If having a fish die is, in itself, a big heartache, what more if all of them die? This total annihilation brings nothing but sorrow to a fish hobbyist. An experience like this is such a shocker that you may consider giving up the hobby altogether.

There can be many different reasons why this happens, but once an accident happens while you are away, you are totally helpless simply because you are not there to take action to fix the problem. Of course we have other things to do. We have to go to school, to work, or whatever else we need to take care of on a regular basis. We have to leave the house and basically leave the fish to their own devices. After all, there is more to life than just fishkeeping.

How Many Hours in a Day?

Fishkeepers have always been blamed for spending too much time with their fish. Of course we always deny this. But is this really true? Did you ever wonder just how much time you spend with your fish in a day? Did you ever think about how a day works for you and how you fit this hobby into your schedule?

If you take a while and analyze how your day goes, you’ll be surprised to realize that you don’t actually spend so much time with your fish. The 24 hours of a day are divided into many activities, some of which are essential because we need them to live. These include eating, and for the sake of this article, let us assume that we allocate 3 hours a day to eating. Another essential activity is sleeping, and most of us require 8 hours of sleep each day. That’s already 11 hours devoted to essential activities.

Of course there are other essential daily activities such as going to the bathroom, taking care of yourself and your hygiene. Let us just assume that you can fit these in those 11 hours. None of these has anything to do with fishkeeping, and it’s not like you can tend to your fish while sleeping.

You may dream about your fishes, but this is of no use. I don’t recommend you tending to your fishes while having dinner; otherwise you will surely hear it from your mother and you may prematurely drop out of the hobby! The next set of activities is what I call imperative activities. These are the things you do daily because of who you are or whatever occupation you are in. After all, you’re not just a fishkeeper.

Let’s say you devote 8 hours a day to this. And to get to your place of work or school, you’ll need some time to get there. If you’re lucky, it will take you two hours every day to travel. In all, your imperative activities will cost you another 10 hours. These 10 hours, again, are not spent at home (unless you’re lucky enough to work there) or with your fish.

To sum up, your essential and imperative activities will take up 21 hours of your 24-hour day. In a given day, you are left with 3 hours of leisure time which you can wholly devote to fishkeeping or to other activities that matter most in your life. Illustrations by MARCO BERMEJOWhile the analysis I explained above is really hypothetical, it only goes to show that only a few hours in a day can be spent being physically with our fish. So if something goes terribly wrong, chances are, you will not be home when it does happen. Isn’t that a cause for concern? This is the purpose of this article.

The Things That Can Go Wrong

It is not enough that your tank is running smoothly. You have to make sure that it continues to do so, especially when you are away. It is not enough that the water parameters are okay. You must make sure that the water parameters are fine until the next day.

While it is nice to have fish that are fat and well fed, I for one do not practice overfeeding fish. I just feed fish once a day, and I just feed them enough. Overfeeding until their bellies are so round that they will burst is a dangerous practice. Gluttony can lead to fish regurgitating what they have eaten. If they do so, this will immediately spoil your water. If this happens while you are sleeping, you will surely have devastating news in the morning when you wake up.

It is not enough that pumps are working when you leave your house for work. You must take steps to ensure they are still working when you get home. While we cannot predict when our pumps will conk out, one strategy I use is to have a primary and a secondary filter in a tank.

You can have a strong filter system like a sump or trickle filter as a primary filter and have an internal filter or even just a sponge filter as a secondary filter. This way even if the pump in the primary filter conks out, the secondary filter can still support the tank until you get home. In some cases, an air stone supplied by an air pump may also do the job. If your filter shuts off because of some accident or bad luck, at least your tank will still be rich in oxygen and your fish will not die.

Brownouts are a bane for fishkeepers. The usually come unannounced when we least expect it and ruins your day in the office. The quickest solution is to have batteryoperated air pumps ready. This works if someone is at home who can switch them on at the onset of the br ownout. Of course it matters most that you have batteries too. So you better have some stored at home.

But if no one is at home, then your best bet is to invest in an AC/DC air pump. This is actually a battery pump which uses a rechargeable battery. When brownouts occur, the air pump will continue to run. T hey are quite expensive, and as with all rechargeable batteries, they get worn out eventually.

Another alternative is to buy battery pumps with electricity probes. This is a battery pump that has a plug which you insert in a power outlet. This plug is actually a sensor. If there is electricity in the power outlet, the battery pump is turned off. If the electricity is cut off, then it will turn on. This, for me, is the best.

There are other accidents that may happen when you are away. If your tank cracks while you are gone, this is the worst headache you can have; I must say that this has happened at least once with me. There is really no action to prevent this. But if people at home can contact you if ever this happens, then you can talk to them about what to do.

Fishkeeping is a fun hobby and it is no fun losing your fish in an accident. I may have given just a few steps to take but this article is merely an eye opener. For sure there are more innovative ways to handle such mishaps. Accidents do happen and most likely these will occur when we are not at home. Since we are all busy with our lives, we have to take some steps in anticipating how to avert or minimize the effects of these accidents.

All you need is to keep your fishes’ life support facilities like pumps and filters running until you get home. Once home, you’ll know what to do.


This appeared as “Homecoming Horror: What you can do to avert accidents while you’re away” in Animal Scene’s November 2015 issue.