Vacation Time! Tips for your reef tank.

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Johnseye

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So many great ideas have been discussed so forgive me if I repeat any. We go on family vacations at least twice a year from 1-3 weeks. Here's what I've learned and what I do to prepare.

1. Something's going to break or go wrong eventually. Some vacations are fine, others are not. I've had things as serious as my Apex and return pump fail on different occasions. Most of us have backup equipment either in line or on hand in the event of an emergency. Make sure those people feeding your fish or watching your tank know where that equipment is and how to replace it. Have backup equipment for that critical life support hardware; Apex, pumps, heater at least.

2. When I'm gone for an extended period of time I have 3 different people come over to feed the fish. This helps distribute the burden. My neighbors are great people, but they aren't aquarists and they don't have the same passion to feed fish that I do. I get them gifts or take them to dinner as thanks. I tell my LFS I am going on vacation. Sometimes I pay someone there to come in to check on things or to alternate feeding days in the rotation.

3. I put all food to be fed for a day in a ziploc bag, write the date on it and put it in the freezer. 6 bags for 7 days gone. I put the next day's frozen food in a cup of tank water in the fridge to thaw for the person who comes in that day. That way they have the food ready and can just dump it in the tank. That person is instructed to put the next day's bag of food into a cup of tank water and put that in the fridge for the next day.

4. I create a document breaking down who comes in on what days. That document also includes emergency contact information for my LFS, myself and any other people involved in helping watch the tank.

5. I have everyone who helps watch the tank come over before each vacation and we walk through the steps. Check the tank and sump water level, check for any leaks, where the replacement equipment is located, etc. Since it's usually 6 months to a year after they've previously helped I explain everything I do.

6. I leave some latex gloves and ask my most competent friend to change filter socks once a week. I also ask them to drain the skimmer cup when it gets to a certain height. I put a piece of tape on the cup so they know when. My cup has a drain on it with a tube to an enclosed bucket so they just turn the drain on and off. I tell them how critical it is to turn the drain off because if it stays open and there's a problem, the skimmer can drain a lot of water. I change the socks and clean out the skimmer/bucket myself the day I leave.

7. I have a 50g tank of ATO water (kalk) that is topped up. 3 weeks gone in the winter and that tank can dry out. I educate my friends on how to turn on my RODI to fill that tank when it gets below a certain level. Mark that level with tape so they remember. My ATO tank has been used up so this was a lesson learned. I also have a 50g tank of salt water and a 25g of fresh water available for an emergency.

8. I have a camera and I check my Apex regularly for piece of mind.

9. I do a large water change a couple days before leaving. There's always too many other things going on that day before. I also have a Genesis for automated daily water changes, however I don't run it on vacation just in case something goes wrong. A water change can wait a couple weeks but a problem resulting from equipment involved in that process can cause a disaster.

10. I have a whole home generator. It takes 10 seconds for that to kick in. I put critical gear like my Apex, and return pump or any other gear that could be damaged by a surge on a surge protecting UPS. The Apex EB8 is not a surge protector. It is suspected my RD3 return pump controller failed while I was on a 3 week trip because of a surge. This was a recent lesson learned. I also learned how great my LFS and fellow local reefing community is.

11. Make sure those general maintenance things are done before hand. Powerheads cleaned, gauges like temp and salinity cleaned, glass cleaned. I ask the people helping me to slide the glass cleaner across the front glass only and at least a couple inches from the sand. This way they can see inside the tank if algae starts to fog things up after a couple weeks, they don't catch any sand on the cleaner to scrape the glass and they don't feel like they're doing tank maintenance.

12. I have 3 kinds of leak detectors. A Watchdog from Home Depot, an Apex ALD and detectors connected to my Vivint system. With these I'll get an audible alarm heard through most of the house, an email alert and a phone call from Vivint.

CYA as much as possible. I've had issues come up I never expected. There's no such thing as overkill when you're on vacation too far away to do anything and you don't want to interrupt hard earned time off when we don't get many vacation days in a year.
 
