If you’re a fish keeper, I’m sure you love your aquarium and the amazing creatures that live in it. You spend a lot of time and money to make sure your aquarium is beautiful, healthy, and happy. You also know how important it is to keep your aquarium equipment running smoothly and consistently. All the things that your fish need to survive and thrive.
But what if the power goes out? What if a storm, an accident, a blackout, or even human error cuts off the electricity to your home? What if your aquarium equipment stops working, and your fish tank becomes vulnerable to various problems that can harm or even kill your fish and other aquatic life?
That’s a scary thought, isn’t it? Power outages can happen anytime, anywhere, and for any reason. They can last from a few minutes to several hours or even days. And they can be especially dangerous for aquariums in summer, when the weather is hot and unpredictable.
But don’t worry (to much). There are ways to protect your aquarium from power outages in summer. There are things you can do before, during, and after a power outage to keep your fish alive and healthy. And there are products and practices that can help you prevent or minimize the damage caused by power failure.
In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about preparing your aquarium for summer power outages. We’ll tell you why power outages are dangerous for aquariums, how to prepare your aquarium for power outages in summer, what to do during a power outage, and how to recover after the power is restored. We’ll also give you some tips and recommendations for the best products and practices that can help you protect your aquarium from power failure.
By the end of this article, you’ll be ready to face any power outage with confidence and peace of mind. Well, probably not… It’s not a peaceful time. But you’ll be prepared to jump into action and keep from losing your fish or ruining your tank! You’ll also be able to share your knowledge and experience with other fish keepers who may need your help.
So let’s get started!
Why Power Outages Are Dangerous for Aquariums
Power outages can affect different types of aquariums differently, depending on the tank’s size, type, and complexity. However, some common problems that can occur in any aquarium during a power outage are:
- Loss of oxygen: Without power, your aquarium filter and air pump will stop working, and the oxygen levels in your tank will start to drop. This can cause your fish to gasp at the surface, become stressed, or suffocate. Oxygen depletion is especially dangerous for heavily stocked tanks, large fish, and sensitive species.
- Change in water temperature: Without power, your aquarium heater will stop working, and the water temperature in your tank will start to change. Depending on the ambient temperature and the insulation of your tank, the water temperature can either rise or fall. This can cause your fish to become stressed, susceptible to diseases, or suffer from thermal shock. Temperature fluctuations are especially dangerous for tropical fish, reef tanks, and delicate species.
- A buildup of ammonia and nitrites: Without power, your aquarium filter will stop working, and the beneficial bacteria that break down ammonia and nitrites will start to die off. This can cause the water quality in your tank to deteriorate rapidly, leading to ammonia and nitrite spikes that can burn or poison your fish. Ammonia and nitrite buildup is especially dangerous for new tanks, overstocked tanks, and sensitive species.
- Lack of water movement: Without power, your aquarium pump will stop working, and the water movement in your tank will stop. This can cause the water to become stagnant and stratified, creating dead zones where oxygen and nutrients are depleted. This can also affect the pH and salinity of your tank. Lack of water movement is especially dangerous for reef tanks, planted tanks, and species that require high flow.
- Loss of light: Without power, your aquarium lights will stop working, and your tank will become dark. This can affect your fish’s biological clock, behavior, and other aquatic life. It can also affect the photosynthesis and growth of your plants and corals. Loss of light is especially dangerous for reef tanks, planted tanks, and species that rely on light cues.
These problems can happen quickly or gradually during a power outage, depending on the severity and duration of the situation. They can also interact with each other and create more complications for your tank. For example, a loss of oxygen can lead to a buildup of ammonia and nitrites, which can lower the pH and increase the toxicity of the water. A change in water temperature can lead to a loss of oxygen and water movement, which can stress or shock your fish. A lack of water movement can lead to a loss of light and water quality, which can affect your plants and corals.
That’s why preparing your aquarium for power outages in summer is so important. Being prepared can prevent or minimize these problems and keep your fish and other aquatic life safe and healthy.
How to Prepare Your Aquarium for Power Outages in Summer
The best thing you can do to protect your aquarium from power outages is to prepare ahead of time. Here are some steps you can take to prepare your aquarium for power outages in summer:
- Invest in a backup power source: The most reliable way to keep your aquarium equipment running during a power outage is to have a backup power source that can kick in automatically or manually when the power goes out. There are different types of backup power sources available for aquariums, such as battery power units (BPU), uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units, portable generators (PG), or car battery inverters (CBI). Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost, capacity, duration, noise level, portability, and safety. You should choose the one that suits your budget, needs, and preferences best.
