Vacation Time! Tips for your reef tank.

BRS
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Aboynamedsous2

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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!
I have a fish that only eats frozen food, I’m gonna be gone for a week could I keep thawed portions in the fridge for that long?
 

jt8791

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Haha vacations and going somewhere for vacation, that stuff is for rich people with nothing better to do with their money. The rare times I take a vacation from work it’s a staycation. Got a piece of the ocean in my living room, why go anywhere?

I pay enough money to rent my apartment, seems foolish to rent a vacation property when I’ve already paid rent at home. For the price of that vacation trip I could probably setup another tank. Lol

I don’t understand why anyone goes on cruises anymore given the condition of the ocean now. Float around the world while you slowly destroy the ocean bit by bit.
 
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r4rlee

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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!
My roommate and i take care of our aquarium so we never both go away at the same time
 
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dbl

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Haha vacations and going somewhere for vacation, that stuff is for rich people with nothing better to do with their money. The rare times I take a vacation from work it’s a staycation. Got a piece of the ocean in my living room, why go anywhere?

I pay enough money to rent my apartment, seems foolish to rent a vacation property when I’ve already paid rent at home. For the price of that vacation trip I could probably setup another tank. Lol

I don’t understand why anyone goes on cruises anymore given the condition of the ocean now. Float around the world while you slowly destroy the ocean bit by bit.

I would have responded earlier, but I'm actually on vacation!
 

jt8791

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I would have responded earlier, but I'm actually on vacation!
I’m a bit of a workaholic, been at this job almost 5 years and only took one vacation and that was a staycation and I hated going back to work. I usually just burn through my vacation and personal time leaving early or taking random days off when work is slow.
 
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GoBlue923

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I feed my fish frozen food daily and throw a few pieces of the Neptune CD pellets in as I have the Apex AFS module for when I do vacation. We do vacation a couple times a year usually 7-12 days at a time. The fish prefer the frozen shrimp over the pellets and only nibble at the pellets. My concern is that the AFS will drop pellets but they won't get eaten because they prefer the frozen food. Anyone have have experience with switching between frozen and pellets when vacationing? I wanted to condition them to strictly eat pellets but my LFS assured me they would eat whatever was dropped in the tank. Inhabitants are two snowflake clowns, royal gramma, leopard wrasse, and a golden midas blenny. All inputs welcome!
 

Chris99999

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This is great info. I'd never have a non-reefer tank sitter even do top off (mine is manual with a remote). I just overfill a bit and auto-feeder. For longer time frames a main company might make sense. Would they work on a tank they did not set up though?
 
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Reeferbadness

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I'm going away for 2 weeks but am pretty confident of my plan. I have 2 tanks - 180g and 200g. Each has it's own Apex controller. ATO for 200g is 55g barrel - so no worries. ATO container for 180 g is usually 7 g but i'll fill 3 other 5g drums with RO/DI water so that the sitter can just move the pump.

Sitter: My neighbor's kid is no longer reliable so i went to www.care.com and posted what i needed. In addition to the 2 tanks we have cats and chickens + a veg garden. Key to training someone new is spending 2 days with them prior to leaving AND making a very detailed instruction list. I will have the sitter feed the fish, clean the glass, change filter socks and empty skimmer. Not rocket science but still, for a newbie it's a lot. I tought my 88 year old dad the basics and he was ok - over fed but ok.

Last piece is a cam - def helps with my tank anxiety. I have 2 children under 3 so we have 2 baby cams. I just set one up by each tank and can use the babycam ap to monitor + see when the sitter comes and goes via push notifications. Very re-assuring. I can also talk to the sitter via the microphone if needed (we will be in Europe so this is a cheap alternative)

This will be the first time away from the tanks for this long... ever (2.5 years into the hobby). Wish me luck LOL
IMG_3624 (1).png
DSC_1437.png
 
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gbroadbridge

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I'm going away for 2 weeks but am pretty confident of my plan. I have 2 tanks - 180g and 200g. Each has it's own Apex controller. ATO for 200g is 55g barrel - so no worries. ATO container for 180 g is usually 7 g but i'll fill 3 other 5g drums with RO/DI water so that the sitter can just move the pump.

Sitter: My neighbor's kid is no longer reliable so i went to www.care.com and posted what i needed. In addition to the 2 tanks we have cats and chickens + a veg garden. Key to training someone new is spending 2 days with them prior to leaving AND making a very detailed instruction list. I will have the sitter feed the fish, clean the glass, change filter socks and empty skimmer. Not rocket science but still, for a newbie it's a lot. I tought my 88 year old dad the basics and he was ok - over fed but ok.

Last piece is a cam - def helps with my tank anxiety. I have 2 children under 3 so we have 2 baby cams. I just set one up by each tank and can use the babycam ap to monitor + see when the sitter comes and goes via push notifications. Very re-assuring. I can also talk to the sitter via the microphone if needed (we will be in Europe so this is a cheap alternative)

This will be the first time away from the tanks for this long... ever (2.5 years into the hobby). Wish me luck LOL
IMG_3624 (1).png
DSC_1437.png
i do two weeks all the time and I'm sure it'll be fine.

