In the coming summer vacation I plan on going on vacation for about 3 weeks, and during this time I would like my fish to remain as happy as they are now.
Leaving your fish behind for a couple of weeks can be nerve wrecking, but with the right preparations it is not a problem.
1 Put your lights on a timer
The first thing you should do, if you do not have it already, is buy a timer for your lights. If you are currently switching the lights on and off manually, a timer will make sure your fish are not sitting in the dark for too long.
Actually I recommend getting a timer that you can use all year round to provide a stable and predictable environment for your fish.
These timers are available at your local hardware store. You can also buy them online.
2 Automatic feeder
The second thing you need to sort out is feeding.
You should know that healthy fish can go without feeding for a couple of days without a problem. If you are going away for just a weekend, you do not have to worry about it.
There are feeding blocks available that will slowly release food over time, you can always get one of those. Be careful that you get the one that will cover you for the weekend, and read the instructions on placement in the tank.
If you will not be home for longer, for example a week, you will need to find another way to feed your fish. I highly recommend using an automatic feeder, especially the really popular one from Eheim. They are really programmable and have a lot of different features.
These automatic feeders allow you to program up to 4 feeding times per day, and you can decide the dosage.
If you are going away for a week or longer, make sure to buy an automatic food dispenser here on Amazon.
Important: Install the dispenser two weeks before you leave, so you can find the right food dosage through trial and error.
3 Check the water parameters before going on vacation
It is crucial to measure the water parameters before you go on vacation to see if everything is alright. If you notice any values that are off, you still have some time to correct them before you leave.
However, do not mess with the parameters when it is not super necessary because your fish will prefer stable parameters over fluctuating parameters.
4 Instruct a fish sitter
If you think it is necessary, you can find yourself a fish sitter. This is someone who comes to check on your aquarium a couple of times while you are on vacation.
When you do want a fish sitter, it is important that you give them proper instructions. You do not want your fish sitter to be responsible for killing your fish while you are away.
Sit down with them and go over everything you expect them to do. Do you want them to do a water change? Teach them first. Let them do it and show to you that they know how to do it.
Also, make sure they do not overfeed your fish. I can not stress that enough. A lot of fish are real beggers and will look hungry all the time. It is best to buy one of those cheap plastic pill boxes with compartments for all days of the weeks and fill them with all the food you want them to feed to your fish. This way, the fish sitter only has to open the right compartment and throw it in.
Finally, make sure they have both your telephone number and the one from your local fish store. If things really go wrong, they can ask for help.
Oh and one last remark. Sometimes nightmare scenarios do happen and aquariums shatter out of nowhere. If this happens while you are on vacation the fish sitter will feel devastated and extremely responsible. Tell them this and let them know that it is not their fault.
5 Check for sickness
Before you go, take a good look at all your fish and see if they show normal behavior. If something is off, they might be sick. If you check about a week in advance you still have some time to treat them properly.
Look for symptoms of stress or other abnormal things.
6 Clean your filter
Especially if you go on vacation for a longer period of time, it is important to clean your filter. If you forget to this it might become a problem.
Do this around one week before you leave, so there is still some time to see if everything went according to plan and nothing is malfunctioning.
7 Do a water change
Depending on whether you got a fish sitter or not, the next water change will not be until you get back from vacation. Therefore, you should definitely do a big water change a couple of days before you leave.
When I go on vacation, I always do a 30% – 40% water change 2 days before leaving. It stills allows me one day to quickly check on my aquarium to see if nothing is wrong. If you do it earlier that is also fine, but it obviously will take longer until the next one.
8 Make sure all filters, heaters and pumps are working
Grab a thermometer and measure the water temperature, quickly check if all your powerheads are still giving their all and see if your filter is not clogged in some way. These are all small checkups you need to do before going on vacation.
I distinctly remember stressing to catch a train to go on vacation, and I quickly checked my canister filter. What I saw could have ruined all the fun of the vacation, because one of the hoses was bend in such a way that no water was able to pass. I am so happy I did check on it one last time.
9 Do not add new fish
This seems obvious, but I can understand you get tempted when you visit the local fish store in the weeks prior to your vacation. Buying new fish in the weeks before leaving is just a no go.
Why? Well because you need to be at home to check on your new fish but you can’t because you are gone. A lot of different things can happen. Maybe your tank has old tank syndrome and the new fish dies. Maybe it had a disease and it dies because you could not treat it.
Not only is it sad when a fish dies, there is also a dead fish decaying in your tank. This is terrible for water quality and the overall health of the tank, causing a threat to your other fish.
When you want to get new fish, make sure to wait until you get back from vacation.
10 Do a water change to refresh aquarium
When you get back from vacation, start with a nice and big water change to refresh your aquarium. Grab a gravel vacuum and get rid of all excess food, poop and dead plants in one go to make sure your aquarium remains healthy.
You did a 30% to 40% change when you were about to leave, do one as soon as you get back again.
While doing this water change, take a good look at all the fish in your aquarium. Are they doing alright? Do they display any signs of distress or illness. It is always important to inspect your fish during these moments.
11 Test the water again when you get home
After doing a water change (or before, but I do it afterwards) take out your test kit and test all the water parameters of the aquarium water.
If there is anything off, it will give you the chance to correct them.
After this, resume regular feeding schedules and enjoy your tank.