Going on vacation is something most of us are looking forward to every year. But your fish is a pet and pets need to be taken care of. It’s not like you could bring your whole fish tank (or tanks) with you as you can with a dog or a cat. It could ruin a vacation thinking of how your fish are doing.
There are some easy steps to take before leaving. Being prepared before you leave is the most important part by making sure the fish have food and that the fish tank is working properly by making as much as possible automatic.
I have been there worrying about the fish tank only to find out when I came home that the worry was unnecessary since the fish was fine. I have followed some easy steps to make sure the fish are doing as well as they are able to while I have been away.
1. Have a fish sitter
Having a fish sitter is the most secure for your fish tank. It could also be the least secure way to keep your fish while on vacation.
It’s important that the fish sitter looking after your fish during your vacation knows exactly what to do. One misstep as giving too much food could be fatal for all of your fish and you could come home to a nasty surprise.
The fish sitter should only really be giving your fish food, see that they all seem fine and take a look at the temperature and see the plants are doing fine. The fish sitter should also take a look that the light and air pump are working. The fish sitter should take note if something seems unusual in the fish tank.
The fish sitter should be a person you trust. A person you know can follow your instructions and it could preferably be a person that has some experience with fish keeping aswell.
If the fish sitter has experience with fish and you trust their expertise you can feel safe when on vacation. If the fish sitter doesn’t have any experience of looking after fish you can feel safe too by using the next step.
2. Give clear instructions
If making use of a fish sitter it’s important to give clear instructions to the person helping you out.
Be sure to bring the person over to show where to find the important switches for the light etcetera. You should also show the person how much food to give and what temperature and where to find the thermometer on your fish tank.
It could be a good thing to write it up for your fish sitter. Also showing with pictures is a good thing. I suggest you make it as a checklist making it easy for the sitter to check off everything to make sure everything that needs to be done is done. Keep the paper close to the fish tank for easy access for the fish sitter.
It’s an advantage if the fish sitter knows what to look for regarding diseases of your plants and fishes. It could be tough to make a fish sitter that’s not into the hobby to learn all the different signs. What to do is making a collage of the different signs and what the sitter should do when the fish or plant is showing that sign.
It’s not a good idea to let the fish sitter make such big decisions as giving medicine, therefore it’s important the fish sitter have a way to contact you. Make sure the sitter has your phone number or email to contact you if anything is changing.
I would recommend that the fish sitter is sending you pictures of the fish tank and fishes when they visit. That way you and the fish keeper are able to see small differences happening and you could guide your sitter if something is about to happen that the fish sitter might miss.
With clear instructions, you minimize the risk of something going wrong with a fish sitter. It is a good thing to have clear instructions even if you have an experienced fish keeper as a fish sitter. The fish sitter might not have the same types of fish and could mix things up. It’s better to be overly clear than not clear enough and that will make your vacation a lot less stressful.
3. Make sure the furniture is secure
Securing the furniture in the fish tank is always important, even when you are not on vacation. In time, the furniture could move a little bit due to the water flow and fish swimming around.
When you are at home you do a daily check up on your fish and are able to see that the furniture is not moving and risk crushing your fish if it falls on them.
By making sure all the furniture is secured before leaving, you eliminate the risk of a stone falling down on one of your fishes while you are away.
You also release a little bit of pressure from your fish sitter, if you have one since they don’t have as much to watch after while monitoring your fish tank. It’s still a good thing they look after the furniture as well so it doesn’t fall.
This step is extra important if you are leaving for a shorter trip where you don’t use a fish sitter.
4. Monitor the water parameters before you leave
Making sure the water parameters are good before leaving is a crucial part of going on vacation with a fish tank. You don’t want a spike in nitrate while you are away since doing water change from a location far away to combat the spike is impossible.
You also don’t want your fish sitter to have the burden to change water on their shoulders since it could be intimidating for a person who has never done it before.
The water parameters I recommend you measuring are pH, KH and NO2. I would, always, before leaving do the liquid tests since they are more precise. You measure them a day before leaving and I would suggest to measure them the same day too, if possible. Just to be sure.
I have written a bit about the products I recommend and which tests I use in another article if you are interested in what tests to use.
By monitoring the water parameters before leaving you are making sure there will be no random mass death of your fish tank inhabitants due to a nitrate spike or something with the water parameters.
The quality of water is hard to see for a fish sitter and this is to make sure it’s good, another way to make sure the quality of the water is good is the next step.
5. Do a water change
Doing a water change of about 25-50% two days before you are leaving is an important step. By doing so, you make sure the water quality is good. It would be a good idea to put in starting bacteria when doing this water change to make sure the bacteria are in a good state when you leave.
Good water quality is crucial for healthy fish and such a big step as a water change is not something your fish sitter needs to be doing. The exception is if your fish sitter is experienced with fish keeping and are capable of doing water changes themselves.