The most difficult thing is to not stress all the time. Check the cam before breakfast each day, and trust the Apex to alert if anything happens.

enjoy the vacation
 

SteveMM62Reef

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A week before started a massive cleaning. Three days before a 25% water change, Recharged, Cleaned and loaded my Auto Feeders. Cleaned the ATO Probe, and set up 6 gallons of top off water, on my 65 Gallon. The tank was left for 12 days. My ATO Ran out, salinity was slightly up, when I got back. Dripped Two Gallons of Water to correct, in 36 hours. The only thing I’m missing is my cleaner shrimp. Hopefully it is hiding. BTW I had an old iPad watching the aquarium. Lost the feed on the third day, WiFi went down.
 

Bitcoin Reefer

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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.
Where do you find these clubs? Im in So Cal. I’ve been wondering about this!
 
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DeputyDog95

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I feed my fish frozen food daily and throw a few pieces of the Neptune CD pellets in as I have the Apex AFS module for when I do vacation. We do vacation a couple times a year usually 7-12 days at a time. The fish prefer the frozen shrimp over the pellets and only nibble at the pellets. My concern is that the AFS will drop pellets but they won't get eaten because they prefer the frozen food. Anyone have have experience with switching between frozen and pellets when vacationing? I wanted to condition them to strictly eat pellets but my LFS assured me they would eat whatever was dropped in the tank. Inhabitants are two snowflake clowns, royal gramma, leopard wrasse, and a golden midas blenny. All inputs welcome!
Stop feeding the frozen and only add a small amount of pellets, several times a day. They'll get hungry. Really small amounts though, so they'll be competitive over it and hopefully not much left that the crabs can't clean up. This transition is the equivalent of a child who eats Doritos all the time and then turns his nose up when presented with broccoli LoL

Maybe add a cube every other day for those slow to adapt to get some nutrition during the process.

Once they are eating pellets, keep them on pellets and up the amount to keep them all healthy. I have a heavily stocked tank and my Neptune Feeder goes off 3x a day, every day with the feed door set on 2, with very small pellets so that all the fish (big and small) can partake. They are on a routine now and actually get excited when they hear the feeder winding up. I also dump the pellets into a WAV pump to blow them all around the tank so everybody has a shot.

Then:
3 days a week, they get a frozen cube of whatever (for all of them)
2 days a week, they get a quarter of a large sheet of Nori (for the tangs)
2 days a week, reef roids (the smaller fish go after that too, hopefully the corals are eating it as well but who knows?)

By having a regimented hand feeding schedule that is calendar based in conjunction with the auto feeder, the fish are all well fed with a varied diet and I have super consistent nutrients that are easily adjusted by slowing my skimmer or trimming the chaeto. The food always remains the same so the fish and animals don't suffer. When I would just feed the fish randomly throughout the day, feeding random amounts... It was very tough to manage nutrients. I find I pretty much have to treat food like I would dosing Alk or Ca, to not have to worry about making sure I don't bottom out or have a surge in nutrients.

The nice thing about the auto feeder is that they are always fed the same amount, the same time every day, several times a day, spread way out. It's not as close to grazing in the wild, but I don't think it's good for fish to just eat once or twice a day as it's not natural for them. With the auto feeder doing 3 feedings and me doing one manual feeding a day, it really spreads it out and nothing is wasted as they destroy every bit put in the tank. As opposed to a giant Thanksgiving sized feast once a day that likely sits in the tank for longer than it should and probably gives them a lazy feeding response.

Some of the fish I have now are probably well over 8 years old, maybe even 10 (lost track), including a mated pair of clowns that lay eggs almost weekly, so I feel like I have found a good routine for my tank at least.

I still struggle with jumpers from time to time, but completely separate issue...
 

DeputyDog95

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A week before started a massive cleaning. Three days before a 25% water change, Recharged, Cleaned and loaded my Auto Feeders. Cleaned the ATO Probe, and set up 6 gallons of top off water, on my 65 Gallon. The tank was left for 12 days. My ATO Ran out, salinity was slightly up, when I got back. Dripped Two Gallons of Water to correct, in 36 hours. The only thing I’m missing is my cleaner shrimp. Hopefully it is hiding. BTW I had an old iPad watching the aquarium. Lost the feed on the third day, WiFi went down.
If could make a suggestion, or two.

Hard wire the tank. I actually had an ethernet connection installed behind my tank for this very reason. WiFi is good, until it's not. Wired connections are much more consistent, and troubleshooting a WiFi connection is all but impossible when you're not at the location.

My home Wifi went down this week, and it took me an hour of troubleshooting to get it back up again. It doesn't fail often, but does seem to go down at the most inopportune times. So if you can get someone to run a cat 5 cable to the tank, it's one less thing to worry about.

As far as your ATO...

I have an ATO reservoir that is automatically filled from the RODI and the reservoir level is managed through a float switch. The ATO sump sensors draw off that reservoir (about 5 gallons) for basically a never sending supply of RODI water for top off. I do have the luxury of having plumbing in the room behind the tank though and ran the lines through the wall.

Even if you don't have plumbing near your tank like I do, if you could run a line from wherever your ATO reservoir is to the tank and connect that to your ATO pump and sump sensors, one less thing to worry about it and makes travel a little easier.

I travel a little and my tank is in my office. Which means sometimes I'm not there on weekends and when I'm out of town, I ask my staff to keep an eye on things, hand feed, trace elements, filter floss, skimmer cup, etc.

However, I just purchased a 4 head red sea doser to automate my trace elements which we're installing this week, and I'm adding a red sea roller floss thing whenever they come back into stock. We're also doing a two head for trace elements, and I already have an auto feeder for pellets.

At that point, almost everything will be automated and remotely monitored, and all my helpers will have to do is look in on things and follow my hand feeding routine for nori and frozen.
 
BRS

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