Vacation Time! Tips for your reef tank.

dbl

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View attachment 410807
Photo taken from original post by @OceanRevive

As we approach the vacation season once again, your Reef Squad thought it might be a good idea to address some of the questions that keep some reefers up at night prior to the trip. Worse yet, they can keep you from truly enjoying your well-deserved getaway. Let’s go over some basic things we can do to prevent that from happening.

So the trip is booked, now what do I need to do? How will I keep my top-off water filled, how will I feed the fish? These are just a few questions asked here on R2R. The point of this thread is to help alleviate some of those concerns. This is not a specific product recommendation so let’s try to avoid that. Let’s keep the discussion to basic planning and preparation.

A bullet point list of things we can do prior to packing for our trip:
  • Most import, in my opinion, DO NOT make any major system/equipment changes within 2+ weeks of leaving.
    • Obviously if a critical piece fails (ie. return pump) you’ll need to address it, but put off selected and optional upgrades.
  • If regular water changes (WC) is a part of your routine, do a WC just before you leave. Clean that skimmer too and give the glass a good scraping! Let’s start with a clean slate.
  • Socks
    • If you use filter socks, you’ll need to determine if they can stay or have to come out based on how long you’ll be gone. If they clog on day 5 and you’re gone for 7, remove them. Better to clean the bottom of a sump than replace flooring, at least in my opinion.
View attachment 410808
Photo by R2R member @Broadfield
  • Top Off Water
    • If you don’t already have an ATO (Automatic Top Off) you should seriously consider getting one (editorial note - this recommendation goes beyond vacation preparation). They make life much easier and assist keeping your salinity levels consistent.
    • Make sure your ATO reservoir is large enough to handle the number of days you’ll be away. You can always use an alternate/larger reservoir while you’re away, which is what I personally do. I just set it up temporarily next to the display.
    • If that’s not possible, then someone has to come over and fill the reservoir if needed.
View attachment 410809
Photo by R2R member @YodaHart of ATO reservoir created by @melev
  • Saltwater
    • It’s a good idea to have some saltwater pre-mixed in case it’s needed by your tank sitter. Just make sure they are labeled clearly. More on that later.
  • Food
    • If you’re only going for a long weekend, your fish will likely be fine without a feeding. Let’s face it, most of us over feed anyway. If you’re concerned, feed a little heavier the several days prior to leaving to fatten them up a little.
    • If you’re going to be gone for a week, many will say the fish will be fine for that time period as well. Again, you can fatten them up a little.
    • If longer or you simply want them fed while you’re gone, many use an auto feeder to feed dry foods while they are away. Just set it up a couple weeks ahead of time to make sure it’s working the way you’ve programmed it.
      • If you elect to have someone feed the tank while you’re away, carefully measure what you want fed, the times to feed, and carefully label each “package”. I would not recommend relying on the tank sitter to do your measuring. Use a cheap pillbox to put your portions in, or small snack-size plastic bags – anything to portion out the feedings and label clearly. BE SPECIFIC – feed this date, at this time, in this manner. You’re not going to insult their intelligence, you’re going to protect your inhabitants and dare I say your investment!
View attachment 410810
Photo by R2R member @Zaffor
  • Webcam
    • A great way to keep an eye on things while you’re away. Many options and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. If you notice something going on, you can have your on-call person go by and take a look. Also can be handy in assisting someone from afar – think “no, not that valve, the other one”. I personally do not have my Webcam linked to my Apex, because I want complete control – this is just personal preference.
View attachment 410811
Foscam is one type of webcam commonly used by hobbyists
  • Tank Sitter or No Tank Sitter
    • At the very least, you should have someone on call to help if needed. Maybe drop by and look in on things. It would be best if this person has some familiarity with your system. What responsibilities you give this person is again a personal preference, but my opinion is to limit those responsibilities to an absolute minimum.
    • If they are feeding, this is where preparing the portions comes in to play. Same goes for keeping the ATO filled with fresh water, not saltwater. Very specific instructions are required for each and every item you’re asking them to do.
    • You can always hire a professional service company to watch over things. Your LFS more than likely offers this service.
  • Battery Powered Air Pump/Air Stone
    • Another relatively inexpensive back up is a battery powered air pump. There are models that will detect a power outage/interruption and automatically turn on. Just be careful of capacity vs. your tank size – it may take two! Make sure you have fresh batteries installed.
  • Controllers
    • Not a discussion on overall usage of controllers but if the controller has notification abilities this is one time you’ll love having one. Temp is out of range, pH has gone whacky, the house just lost power – all items you can make a call for help and possibly save your tank.
    • But as said earlier, do not wait until the week prior to your trip to purchase a controller and then feel comfortable relying on it.
View attachment 410812
Image of Puratek Insight 24/7 controller

