Safeguarding Your Aquarium During A Power Outage

A power outage is the bane of every saltwater aquarium enthusiast.

Your tank is fully cycled and has been up and running for a few months. You have taken every care to stock your aquarium carefully. The fish are happy and the corals are thriving.

Everything seems perfect until you get that dreaded call from a family member telling you that the power is out.

Your thoughts immediately rush to your cherished aquarium sitting dark, still and silent.

Saltwater Aquariums, Power Outages and Murphy’s Law

A power outage can occur for any reason, most commonly because of a lightning strike during a heavy storm. Faulty household appliances can also cause the circuit breaker to trip, cutting out power to the entire house.

Murphy’s Law often comes out to play,  especially when everybody is out of the house at work, school, or worse, on vacation. Which is why it is always a good idea to have a family member or trusted friend to come over to keep an eye on you tank should you be away from home for more than a couple of days.

Power Outages And The Effects Of Oxygen Depletion And Drastic Temperature Changes

A well-stocked reef aquarium will be in dire need of oxygen should there be a power outage, the effects of which will be seen after 5 or 6 hours with no water circulation. Fish will appear skittish, uncomfortable and breathing heavily. Corals will be closed up and exuding copious amount of mucus, a reaction to the lack of light and water flow.

If your aquarium relies on heaters or a chiller to keep the temperature regulated, a power outage will cause you tank temperatures to rise or fall by quite a few degrees.  If the power outage persists for more than 12 hours, the lack of oxygen, water flow and the drastic change in temperature will cause delicate SPS corals to exhibit signs of tissue recession.

Safeguarding Your Aquarium In The Event Of A Power Outage

Even if you may live in a country where power outages are a rare occurrence, it always pays to be prepared to safeguard the lives of your precious fish and corals.

The following are essential pieces of equipment which will prove indispensable in the event of a power outage:

Battery Operated Air Pumps

I have three of these handy. Even though I’ve never had to use them, they are absolute life-savers should the power go out. Simply attach an airstone with airline tubing to the air pump, and you have a simple source of aeration for your tank inhabitants for a good 24 hours, or however long the batteries last, until your power is restored.

Don’t forget to keep the appropriately-sized batteries handy as well.

If you don’t happen to have a battery air pump during a power outage, you can help oxygenate your tank by using a water jug to continuously scoop water from the surface, and pouring it back in from a height of 10 inches or so. The surface agitation this simple action creates is enough to encourage gas exchange and oxygenation. Tiring to be sure, but it will save your livestock!

Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS)

The UPS unit automatically kicks in to supply emergency power from it’s internal battery when it detects a power outage.

I would set up the UPS so that it powers only the wavemakers and powerheads to keep the water circulating and the tank oxygenated. Your tank will do fine without lights for the duration of the power outage.

When choosing a UPS, check its power rating and calculate how long it will keep the wavemakers in your tank running. If your area is prone to longer power outages it would be wise to invest in a UPS with a larger power rating so that your tank can be assured of basic water circulation until the main power comes back on.

Monitoring Your Aquarium 24/7

If you live in an area that is prone to frequent power outages, having a way to continuously monitor your aquarium is a must.

Aquarium Control Units

Aquarium control units are microcomputers that continuously monitor water parameters such as pH and temperature and are also used to control wavemakers, chillers and manage aquarium lighting schedules. The more advanced units can even send an SMS to the owner’s mobile phone should it detect an equipment malfunction or even a complete power outage.

Web Cameras

Web cameras are fairly inexpensive and you can monitor your tank from anywhere you have an internet connection.

Having a web camera on your tank also allows you to enjoy your aquarium from anywhere in the world!

Keeping Your Aquarium Cool During A Power Outage

In the event of a power outage, you will have to keep your aquarium cool, especially if the power stays out for a prolonged period and if the ambient temperature around your tank is especially warm.

Floating a substantial amount of ice in plastic bags in the tank will help temperatures from rising too quickly. Gel-based ice packs are also handy for this purpose, but you will have to keep a few of these on standby in your freezer so you can use them in an emergency.

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