, they’ll excrete it. That’ll lead to a surge in ammonia, and with all the extra solid waste being produced, you run a heightened risk of clogging filter foams; a perfect storm for a tank crash.
For a week’s absence, feeding will be needed. So, what are the options?
Trust a friend — you could call on a friend to ‘fishsit’ for you, but that’s risky if they’re not fishkeepers themselves. If you know how much food your fish eat in one sitting, then you could make up a series of pre-weighed ration bags — small freezer bags with a little flake, pellet, tablet and freeze-dried food to be added daily, taking the guesswork out of it.
Feeding blocks can be hit and miss. There are anecdotal reports of white ‘plaster of paris’ type blocks that refuse to dissolve properly, leaving the aquarist to come home to a perfectly formed lump still sat in the tank, and starving fish. Some are reported to dissolve too quickly, impacting water chemistry and quality in the process. Still, for the best part they serve a purpose, and many aquarists get on fine with them. Note that because of the nature of ‘dissolving to function’ they will impart themselves on the water, and a water change on your return will be required.
Other holiday feeders come in a low protein gel packaging, like those from Tetra. These allow the fish to fill their bellies while not Got algae grazers? Harvest algae on flattened stones in advance of your holiday by keeping them under bright lights somewhere. The algae won’t die in the tank, and will give the grazers something to work on. producing too much waste, and are a dream to use. However, like the sticks, they can be too tempting and easy for some fish to eat in one go — I’ve seen Clown loach demolish the whole tub in minutes.
Grazers, like those from Vitalis, are a good balance of nutrition and solidity. Though tasty and rich-smelling, they are firm enough that fish cannot eat them in one go — it takes work to slowly grind them down.
Automated feeders, like those from Tetra, Eheim, Fluval, Interpet and Fishmate, will care for your tank for up to the 14-day mark. The obstacles to using an automated feeder are fitting it to the tank, and keeping the food inside dry — especially if it’s being suspended directly over a hot, humid aquarium.
The latter point is addressed in some designs by a mixture of tight seals and/or airline connections. Connecting a feeder to an air pump ensures a flow through, denying moisture the chance to accumulate. Always use an automatic feeder for a few days before going away, to familiarise yourself with how it works, and to fine tune the feed quantities used.
What are you doing about your fish while you’re on holiday?
Feeding blocks are designed to dissolve slowly, releasing the food inside.
Vitalis holiday grazer.
Tetra holiday food. Use your automatic feeder for a few days before you go, to ensure it’s set up properly.