A backup power source can save your aquarium from disaster during a power outage. It can keep your essential equipment running and maintain the oxygen levels, water temperature, water quality, water movement, and light in your tank. It can also give you peace of mind and confidence that you’re prepared for any emergency.
Many backup power sources will not have enough capacity or duration to run all your equipment or last for an entire power outage. Do a test run and see what you can adequately run on your backup so you’re prepared if the time comes.
- Prioritize your equipment: Depending on the type and capacity of your backup power source, you may not be able to run all of your aquarium equipment during a power outage. Therefore, you should prioritize which equipment is essential for keeping your fish alive and healthy and which can be turned off temporarily without causing too much harm. Generally speaking, the most important equipment to keep running during a power outage are:
- Aquarium filter: This is vital for maintaining oxygen levels, water quality, and beneficial bacteria in your tank. (Most often seen in freshwater tanks)
- Heater/chiller: This is vital for maintaining water temperature, especially if you have tropical fish or a reef tank.
- Pumps or Wavemakers: This is vital for maintaining water movement, especially if you have a reef tank or a planted tank.
- Aquarium lights: This is vital for maintaining the biological clock and photosynthesis of your fish, plants, and corals, especially if you have a reef tank or a planted tank. (Not typically a big deal for short power outages less than 24 hours)
- Aquarium test equipment: This is vital for monitoring the water parameters of your tank, such as pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, salinity, and temperature, especially if you have a sensitive or new tank. (Not usually electric but if you happen to have an electric version be sure to include it in your plan)
The two most important things are water movement for oxygen exchange and temperature control. As long as you can cover these two things, you are on the right track for keeping your aquatic life alive. Extended power outages is when things like lighting and nutrient control become important and the risk to your aquarium increases tremendously.
- The less important equipment that can be turned off temporarily during a power outage are:
- Aquarium air pump: This isn’t essential if you have a filter that provides enough oxygen and water movement for your tank. However, it can be useful as a backup or supplement for oxygenation and circulation, especially if you have a large or heavily stocked tank.
- Protein skimmer: This isn’t essential if you have a filter that provides enough water quality and beneficial bacteria for your tank. However, it can be useful as a backup or supplement for removing organic waste and dissolved gases, especially if you have a reef or large tank.
- Aquarium chiller: This isn’t essential if you have a heater that provides enough water temperature for your tank. However, it can be useful as a backup or supplement for cooling the water, especially if you have a reef or tropical tank in a hot climate.
- Aquarium fan: This isn’t essential if you have a chiller that provides enough water temperature for your tank. However, it can be useful as a backup or supplement for evaporative cooling, especially if you have a reef tank or a tropical tank in a hot climate.
- Aquarium CO2 system: This isn’t essential if you have enough natural CO2 production and consumption in your tank. However, it can be useful as a backup or supplement for enhancing plant growth and pH stability, especially if you have a planted tank or a high-tech tank.
These equipment are not essential for keeping your fish alive and healthy during a power outage. They provide some extra benefits for your fish and other aquatic life, such as better oxygenation, water quality, water temperature, water movement, and plant growth. They also help improve the appearance and enjoyment of your aquarium. However, they also consume some power from your backup power source and reduce its capacity or duration.
That’s why you can turn off these equipment temporarily during a power outage without causing too much harm to your fish and other aquatic life. You can also use some alternative methods to provide some of these benefits without using power. For example, you can use natural light from windows or candles to provide some light for your fish; you can use live plants or algae to provide some CO2 for your plants; you can use surface agitation or manual stirring to provide some water movement for your tank.
- Test your backup power source: As I said before, do a test run with your backup power source so you know what it can handle and how to set it up beforehand. It’s wise to periodically test and do necessary maintenance as well.
Testing your backup power source before you need it is a smart and responsible thing to do. It can help you avoid any unpleasant surprises or failures during a power outage. What’s the point of investing in something like, lets say a generator, for it to not be in working order when you need it.
- Prepare other emergency supplies: Besides having a backup power source, you should also prepare other emergency supplies that can help you cope with a power outage. Some of these supplies are:
- Small short-term battery backups
- Air pumps and air stones
- Sponge filters
- Digital thermometer
- Ice packs and coolers
- Blankets and towels
- Bottled water and buckets
- Water conditioner and additives
These emergency supplies can help you cope with a power outage and keep your fish and other aquatic life safe and healthy. They can provide some of the benefits that your equipment normally provides, such as oxygenation, filtration, temperature control, water movement, and water quality. They can also help you monitor and adjust the conditions of your tank during a power outage. They can also save some power from your backup power source and extend its capacity or duration.