These are the basics. The entire point of this long-winded blog is to remove the questions and concerns of leaving our addiction behind while traveling. We should all feel like we’ve done everything we can to prevent disaster while away. Then go away and worry about having fun and relaxing on our vacation, not our tanks. Yes, things happen, but as the old adage goes - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I promise you’ll be checking that new Webcam all the time that first trip. But as time and trips pass, you will get more comfortable knowing that you have done your preparation and baring some catastrophic event that you can’t plan for anyway, all will be fine. Maybe dirty, but fine.

Have a great trip and send a post card!
 
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jsker

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Thank you for putting this up.
All I need is my feeder and Net Cam
 

reefwiser

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Its also important to be a member of an aquarium club so you can find someone qualified to call in case of an emergency.
I have saved many club members Reef tanks over the years and also their house itself because I actually knew what to do when they called to say there is a problem. That's an important benefit of being in a club having qualified person to go to in an emergency.
 
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dbl

dbl

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Its also important to be a member of an aquarium club so you can find someone qualified to call in case of an emergency.
I have saved many club members Reef tanks over the years and also their house itself because I actually knew what to do when they called to say there is a problem. That's an important benefit of being in a club having qualified person to go to in an emergency.
Excellent point Ed. If you have a club, there are likely qualified tank sitters you can use, and return the favor. Great point sir.
 

Baby Ray

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Thanks for writing this up :)
I am leaving on vacation this summer for a whole week and it will be the longest I have been away from my tank.
I am super nervous about it :confused:
 
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dbl

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Thanks for writing this up :)
I am leaving on vacation this summer for a whole week and it will be the longest I have been away from my tank.
I am super nervous about it :confused:
Completely understand being nervous. I was too the first time I left the tank. Didn't actually enjoy getting away, and I had prepared as above. Everything was fine and it was a relief. Each time after that has been easier knowing I've done all I can do.
 

revhtree

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Great thread!
 

seastar

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Excellent write up! I went on a vacation this winter and really struggled to try to come up with my own list similar to this one, it definitely would have made me feel more comfortable to be able to check mine against this, and I know it will help many other members!
 

Diesel

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@dbl great minds make one awesome thread.
Nothing to fill in, all is covered and solid.
Love the postcard part.

That postcard gives me a great idea. ;)
 
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dbl

dbl

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@dbl great minds make one awesome thread.
Nothing to fill in, all is covered and solid.
Love the postcard part.

That postcard gives me a great idea. ;)
Indeed @Diesel! Hopefully our little thread will help some people prepare and have a great time away.
 

tjnorthdakota

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I usually throw an extra heater in the sump and powerhead in the tank and set the extra return pump out next to the tank in case something happens. That way things are already handy if something goes wrong. They just have to plug them in.
 

JoeIII

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I have in the works a run book for our system's. This outlines all the equipment and procedures for care as well as troubleshooting guides, how and why things work (nitrogen cycle etc) and the contact information of local feeders and lfs. The idea is that someone who knows very little could at least care for the systems, and someone who knows reefing but not my systems would be able to come up to speed quickly.

Something I have not heard mentioned that I feel is very important for sitters is warnings regarding the dangers of the tank, equipment, and inhabitants (foxface, palytoxin, electrocution, etc)

A side note: I took a weekend vacation for RaP and assumed the tanks would be fine. I had someone stop in Saturday night to feed the cats and they called me "the big tank is making a lot of noise." I had forgotten to fill my top-off and it had run dry. Because of many of the other organizational tips listed here I was able to easily describe to him where in my home to get 5G of rodi and how to make sure the water level in the sump was good and refill the resivoir enough to cover until I returned. Moral: A little bit of planning and organization can go a long way to cover hour own bone-headed mistakes.
 

jgvergo

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I'm all set except for the web cam, and that will be my request for Father's Day :). The only other eventuality is a blackout, in which case I need to have a friend be familiar with my generator.

One additional thought for everyone who is nervous about leaving their tanks for the first time...Try a dry run while you are home. Go through the checklist and then KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF THE TANK AND EQUIPMENT FOR A WEEK. It just might help with you addiction problem too :rolleyes::D
 

armspar

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Thank you I never actually though of having a mantinence company come and check on my tank
 
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