Loading... Please wait...

Power outage... what should you do for your fish

Posted by

With winter storm Stella currently battering the Northeast, I thought I’d take this opportunity to discuss how a fish keeper can prepare for a major storm and the possible loss of electricity. It is very common to see people in the hobby asking “What do I do if the power goes out?” Well, the simplest answer would be to have a generator on standby to power all the lights, heaters, air pumps / bubblers, and filters for your tanks during the outage. However, for many people that solution may not work as 1) it may not be financially feasible or 2) a generator would be used to power higher priorities in the household such as furnaces, refrigerators, and water systems (for those with wells).

A power outage can mean no heaters making tank temperature very difficult to maintain, and this a big concern for many aquarists as so many of us keep tropical fish that require warm water. The best method to regulate tank temperature can vary on a few factors including whether you have one aquarium, or an entire roomful. In the event of a power outage with one or two tanks, the easiest solution is to wrap those tanks in blankets, this not only insulates the tank but will reduce the activity of the fish. However; if you have a heavily planted tank, the plants will react to the lack of light by using more oxygen which can result in a bigger issue than a drop in the water temperature. At Triton Freshwater Aquatics, we prep for a storm by increasing the temperature in the fish room which is well insulated to hold the heat (at times as high as 90 degrees) this typically lasts around a day into a power outage before the temperatures of the tanks start to drop. Another solution to consider in a long term power outage is performing water changes, but note that this only works if you have a gas hot water heater, not an electric one. Keep in mind that as with any water change you need to be careful not to have too great of a temperature change, but this can help get you by if you are dealing with a long term outage.

The biggest concern from a power outage is oxygen depletion in the aquarium. Some of the factors that affect how fast oxygen will be depleted are fish load, plant load (if the tank is dark, this has a bigger effect), tank temperature, feeding fish, and fish activity. For all of these factors the higher the amount in the tank, the faster oxygen will be depleted. There are a few techniques that can be used to sustain the oxygen levels in a tank, for those of you with 1 or 2 tanks, a battery powered air pump is a great insurance policy. Marina sells a battery powered backup for about $15.00 USD that I have used for a few fish shows in the past without any issues. In a worst case scenario, just agitating the surface of the water occasionally will suffice to get the aquarium by.

Even once the power is finally back on, you (and your fish) aren’t out of the woods yet. During the time that the power was off methane and hydrogen sulfide began to build up in the filters due to anaerobic breakdown (caused by the lower oxygen levels). Your fish will be stressed due to the deviation from their routine and the deteriorating conditions in the tank during the power outage. All of this requires you to closely monitor the aquarium throughout the following days to ensure that there has not been an outbreak of ich or other stress related issues.

Recent Updates

Sign up to our newsletter

Connect with us: Facebook Instagram YouTube