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Fish 101 | PetsWeekly

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Summer is on the way, and that means possible brown outs (power shortages) and even blackouts (power outages) for most of the country. Things get more complex than being without air conditioning when we have fish and aquariums.

This is why it’s so important to have a backup plan in case power goes out for longer than a few hours. 

When power to your aquarium stops, there are three critical events that occur: 

  • Temperature fluctuates
  • Oxygen depletes
  • Ammonia accumulates

Today we're taking a look at each of these things in detail and offering a few suggestions on how you can prepare for a brownout or blackout in your area of the country.  

Temperature Begins Fluctuating

Your aquarium temperature is one of the most important factors in the health of your tank. Rapid changes in water temperature not only stress out your fish, it puts them at risk for disease. 

This can also shock your fish as temperature changes begin to be less stable. Too hot and your fish will die, too cold and your fish will die. (If you’re not sure what your water temperature should be, click here.)

As temperature increases, water also loses its ability to retain oxygen. Since salt water contains less oxygen than fresh water, oxygen depletion occurs much faster in marine aquariums. While tropical fish can generally handle warmer temperatures; reefs, coral and reef invertebrates typically prefer cooler temps.  

One thing you can do to stay prepared is keep clean, purified, frozen water in gallon jugs in your freezer.

  • Monitor Temperature and Keep Frozen Water Jugs in Freezer

The first thing you should do is attempt to keep water temperature stable. To cool your tank down in hot summer temps, keep a few clean gallon jugs of water frozen at all times. Not only can these jugs be moved to your refrigerator to help keep food cool, but you can place them in your aquarium to keep water temperatures cool.

(Read about ways to control temperature during winter in Keeping You and Your Pets Safe Without Power in Winter)

The Nitrogen Cycle
Photo from Algone

Oxygen Depletion

In order to maintain a healthy aquarium, you must have water movement. This movement is what helps aerate and replenish oxygen in the water. When your aquarium water stops moving, it loses its ability to retain oxygen and filter out toxins.

Stagnant water can cause your fish to suffocate in a matter of days. But, there are a few things you can do to delay the depletion of oxygen. 

  • Keep Air-stones at Top of Tank

One way to help promote better gas exchange is to place air stones at the water's surface (rather than at the bottom of the tank, which is where you are likely accustomed to keeping them). 

Ammonia Begins to Build Up

Filtration is super important for aquariums because it helps remove ammonia from the tank. Since fish can create high levels of ammonia, this water movement is critical for your tank’s health. It only takes a few hours for ammonia to elevate and become toxic. 

So, what can you do if you lose power to these important components? 

  • Test your water 

Perform water tests on your aquarium throughout the day, paying close attention to the pH and ammonia nitrate levels. If you see any increases, it’s time to use an ammonia detoxifier. 

  • Use an Ammonia Detoxifier

If your power is out for a long period of time and you notice an increase in ammonia developing, use a fast-acting ammonia detoxifier to neutralize the acid. We like the one from API called Ammo-Lock, but there are many detoxifiers on the market.

This is particularly important during long-term power outages that last longer than two-three days. You’ll also want to use the detoxifier just after turning your filters back on - doing so can help prevent an ammonia spike from the stagnant filtration. 

Be Prepared

There are a number of things you can do to prepare your tank for a power loss. If you haven't already, invest in Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs). These prevent damage to electrical circuits and can save you lots of money in not having to replace costly aquarium equipment in the case of a brownout or black out. 

If you’re at home when the power goes out, disconnect your electrical components. Then when the power comes back on, your tank won't be hit with a surge that may trigger other problems. 

Being aware of what to do during a power outage will help you as most times, you will not have access to the internet to search out answers. If this article helped you, please share with a friend! 

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Author: stacymantle
About the Author

Stacy Mantle is a freelance writer who currently resides in the southwestern deserts of Arizona with a few dogs, several cats, and a very understanding husband. She is a regular contributor to Pet Age Magazine, Catster, Animal Behavior College, and of course, PetsWeekly. Many of her stories and articles have been translated into several languages, and now reach an international audience. She is also the author of a bestselling urban fantasy/thriller, Shepherd's Moon; a humor book entitled, Conquering the Food Chain: Living Amongst Animals (Without Becoming One), and a line of Educational Activity Books for children.

Aquatic Quotes

  • "I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I
    Henry David Thoreau
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Fish Facts

  • Which type of fish can walk on land? The climbing perch. This amazing fish, native to India, can walk on land in search of water when its water hole dries up.
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