AS

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So many great ideas have been discussed so forgive me if I repeat any. We go on family vacations at least twice a year from 1-3 weeks. Here's what I've learned and what I do to prepare.

1. Something's going to break or go wrong eventually. Some vacations are fine, others are not. I've had things as serious as my Apex and return pump fail on different occasions. Most of us have backup equipment either in line or on hand in the event of an emergency. Make sure those people feeding your fish or watching your tank know where that equipment is and how to replace it. Have backup equipment for that critical life support hardware; Apex, pumps, heater at least.

2. When I'm gone for an extended period of time I have 3 different people come over to feed the fish. This helps distribute the burden. My neighbors are great people, but they aren't aquarists and they don't have the same passion to feed fish that I do. I get them gifts or take them to dinner as thanks. I tell my LFS I am going on vacation. Sometimes I pay someone there to come in to check on things or to alternate feeding days in the rotation.

3. I put all food to be fed for a day in a ziploc bag, write the date on it and put it in the freezer. 6 bags for 7 days gone. I put the next day's frozen food in a cup of tank water in the fridge to thaw for the person who comes in that day. That way they have the food ready and can just dump it in the tank. That person is instructed to put the next day's bag of food into a cup of tank water and put that in the fridge for the next day.

4. I create a document breaking down who comes in on what days. That document also includes emergency contact information for my LFS, myself and any other people involved in helping watch the tank.

5. I have everyone who helps watch the tank come over before each vacation and we walk through the steps. Check the tank and sump water level, check for any leaks, where the replacement equipment is located, etc. Since it's usually 6 months to a year after they've previously helped I explain everything I do.

6. I leave some latex gloves and ask my most competent friend to change filter socks once a week. I also ask them to drain the skimmer cup when it gets to a certain height. I put a piece of tape on the cup so they know when. My cup has a drain on it with a tube to an enclosed bucket so they just turn the drain on and off. I tell them how critical it is to turn the drain off because if it stays open and there's a problem, the skimmer can drain a lot of water. I change the socks and clean out the skimmer/bucket myself the day I leave.

7. I have a 50g tank of ATO water (kalk) that is topped up. 3 weeks gone in the winter and that tank can dry out. I educate my friends on how to turn on my RODI to fill that tank when it gets below a certain level. Mark that level with tape so they remember. My ATO tank has been used up so this was a lesson learned. I also have a 50g tank of salt water and a 25g of fresh water available for an emergency.

8. I have a camera and I check my Apex regularly for piece of mind.

9. I do a large water change a couple days before leaving. There's always too many other things going on that day before. I also have a Genesis for automated daily water changes, however I don't run it on vacation just in case something goes wrong. A water change can wait a couple weeks but a problem resulting from equipment involved in that process can cause a disaster.

10. I have a whole home generator. It takes 10 seconds for that to kick in. I put critical gear like my Apex, and return pump or any other gear that could be damaged by a surge on a surge protecting UPS. The Apex EB8 is not a surge protector. It is suspected my RD3 return pump controller failed while I was on a 3 week trip because of a surge. This was a recent lesson learned. I also learned how great my LFS and fellow local reefing community is.

11. Make sure those general maintenance things are done before hand. Powerheads cleaned, gauges like temp and salinity cleaned, glass cleaned. I ask the people helping me to slide the glass cleaner across the front glass only and at least a couple inches from the sand. This way they can see inside the tank if algae starts to fog things up after a couple weeks, they don't catch any sand on the cleaner to scrape the glass and they don't feel like they're doing tank maintenance.

12. I have 3 kinds of leak detectors. A Watchdog from Home Depot, an Apex ALD and detectors connected to my Vivint system. With these I'll get an audible alarm heard through most of the house, an email alert and a phone call from Vivint.

CYA as much as possible. I've had issues come up I never expected. There's no such thing as overkill when you're on vacation too far away to do anything and you don't want to interrupt hard earned time off when we don't get many vacation days in a year.
Great stuff! Thanks for sharing!!
 

redwhiteandink

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Great tips just came home from vacation and my tank was looking terrible pumps burnt out and heater burnt out because my brother never came to refill the reservoir. So i took it as a sign to upgrade to the red sea reefer lol
 

WallyB

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So many great ideas have been discussed so forgive me if I repeat any. We go on family vacations at least twice a year from 1-3 weeks. Here's what I've learned and what I do to prepare.