I would still not make my fish sitter doing the water change if not necessary to minimize the risk of something to go wrong. If something goes wrong it’s better that’s you to blame and not the fish sitter, it is your fish and your responsibility after all!
This step is blending in with the previous step since it both is about water quality. But knowing the water quality is good by utilizing these two steps you could be comfortable your fish are having a good environment even when you are not at home.
6. Portioning the fish food beforehand
Fish need food to survive. This step is the main reason to have a fish sitter. But there are other ways to give food to your fish than just having a fish sitter!
An automatic feeder is an option if you are not able to get a hold of a fish sitter. It’s an apparatus ransoming the food for your fish depending on how you choose. It’s a good way to feed your fish, as long as it works. That’s the problem with this little machine.
The risk is that it might malfunction during your vacation. You will not notice it and the fish will go without food for possibly a long time risking their lives.
It’s safer to have a fish sitter giving the fish food. The risk with an inexperienced fish keeper is that they might give too much food that could lead to a nitrate spike and possibly kill all your fish.
Therefore it’s important to have clear instructions for the sitter how much food they should give your fish. It’s very easy to give too much food because the sitter might feel sorry for the fishes and give them more food.
A way around that problem is to portion the feeding and putting every feeding session in a separate container yourself before leaving. Then it’s just to put in the food from the container and the fish will get the right amount of food. Be clear with the fish sitter that it’s all the food they should give. Not more, not less.
You could give the fish sitter instructions by showing them how much food in both pictures and that they try to portion it themselves when you show them what to do before your trip.
It’s also important to be clear which food the fish sitter needs to give. Some fishes need algae sinking pellets and some could go with the base fodder during your trip.
If the fish keeper is experienced they know how much food to give. Then you are clear, but for an inexperienced person, it could be harder to make them remember by just showing. For an inexperienced person, I would suggest to porion out the feeding sessions before. For the experienced fish sitter, you could just inform which food to give and they should know the portion size.
7. Plan in advance
Plan your trip in advance. That way you don’t have to be disrupted when you are having the time of your life by questions about how often the fish sitter needs to show up etcetera.
Depending on how long you should be on vacation you might or might not need a fish sitter. If you are just going on a weekend you don’t really need to have someone or something to feed the fish.
Most fish that you keep in a fish tank is able to go without food for about two weeks. If you are away more than a weekend I would recommend having a fish sitter to feed or an automatic feeder. The goal should be to have a routine as close to normal as possible when on vacation.
When having a fish sitter I would say that it’s good to aim for them to visit at least every second or third day. If possible it’s better to have them looking after your fish every day. The automatic feeder could be programmed to give your fish food with the same routine as if you were at home.
If you are on a long trip, for about a month the fish sitter should be doing a water change to make sure the water quality is not bad. With the water change is extremely important to have clear instructions of they have not done it before. Make them do a water change where you guide them thru, just to have them done one before you leave.
Show with pictures and possibly videos on how to do it if the fish sitter is uncertain of how to do it. If the fish sitter is experienced, that person should know how to do a water change but to be clear it’s a good thing to do a guide for them too.
Also, show the fish sitter how to measure the water parameters if you are on a longer trip. have them call you with a video call if they have any questions, just so you could guide them during your vacation.
A longer trip puts more responsibility on the fish sitter. If you know experienced fish keepers make them watch your fish. If not, be extra clear on how they should do things.
8. Do as much as possible automatic
To automate a lot of things make it easier for the fish sitter and will make you enjoy your trip by not thinking if the light is on or not.
The easiest thing to automate is the light by putting an automatic timer connected to your fish tank light. This is a thing you should have even when not on vacation since you don’t risk forgetting to put the light on. How long you should have the light on can you read about in another article I have written.
The feeding is possible to automate which I have written above.
By automating you don’t really need a fish sitter watching over the feeding. It’s still recommended to have a fish sitter though since you cant automate to see signs of disease. The automation could be broken during your trip and a fish sitter are able to watch those things for you.
9. Monitor the temperature during your vacation
Another good thing to do when you are on vacation is to monitor the weather where you live.
If it’s going to get really hot, you should probably put in some measures to keep the fish tank cool by removing the lid on the tank. That works as long as you don’t have fish risking to jump out of the fish tank.
If it’s going to get cold while you are away, find a way to keep the temperature warm. It’s easier if it’s going to be cold since most of the fish tanks contain a heater which will activate automatically. Just make sure it’s not broken before leaving.
A fish sitter should be looking after these things when you are away and should do the correct measure depending on the temperature in the fish tank.
For a shorter trip, it’s more important since you might not have a fish sitter for a shorter trip correcting the temperature.
10. Don’t think of your fish tank while away
The most important thing to not worry about your fish tank while on vacation is to not think of it at all. You are on vacation and you should be enjoying your free time.
To not think about your fish tank it’s much easier if you have a fish sitter with clear instructions and that you trust. Plan everything in advance and you don’t have to worry or think about your fishes, they will be fine!