Hurricane season is upon us; high winds, rain and power outages can really put a damper on our summer and fall fun. Hurricane season runs from June 1st - November 30th, with August and September being the peak months for activity.
One should always be prepared for your family and pets in case of emergency...and that includes your fish. There are two (2) major factors to keeping your fish healthy during a power outage: oxygen and temperature. Your fish have 3 to 6 hours before oxygen is depleted, while temperature is dependant on the time of year and your ambient environment. If you expect power to be out for extended periods you want to have a plan in place.
One good first step to preparedness is to purchase a battery-powered air pump. This will supply oxygen to the fish for up to 48 hours. We recommend having backup batteries in case of longer outages. If you do not have battery operated pump you will need to supply oxygen manually. To do this you can remove a gallon of water from the tank and dump it back in - creating oxygen bubbles. This process will need to be repeated 3-4 times every 30 minutes until power is restored. If your fish are not getting enough oxygen you will see gasping at the surface. You may also notice they become very lethargic. Being proactive and preventing this from occurring is your best objective.
Most tropical fish live in water temperatures of 75-78 degrees. If there is a sudden change in temperature your fish can become more susceptible to disease, shock, and death. In summer months you may see a more gradual change that allows for more time to take action.
Warmer water contains less oxygen - so an increase in temperature can actually result in oxygen starvation. If your temperatures are rising you can place ice or cold water in a water-tight bag and suspend it in your aquarium. You do not want the ice water and aquarium water to mix.
Colder temperatures decrease the immune system of your fish - so you want to try to keep them warm. Wrap your aquarium in blankets in order to keep the heat in your aquarium as long as possible. You can also use a water bottle or water tight bag filled with hot water and suspend it in the aquarium. Repeat as often as required. You do not want to pour hot water directly into your tank.
When does it become a serious problem?
You have about 24-36 hours to restore power to your aquarium before you start seeing loss of life. If the temperature dips below 70 or rises above 82 degrees fish and corals will likely have adverse effects. If you think your aquarium will be out of power for more than 36 hours - we recommend renting or borrowing a generator or carefully moving your fish to a safer environment temporarily. Ask your technician to bring a battery-powered air pump to your next service.
To many "fishianados" their aquariums are a huge investment of time and money - and we tend to get attached to our finned friends. These tips will help keep your fish safe this hurricane season and beyond.