1. Something's going to break or go wrong eventually. Some vacations are fine, others are not. I've had things as serious as my Apex and return pump fail on different occasions. Most of us have backup equipment either in line or on hand in the event of an emergency. Make sure those people feeding your fish or watching your tank know where that equipment is and how to replace it. Have backup equipment for that critical life support hardware; Apex, pumps, heater at least.

2. When I'm gone for an extended period of time I have 3 different people come over to feed the fish. This helps distribute the burden. My neighbors are great people, but they aren't aquarists and they don't have the same passion to feed fish that I do. I get them gifts or take them to dinner as thanks. I tell my LFS I am going on vacation. Sometimes I pay someone there to come in to check on things or to alternate feeding days in the rotation.

3. I put all food to be fed for a day in a ziploc bag, write the date on it and put it in the freezer. 6 bags for 7 days gone. I put the next day's frozen food in a cup of tank water in the fridge to thaw for the person who comes in that day. That way they have the food ready and can just dump it in the tank. That person is instructed to put the next day's bag of food into a cup of tank water and put that in the fridge for the next day.

4. I create a document breaking down who comes in on what days. That document also includes emergency contact information for my LFS, myself and any other people involved in helping watch the tank.

5. I have everyone who helps watch the tank come over before each vacation and we walk through the steps. Check the tank and sump water level, check for any leaks, where the replacement equipment is located, etc. Since it's usually 6 months to a year after they've previously helped I explain everything I do.

6. I leave some latex gloves and ask my most competent friend to change filter socks once a week. I also ask them to drain the skimmer cup when it gets to a certain height. I put a piece of tape on the cup so they know when. My cup has a drain on it with a tube to an enclosed bucket so they just turn the drain on and off. I tell them how critical it is to turn the drain off because if it stays open and there's a problem, the skimmer can drain a lot of water. I change the socks and clean out the skimmer/bucket myself the day I leave.

7. I have a 50g tank of ATO water (kalk) that is topped up. 3 weeks gone in the winter and that tank can dry out. I educate my friends on how to turn on my RODI to fill that tank when it gets below a certain level. Mark that level with tape so they remember. My ATO tank has been used up so this was a lesson learned. I also have a 50g tank of salt water and a 25g of fresh water available for an emergency.

8. I have a camera and I check my Apex regularly for piece of mind.

9. I do a large water change a couple days before leaving. There's always too many other things going on that day before. I also have a Genesis for automated daily water changes, however I don't run it on vacation just in case something goes wrong. A water change can wait a couple weeks but a problem resulting from equipment involved in that process can cause a disaster.

10. I have a whole home generator. It takes 10 seconds for that to kick in. I put critical gear like my Apex, and return pump or any other gear that could be damaged by a surge on a surge protecting UPS. The Apex EB8 is not a surge protector. It is suspected my RD3 return pump controller failed while I was on a 3 week trip because of a surge. This was a recent lesson learned. I also learned how great my LFS and fellow local reefing community is.

11. Make sure those general maintenance things are done before hand. Powerheads cleaned, gauges like temp and salinity cleaned, glass cleaned. I ask the people helping me to slide the glass cleaner across the front glass only and at least a couple inches from the sand. This way they can see inside the tank if algae starts to fog things up after a couple weeks, they don't catch any sand on the cleaner to scrape the glass and they don't feel like they're doing tank maintenance.

12. I have 3 kinds of leak detectors. A Watchdog from Home Depot, an Apex ALD and detectors connected to my Vivint system. With these I'll get an audible alarm heard through most of the house, an email alert and a phone call from Vivint.

CYA as much as possible. I've had issues come up I never expected. There's no such thing as overkill when you're on vacation too far away to do anything and you don't want to interrupt hard earned time off when we don't get many vacation days in a year.
Going on vacation tomorrow (away for a week), so this caught my attention. GREAT TIPS!!

