When you're away for the weekend on vacation, or traveling for the holiday, you ask a friend or neighbor to stop in and feed your fish. But sometimes you must leave for longer periods, such as for military service or an extended vacation. When this happens, you need a committed aquarium caretaker willing to become familiar with aquarium basics.
before you leave
Planning ahead ensures your aquarium stays in peak condition while you are away. Before you leave, address the more-involved or higher-ticket aspects of your aquarium system. Your
lighting system is a good place to start. Check to see if it is operating properly and if you haven't done so in a while, now is the time to replace old bulbs in your aquarium light fixture.
Also, stock up on essential items such as filter cartridges, filter media, food, test strips, water conditioners, and salt mix. Having aquarium essentials on hand not only simplifies things but also reduces any out-of-pocket expenses for your caretaker. Remember, your caretaker is doing you a favor so make things simple and hassle free.
If possible, a fellow hobbyist would be the ideal candidate. However, if your caretaker is unfamiliar with aquariums invite her on several occasions to observe while you perform routine maintenance. Give her a notebook to jot down the tasks, as well as tips and suggestions to make things go smoother. The following is a basic aquarium checklist for your caretaker.
If your caretaker insists on stopping by daily, or lives in your home, manual feeding is a great option. Show her the amount you feed and explain the perils of overfeeding. You can also install an electronic feeding device to automate this task in the event your aquarium caretaker is unable to stop in every day. For a very convenient and economical solution, consider a gel feeder block or a feeder block. These slow-release feeders are available in short-term "Weekend" or long-term "Vacation" versions to supply food for your aquarium fish no matter how long you are away.
testing and general maintenance
Show your caretaker how to
test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, and other vital water parameters. Dip-style test strips are easy to use and produce almost immediate results. Explain what the results mean and make a chart indicating "normal" water parameters for your aquarium. After each test, have your caretaker record the results to monitor water quality. Let your caretaker know that regular testing provides cues to potential problems with the biological filtration and other processes. A chart makes it easier to detect patterns at a single glance.
Show your caretaker where you keep your algae-scrubbing tools and encourage their use before water changes. Take her step-by-step through a partial water change. Explain how water changes help rid your aquarium of harmful chemicals that compromise water quality.
Here's where your efforts to stock up on filtration supplies pay off. Demonstrate how to make safe cartridge changes. All electrical apparatus inside the aquarium should be turned off while performing any aquarium maintenance. Inform your caretaker that chemical filter media should be replaced, as well. Many chemical filter media such as activated carbon need to be gently rinsed to remove excess dust before placing into the filter.
Allow your caretaker to assist you with gravel bed cleaning using your siphon-style cleaner. Explain that partial gravel cleaning is done during a water change to remove excess debris, usually monthly, but doesn't have to be performed with every water change.
Though biological media does not require replacement, it should still be inspected monthly for signs of clogging. Show your caretaker how to rinse clogged bio media using aquarium water to minimize loss of beneficial bacteria.
This part of the maintenance is more of a system-wide scan to ensure your equipment is working properly. Check the moving parts of the filter to make sure everything is working properly and there isn't any excess wear or any damaged parts. This is also a good time to brush off any debris, clean the exterior glass and lighting fixture of mineral buildup. Have your caretaker look behind your aquarium to dust the cords and tidy them up if they've become jumbled, making sure plugs and tubing connections are secure. Also, check to see if the system is receiving proper ventilation.
Modern Options - High-Tech Controllers and Monitors
A wide variety of electronic controllers and monitors are available offering hobbyists of all budgets and skill levels a high-tech solution. These innovative devices boast electronic precision and straightforward operation allowing hobbyists to check in on aquarium water parameters or control aquarium equipment in "real time" even if they're hundreds of miles away via their Internet-enabled computer or mobile wireless device for unparalleled freedom.
Aquarium monitoring devices keep tabs on multiple aquarium water parameters at once including free-ammonia, the #1 killer of aquarium fish. Tech-savvy hobbyists can create elaborate automated systems employing Neptune Systems AquaController Apex and accessories. With the right components and creativity, hobbyists can create "smart" aquariums capable of functioning properly with very little human intervention. Enjoy advanced configuration for LED dimming, wireless pump control, Auto Top-off, calcium reactor control, ozone control, auto dosing of elements, auto-feeding your fish, and much, much more!