Dealing with a power outage in your aquarium
However, if it were to happen, even the most sophisticated equipment would not work without electricity. There are several things an aquarist can do to reduce the number of difficulties that can arise as a result of a power outage.
Dealing With A Power Outage In Your Aquarium
The main concern is the loss of bacteria in the biological filter. If the flow of water through the aquarium filtration system stops for more than an hour, then the beneficial bacteria, which keep the water healthy and safe for your fish, will begin to die due to lack of oxygen.
After a power outage of significant duration, it will probably be weeks before all the beneficial bacteria have regenerated.
In light of this, it is advisable not to have a tank with too many fish. If you compare an aquarium to the natural habitat of fish in the wild, the tank will have a much higher ratio of fish to volume of water.
This is successfully achieved through the use of artificial technology, i.e. filters that clean the water, and if this filter fails in the event of a power outage, the fish could be in trouble. A tank with fewer fish will produce less waste, and therefore the filter will have a better chance of converting waste products into less harmful substances after a power outage.
Feed must also be drastically reduced to limit the amount of waste products produced. The aquarium should not be fed if water tests show the presence of ammonia or nitrite.
The filter must always be well maintained. Of particular importance is the need to periodically clean the chamber that houses the impeller that moves the filter.
Lime and debris generating a ‘grime’ can coat the surfaces of the impeller, which can sometimes cause it to refuse to restart after power has been restored (it is worth noting that an impeller that has become dirty may continue to run. working perfectly is on but after a power outage probably need help to restart).
If, for some reason, you didn’t realize that a power outage has occurred, not realizing that the filter has decided to refuse to restart could be a serious problem.
Some aquarists who have numerous aquariums or those who keep delicate species decide to invest in some backup equipment, such as a generator.
Unfortunately, these aren’t cheap, but they will help give you peace of mind in the event of a prolonged power outage. You can always hire a generator (there will be a list of rental shops in your local directory) but it’s worth keeping in mind that other aquarists in the area may have the same idea.
A battery-powered air pump is a useful piece of equipment that can be stored in an emergency. It can produce a supply of oxygen for the fish in your tank while the power filter is off, and it will help them feel a bit more comfortable.
Of course, you will likely still encounter the same problems with bacteria loss in the biofilter (as mentioned above) as the air can only supply oxygen for the tank.
One way to help keep the beneficial bacteria alive would be to place the filter’s biological media bag in the tank itself, above the air supply that bubbles out of the battery-powered air pump. This would oxygenate the bacteria and could help keep some of them alive until the power comes back on and when it needs to go back to the filter.
There are several brands of fluids that remove ammonia from aquarium water. It is helpful to have a small bottle like this at home, just so it can be added to the tank so that any sudden rise in ammonia levels in the tank will be less toxic.
It’s common sense to have easy access to a flashlight and a piece of paper with your electricity provider’s phone number on it; they probably already know about the problem and can let you know when they expect power to be restored.
If the power will be restored in a couple of hours, then you don’t have to panic. Just make sure that when power is restored, all of your equipment restarts. If the power outage is likely to be longer, you may run into a number of problems.
The aquarium heater is generally not a big problem for most indoor aquariums. Even during cold winter spells, it will take a long time for the tank to lose any significant temperature, as the water maintains its temperature quite well, particularly in a house where it takes a while for the ambient temperature to drop.
Problems with heating are more likely to arise in «fish houses», for example, in an outdoor shed. A plastic bottle filled with hot water, sealed and left floating on the surface of small tanks will help maintain the temperature.
As heat increases, most of it will be lost through the tank lid/hood. Wrapping the tank in old towels or a blanket, paying particular attention to the top, will help insulate.
As mentioned above, after a few hours without the filter running, ammonia levels may begin to build up in the tank. Typical signs of this would be the fish breathing quite heavily and possibly a slight cloudiness of the water.
A water analysis kit will help you monitor the conditions that occur within the tank much more accurately. If ammonia levels are starting to rise, this would be the time to add a fluid to remove the ammonia. Never feed your fish while the power is off.
Oxygen shortages aren’t usually a problem during a normal power outage, that is, unless it’s a particularly hot day or you have a heavily stocked tank.
However, the effects of ammonia can increase the fish’s need for oxygen after a few hours. If a prolonged power outage is likely, this is the time to use some form of aeration, such as the battery-powered air pump, as mentioned above.
Most power outages don’t last long enough for problems to occur during the outage. Problems usually occur later. It is vital that you monitor the water parameters with a test kit for several days after the power outage.
If readings are higher than safe for fish welfare, do not feed fish and do small partial water changes until levels are safe (this may take several days).
Liquid that removes ammonia will help, as will putting zeo-carb in the filter. Keep feeding light for several weeks afterward, and under no circumstances consider adding more fish to the tank until ammonia and nitrite levels have become safe once again.
We hope this information has been helpful to you. If you have any questions, feel free to contact your local store.