Just make sure to check them regularly and replace them if they are expired, damaged, broken, or depleted.
What to Do During a Power Outage
If you experience a power outage in summer, you should act quickly and calmly to protect your aquarium from harm. Here are some steps you can take to do so:
- Switch to your backup power source: Whether you have a generator out back, battery-powered equipment on hand, or you run an extension cord out to the outlet in your truck (I have done this, and it works wonderfully). Get your essential equipment going by any means necessary.
Switching to your backup power source as soon as possible can save your aquarium from a major disaster during a power outage. It can prevent or minimize the loss of oxygen, change in water temperature, buildup of ammonia and nitrites, lack of water movement, and loss of light in your tank. It can also give you some time and flexibility to deal with other issues or emergencies that may arise during a power outage.
- Reduce stress and oxygen demand: The second thing you should do when the power goes out is to reduce the stress and oxygen demand of your fish and other aquatic life. You can do this by:
- Turning off any unnecessary equipment or lights that may cause stress or heat to your fish.
- Feeding your fish sparingly or not at all to reduce their metabolism and waste production.
- Avoiding any sudden movements or noises that may startle or frighten your fish.
- Adding some air stones, sponge filters, or battery-powered pumps to increase oxygenation and circulation in your tank.
- Adding some bottled water, water conditioner, or additives to improve water quality and stability in your tank.
Reducing the stress and oxygen demand of your fish and other aquatic life can help them survive and cope with a power outage. It can prevent or minimize the loss of oxygen, change in water temperature, buildup of ammonia and nitrites, lack of water movement, and loss of light in your tank. It can also boost their immune system and resistance to diseases.
- Monitor water temperature: Unless you have a chiller on hand, this is the hardest part about losing power in the summer. Keep an eye on the water temperature and be prepared to use icepacks or fans if necessary to keep the temp from rising too much.
- Test water parameters: Keep an eye on rising water parameters, especially ammonia. Depending on your exact situation, you may be able to do small water changes to keep levels within normal ranges.
These last two are often easier said than done. A lot of the success has to do with what your backup power source is and how much equipment it can keep on. Keeping frozen bottles of water in a deep freeze for times like this may sound silly but it can go a long way.
If you aren’t able to keep some pumps running for water movement and oxygen you can swish water around with a net at the surface for oxygen exchange. It is not as effective as a pump/wavemaker and it will get extremely exhausting; so employ your family as water oxygenators if possible.
How to Recover After a Power Outage
If you survive a power outage in summer, you should take some steps to recover and restore your aquarium to normal conditions. Here are some steps you can take to do so:
- Switch back to your main power source: Get all your normal equipment set back up once your power is back on. If you had to run extension cords or swap out equipment for battery-operated versions, it’s time to get it back to normal.
Breathe a sigh of relief, or go get a snack. It’s likely you had a long day/night. No matter how prepared you were, it’s always a stressful situation. There’s more to be done, but you don’t have to rush as much unless something major and unfortunate occurred or you expect the power will go out again.
- Recharge or refill your backup power source: Especially if you’re in the middle of a storm or have any other reason to believe the power return is temporary. Make sure your temporary power source is ready to go again. Don’t get caught with your pants down, so to speak.
A backup power source doesn’t do any good if it’s ready to go when needed!
- Check for any damage or casualties: Inspect your fish, plants, corals, and any other aquatic life. Remove anything that died so it doesn’t foul up the water and put survivors at further risk.
Checking for any damage or casualties in your tank may not be easy or pleasant after a power outage. You may have to deal with some sad or unpleasant sights, smells, or sounds in your tank. You may also have to make some tough or emotional decisions about your fish and other aquatic life.
- Perform a water change: Depending on the duration of the power outage or the severity of loss, you’ll want to do anywhere from a small 20-25% water change to a full 100% water change over the course of a few days.
This will help remove any waste, debris, toxins, or pollutants that may have accumulated in your tank during the power outage. As well as replenish any nutrients, minerals, or buffers that may have been depleted in your tank during the power outage.
- Resume normal routine: The last step isn’t really a step; get back to enjoying your aquarium normally. Make sure to keep an eye on everything, though, for any diseases or issues that might arise from the stressful situation.
Power outages can seriously threaten your aquarium in summer, but they can be prevented or minimized with proper preparation and action. By following the steps and tips in this article, you can protect your aquarium from power outages in summer and ensure the health and happiness of your fish and other aquatic life.
We hope you found this article helpful and informative. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to contact us anytime. We’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for reading, and happy fishkeeping!