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…

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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.

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