top of page
  • Writer's pictureStewart Kessel

Going on Holiday - What about your fish?

Updated: Jan 8

How to look after your aquarium when you go on vacation

Are you concerned about the health of your aquarium fish whilst you are away on holiday or business? Leaving their aquarium can be a significant concern for many fish keepers. Here are a few handy tips that may help ease some of those fears.

What to do with your aquarium when going on holiday?

Short vacations and absences

Most aquarium setups and fish can survive a few days without supervision, as long as you take some appropriate precautions in the run-up to your absence.

Some key do's and don'ts:

  • DO complete a maintenance & water change session 1-2 weeks before leaving

  • DO monitor your aquarium closely in the lead-up to your absence

  • DO NOT do a significant water change & filter clean just before leaving

  • DO NOT buy additional livestock in the run-up to your absence

  • DO NOT overfeed your fish just before leaving

It is crucial to ensure your aquarium setup is stable and without issues in the run-up to your departure. A well-timed maintenance session 1 to 2 weeks before your absence not only will ensure your aquarium and inhabitants are in tip-top condition but will also allow sufficient time for you to observe that all is stable before you leave. By comparison, a hasty maintenance session and water change just before you leave can do more harm than good. Without realising, you may inadvertently cause a catastrophic issue that goes unnoticed whilst you are away. Examples of potential problems could include an airlock in your filter, a problem with the water chemistry, a leaky valve that progressively gets worse, or a piece of equipment damaged during cleaning.

The best approach is to complete a thorough maintenance session, including inspection of the filter, together with a water change a couple of weeks before you go away. Then closely monitor your aquarium and its inhabitants up until you go. Rectifying any issues and as standard practice, remove any uneaten food or other decaying matter as soon as you see it.

It is also never wise to purchase new livestock just before leaving your aquarium unattended. We have all been there. Just before you are about to set off, you see some fish you have wanted for an age, and you just must have them. But if you are not there to observe them settle in, or how they interact with the other aquarium inhabitants, and that the filter adapts to the additional bio-load, then you are asking for trouble. Bluntly, don't be tempted into a rash purchase and put your aquarium at risk. A good fish shop will usually agree and allow you to reserve the fish until you return home - a much more sensible and safer approach.

Finally, don't be tempted to overfeed just before leaving. Adding extra food might seem kind, but uneaten food will quickly rot and produce ammonia, which is highly toxic to your fish. Also, extra food eaten beyond standard requirements is unlikely to be fully digested and excreted as waste, again polluting the aquarium water.

What about longer vacations and absences?

You should observe the same precautions for more prolonged absences, but you can also consider additional options to keep the aquarium and its occupants in good health whilst away.

Some suggestions include:

  • Ask a neighbour or friend to look after the aquarium

  • Use of a feeding block

  • Use of an automatic feeder

  • Employ the services of a specialised pet sitter

Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages, as discussed below.

Friends and neighbours often are happy to help but usually lack fishkeeping knowledge and can fall foul to simple errors like overfeeding. On the plus side, they can keep an eye on the aquarium inhabitants and equipment.

Pro Tip: Provide a simple daily checklist and measure out the daily feeds in advance. Be sure to hide the bulk food pot to avoid the temptation to feed more! Ideally, the measured daily food portions need to be in airtight bags or containers to remain fresh.

Also, be sure to either give them your contact number or someone they can turn to if needed.

An alternative is to use a proprietary feeding block. Typically, these are blocks of food added to the aquarium. Designed to release the food slowly over a set period, this is achieved in various manners by the different manufacturers. It is therefore always imperative to read the specific instructions before use.

Pro Tip: This form of food can be unfamiliar to fish, and they will be wary of it. Therefore, it is an idea to do a trial run before you go on vacation. Firstly, so the fish can become accustomed to it and secondly so you can judge its success.

Holiday blocks typically contain food that is low in protein to reduce water pollution. Although this will offer your aquarium inhabitants a source of nourishment, it may not suit all.

In many ways, a better option beyond the feeding blocks is to use an automatic feeder. These devices, typically battery-operated, sit above the water level and can be programmed to deliver a portion of feed at a set time or times during the day. Different designs are available from several manufacturers. Some have a hopper filled with the desired food, and then a mechanism allows delivery of a set portion. Others have separate compartments to add different foods. There are feeders designed to integrate with specific aquariums, so it's best to research what best suits your particular setup.

Pro Tip: Most feeders will make specific recommendations about what foods are suitable for the device. Flake foods tend to absorb moisture and clog up the mechanism with time. Hence, recommendations are typically granulated foods of suitable grain size. Again, it is best to pre-test these devices and foods to ensure your fish are accustomed to a change in advance.

A final option is to use a pet sitter. Yes, this might sound strange in connection with fish, but it does offer many advantages. The specialised companies that provide this type of service will have the knowledge required to keep your aquarium and inhabitants safe and well during your absence. Visiting at a pre-agreed frequency during your absence, they check on and feed your fish. They will also be on hand to tackle any issue should it arise and often offer a maintenance service that means you come back to a clean aquarium.

Additional Considerations

Depending on your setup, there may be some other considerations, particularly true of a planted aquarium.

If your aquarium lights do not have a controller, then a simple programmable timer switch on the power source will mean you can maintain the regular photoperiod on your aquarium.

With planted aquariums, regular dosing of liquid plant fertilisers can continue using dosing pumps. Specialised peristaltic pumps can be programmed to dose precise quantities of liquid at a specific time. If you choose to install a system, do this well before you go away to ensure correct operation. Remember to top up the fluids before leaving.

If you have a CO2 injection system, keep a close eye on it in the run-up to your absence and check that it is not running low on CO2. Most CO2 systems have a solenoid and timer to turn off the CO2 overnight. Keep a close eye on this before you go to ensure the correct operation.

In summary, as a fish-keeper, the welfare of your aquarium livestock is your responsibility, but as discussed above, being absent due to a vacation or on business should not be a concern as many options to care for your aquarium are available.

Author: Stewart Kessel CChem, MRSC

Advert Disclaimer: When you buy through links on our site, we earn an affiliate commission. Thank you, this helps pay for the site & helps keep it user-friendly with minimal adverts.

524 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Feature Article

bottom of page