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How to Care for Tropical Fish While You're on Vacation

Updated on January 11, 2014

How to Take Care of Your Tropical Fish When You're on Vacation

While reading through some of the questions here on Hubpages, I came across a question for some ideas on how to feed tropical fish while their owner was on vacation. This is a situation I've often been in as a fishkeeper. Over the years some great gizmos have been developed to feed fish while their owner is away. Responsible fishkeepers, before leaving on vacation, will make sure their fish are properly set up and taken care of. Before reading my suggestions, I would like to add a disclaimer by saying I'm not a tropical fish expert, but have raised tropical fish for over 20 years. I've made every effort to provide reliable and helpful information in answer to this reader's question, but I can not be held responsible for the outcome if you should follow this advice.

OK, now on to the advice!

Tropical Fish Aquarium

Tropical aquarium naturalized with real plants.
Tropical aquarium naturalized with real plants.

Vacation Block Feeders Not Recommended

First, I don't recommend using fish food vacation block feeders unless you use them only for a day or two. Longer use than that will cause problems for your fish and the aquarium. The blocks usually release more food into the water than the fish need, leaving the food to eventually settled to the bottom of the aquarium. The uneaten food will eventually pollute the tank's environment, and this could lead to sick or dying fish.

Automatic Fish Feeders

The fish owner didn't say what type of fish food he uses, but the most common foods are flake, granule or freeze dried fishfoods. One of the best gadgets to feed your fish , when you want to go on vacation, is the automatic fish feeder. You can find these automatic feeders online (places catering to fish owners) and even at places like PetsMart or at some pet departments in discount stores. Some feeders run on electricity and some on battery power. And some automatic feeders have timers you can set for specific feeding times, allowing you to set the feeder for twice a day feedings. Before purchasing an automatic feeder, be sure to check out all its specifications. Make sure the feeder will feed your fish at the proper intervals, and will hold enough food for the duration of your trip.

If you choose an automatic feeder, then after purchasing the feeder, go ahead and do a test to see if the timer works, and to see how much food the feeder actually dispenses. You might attach the automatic feeder to a large bowl or pan and then run the test. This will keep you from dispensing too much food directly into the aquarium and polluting the water, and/or causing a feeding frenzy in your tank. After testing the feeder, then put in the amount of food that would be proper for you fish's normal feeding. You might even consider putting in a little less food than you normally give your fish. This would help to keep from overfeeding your fish, and keep any leftover food from polluting the tank's water, making the fish sick

Basics of Caring for a Tropical Fish

Edible Aquarium Plants for Your Fish

You might also look into edible plants for your fishy friends. Did you know algae is a good food for tropical fish? Fish actually pick at the algae and eat it. It's important to keep algae under control as too much will cause a problem in your tank. But a small amount of algae is healthy and will give your fish some “fresh” food. Another good edible plant for fish is egeria densa. This plant grows quickly and helps to create a balanced aquarium. A couple of other edible plants for tropical fish are myrophyllum and cabomba. Not only will these plants provide food for your fish, but they will also give the fish places to hide, while providing oxygenation for the fishes' environment. Plants also help to beautify the your aquarium, and give the tank a more natural look.

Tropical Fish


Another option for providing food for your fish while you're away is to get a fish-sitter, perhaps a family member or friend. The best fish-sitter would be someone who is familiar with the care of fish. A fish-sitter would be able to check on your fish every day and contact you in case of any problems. This would help you to have a little more peace-of-mind than an automatic feeder would provide. Fi you choose to use a fish-sitter, you might consider leaving the correct feed portions in a pillbox (the kind with the small boxes for each day of the week—there are even some pill boxes of this type which can be set up for two weeks of feedings). This way, you would have control over how much the fish are actually fed at each feeding. And leaving portioned feedings would help your fish-sitter to know exactly what day/time to feed the fish, and how much food they should eat.

Proper Tropical Aquarium Maintenance

Aquarium Maintenance & Prep for Vacation

One more bit of advice—be sure to give your tank a good cleaning before you leave, and make sure that pH levels are correct. A clean and pH-balanced tank are important for your fishes' happiness and health. Leaving tropical fish with dirty water and an unbalanced pH can lead to stress, illness, parasites and death. Be sure to remember to clean the tank's pump and external filters, too. However, do not clean under gravel filters, as this will rid the tank of beneficial bacteria fish need to stay healthy and strong. And be sure to change about 20% of the tank's water. Clean water is necessary to the health of your aquarium fish and plants. Remember to check your tank's heater to make sure it is set at the proper temperature for the type of fish you have. If the temperature is too hot or cold, it can lead to stress in the fish, illness and death. All of this is a lot of work, but if you will put in a little work now, your tank will be good and clean and ready for vacation! Your fish will be happy and healthy when you get back!

Responsible Pet Owners

If you follow all of these suggestions before you leave on vacation. you should come home to happy, healthy fish.  It's a lot of work to prepare for vacation, and cleaning a tropical fish aquarium is probably not high on your to-do list, but as pet owners we have to be responsible for our pets' well-being and health.  All animals, be they furry, have fins, feathers or scales, deserve the best we can give them.  So, be kind to your pets and be responsible for their health and happiness in every way you can manage. 

I hope these suggestions will help you to have a great vacation and come home to happy, healthy fish. Good luck!

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Photo Credits

Aquarium photo by sivextien on Photobucket

Beta photo by pricekay78 on Photobucket

Please share your tips for feeding tropical fish when you go on vacation!

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      Sherry Vacik 4 years ago from Prague, Czech Republic

      @Chris--thanks for pointing out a very important part of cleaning filters! You're very right when it comes to under gravel filters. Cleaning this filter system too often or too well will kill the good bacteria needed to keep your fish healthy. I've updated the article to reflect your point.

      When it comes to external pumps/filters, they should be cleaned at least once a month. Algae and harmful bacteria can grow inside the pump and filter, leading to a clogged pump and less oxygenated water for your fish. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions on how often and how to clean external pumps/filters.

    • profile image

      Chris 4 years ago

      No do not clean the filter , your fish will be dead when you get back as you have just wiped out all the good Bacteria