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What To Do With Your Aquarium While On Vacation?

by Brian Dunleavy
What To Do With Your Aquarium While On Vacation?

So, it’s that time of year to pack your bags and head on a vacation. 

You’ve organized your mail, told your neighbors to put out your trash can, and you’ve put your house lights on timers. But, what about your aquarium, who’s going to feed your fish?

But do not worry, as there are a few options to ensure your fish are well looked after and many things you can to do before and after your trip. 

Things To Consider Before Your Vacation

Before packing your bags, you should ask yourself the following:

  • How long will you be away?
  • How big is your aquarium?
  • How old is your aquarium?
  • How much livestock does your aquarium have?
  • What types of fish/corals do you have?

  • Once you have gone over the above, you can decide the best option for your aquarium, the best being… Asking a friend. 

    Ask A Friend

    Goldfish smiling inside aquarium

    The best and most commonly used approach by aquarists is to ask a friend, neighbor, or family member to look after your aquarium while you are away. 

    Pet sitters are great! They can come over every day, or every couple of days to feed your fish and/or corals, and check that everything is running as normal. While this is a great option, ensuring the pet sitter has some experience is important, as someone inexperienced watching your fish can soon lead to a disaster…

    The most common issue with an inexperienced pet sitter is overfeeding, and if you have read our article on common saltwater aquarium mistakes, you will know that overfeeding often leads to fish death and crazy swings in the water parameters. 

    If your pet sitter is inexperienced, you can use Ziploc bags and fill them with the amount of food they should feed each day. 

    So, what other downsides are there?

    The Cons of Pet Sitters

    • They may not know how to look after your particular fish/coral
    • They may overfeed your fish/corals
    • They may get carried away and start tampering with equipment
    • If your aquarium requires maintenance, they may not know what to do
    • You will need to give them access to your home

    Saying that… Pet sitters are not all that bad. So let’s take a look at the benefits!

    The Pros of Pet Sitters

    • You don’t have to relocate your aquarium or fish/corals
    • Your fish can continue with their normal routine 
    • Experienced pet sitters could perform maintenance if needed
    • You can enjoy your vacation without worrying about your aquarium

    But, what happens if you can't find a pet sitter? Who’s going to look after your aquarium and feed your fish?

    The next-best option is to buy a battery-operated automatic fish food feeder. These feeders can easily be programmed to feed your fish when you usually feed them. 

    What To Avoid Before You Go On Vacation 

    We recommend avoiding the following when going on vacation:

    Feeding Blocks: These may sound great, and there is no shortage of them at your local fish store (LFS), but they are not very effective at delivering food to your fish, and often they end up causing issues with your water parameters. In our eyes, we recommend avoiding these at all costs. 

    Overfeeding Before Your Vacation: Many inexperienced people think that feeding a load of food before the trip will mean they don’t need to feed their fish while they are away. This is completely unnecessary, and will likely cause issues with your fish’s health AND water chemistry. 

    Automatic Feeders: Now, I know what you are thinking, we have recommended these above, so why should you avoid them? 

    While they are a better option than a feeding block, and likely your only option if you cannot find a pet sitter, automatic feeders can easily malfunction, either dumping all the food at once inside the aquarium, or they can stop delivering food at all. If you do need an automatic feeder, it is worth spending a little extra to ensure you have a good-quality one! 

    What To Do Before You Leave

    Woman feeding aquarium fish

    Before you jet, sail, or even walk off, there are a few things you need to do before you leave for your vacation. 

    1. Perform a water change and clean the tank at least two days before your trip
    2. Check your aquarium heater is working properly by monitoring the temperature
    3. Put the aquarium lights on a timer for 6-8 hours per day 
    4. If you are only going away for the week or a weekend, do not worry about feeding your fish, they will not starve
    5. If your vacation is longer than one week, ask a friend if they can feed your fish, remembering to place the daily food allowance into bags to prevent overfeeding
    6. Set your air conditioner or heater to the appropriate temperature in the room you keep your aquarium 
    7. Finally, ALWAYS leave detailed instructions for the pet sitter including how to top off your aquarium water - it may be worth arranging a meeting and going through everything with them before you leave

    What To Do When You Come Back 

    When you come back from your vacation, you will be eager to get your built-up laundry sorted and relax before you head back to work, however, you need to do a few things once you get back home. 

    • If you had a pet sitter, check that everything was ok while you were gone
    • Visually inspect the aquarium - check your fish’s health and the water level
    • Check that everything is still functioning properly 
    • Replace your filter media if needed
    • Test the water parameters and make adjustments if needed 
    • Perform a 25% water change
    • Siphon any uneaten food and waste from the bottom of the aquarium
    • Refill the tank with dechlorinated water, ensuring it is the same temperature as the aquarium water
    • Continue feeding your fish as normal
    • Continue with your usual maintenance schedule 


    The thought of leaving your aquarium for a while may be scary, but as long as you properly prepare your aquarium before your vacation, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. 

    The best option is to get a pet sitter, but if you can’t find one, a good-quality automatic feeder will do the trick until you return. 

    If you have any questions before your vacation, or if you need help with aquarium maintenance or reefing supplies, contact the Reefco team, or visit us in-store. We are always happy to assist you with any aspect of your aquarium. 

    by Brian Dunleavy