I got lots of things covered as suggested...... (since I learn something new each year I go away...Keep Getting Better, but the unexpected always gets me)

The good news is a GFCI Breaker just failed a couple of days ago (while testing before leaving), "Wouldn't reset" so I replaced it (something nobody could just come over and do...on the fly)

You forgot #13 (Pray nothing ELSE goes wrong this time).
 
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Chele17

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This was a great read I have been so nervousabout ever going on vacation now I know all the things I will need and I need educate my mother on tank care so she knows what to do to care for while I'm gone.
 

m2004a2005s

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I would also have someone who know about reef to check on the tank. I went in vacation for week and forget to turn the ac. my family member came and added water and said tank looks ok. i came home and everything is Dead. tank over heated coz of ac is off lost over 3k in coral and still my tank looks like trash dump now
 

WallyB

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Web cams were one of best (and cheapest) investments I've made! Made leaving town is a breeze and now less stressful. I have one on the display and one in the sump. Can't recommend them enough!!!
I agree and have web cams as well. I have Pan and Tilt type on Sump/Tank Room Ceiling for 360 Degree view of everything.

They give you a peek if tank full or water, is leaking, lights working and stuff (But that rarely goes bad).
In some ways the Web Cam gave me a sense of Over Confidence (while things were actually going wrong)

I was away a couple of weeks ago for a week. Cap blew (2nd day away) in Central AC. House got Super Hot (during Heat Wave) and so did tanks and I got serious SPS damage (Since the AC repair guys took days to come when I got back)

Lesson learned, to not just watch web cams but check you Apex/Controller for Temp and whatever else you have to monitor tanks. (Set alarms to send you email Alerts. Which I never did).

A house Thermostat with Internet access would have even been better.
 
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Paleozoic_reefer

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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.
I agree and have web cams as well. I have Pan and Tilt type on Sump/Tank Room Ceiling for 360 Degree view of everything.

They give you a peek if tank full or water, is leaking, lights working and stuff (But that rarely goes bad).
In some ways the Web Cam gave me a sense of Over Confidence (while things were actually going wrong)

I was away a couple of weeks ago for a week. Cap blew (2nd day away) in Central AC. House got Super Hot (during Heat Wave) and so did tanks and I got serious SPS damage (Since the AC repair guys took days to come when I got back)

Lesson learned, to not just watch web cams but check you Apex/Controller for Temp and whatever else you have to monitor tanks. (Set alarms to send you email Alerts. Which I never did).

A house Thermostat with Internet access would have even been better.
I'm always worried about temp as well. Now I just make sure my digital thermometer display is in the FOV of the webcam before I leave for a trip...
 

Ashish Patel

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When I went on vacation I got a Amazon cloud cam and made sure I could view my sump (mainly for sump line) and temperature (inkbird or something). Only things that are important to me is if I have power, my pump is on, and my temperature is where it needs to be. This does all 3 and I don't have a controller.
 

BlennyTime

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Something that’s really underrated for vacation planning is having macro algae in the sump. I would always worry about my nutrients and the skimmer before I set that up, but it helped keep things stable even with feeding a little more while I was gone.

Agree too that a webcam is great for piece of mind.

If you run an automation platform, I’d consider what would happen if it failed while you were gone and consider putting in a backup for critical components.
 

durt.kobain

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1.jpg

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 NOTmake 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.
2.jpg

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.
3.jpg

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!
4.jpg

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.
5.jpg

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.
6.jpg

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!
Thanks for the tips:)
 

southerntnreefer

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My Daughter is 21 now and on her own. She doesnt vacation with us for the most part anymore, as shes doing her own thing. We also have dogs. So she comes and stays at the house. Shes heavily reef trained. I never had apex till this new tank, and she did a great job. Now i have backup gear downstairs, ( return pump heaters etc. ) and a ton of alerts. Between the alerts and the fact that shes here to feed and care for the tank and dogs. IM blessed in that point. I even have 3 brute trashcans downstairs that if there was a failure and she was there, i could walk her through how to save everything she could.
 
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