You just need to go away every once in a while, take a break from work and the pressures of everyday life and go on holiday. Yet going on vacation can be a cause of tension in and of itself if you have to think about what to do about your pets when you’re gone. Most of the things people have difficulty with is what they have to do with their aquarium before they go for a holiday. If the tank is compact enough, you might carry it to a friend’s home, but that option it’s not suitable for anything bigger than a 10 gallon aquarium. Don’t panic, you don’t have to give up your holiday completely, there are a few things you can do to make sure your fish get the attention they deserve while you’re gone. Below you’ll find an overview of what you need to do to prepare for your vacation.

Having a Friend Watch Your Fish – The Aquarium Helper

This is the option most widely used by aquarists. Get  a neighbor, family member, or friend to watch your tank when you’re away. The fish sitter arrives every day or every other day and feeds the fish while still monitoring to make sure that it is all going well. 

If you have a friend or neighbor who is very familiar with the fish and has a tank of their own, have them watch your tank. They’ll know enough to take care of your fish properly.

Problems usually emerge when you invite someone who has no experience with fish to watch your tank. Even if your novice friend is going to have the best of motives, in a very short time, they will wreak havoc on your tank. For one thing, people appear to overestimate how much fish eat. You know not to overfeed, but most people are going to overfeed like mad, if left to their own devices. This can create tremendous complications with the water parameters which will quickly lead to danger. If you’re getting someone to watch your fish and you know they’re unfamiliar with keeping fish, your safest bet is to use Ziploc bags to add the quantity they’re meant to eat in each bag every day. They can then just come into your house and dump that day’s bag into the tank. This will ensure that you can monitor how much food is being added to your tank you’re while away.  

Vacation Checklist

  1. You’ll need to stock up on all the supplies your helper needs to use.
  2. Perform a change of water and disinfect the tank a day or two before you leave.
  3. Track the temperature of the tank before you leave to ensure that the heater is functioning properly.
  4. Let the lights on the timer – lights on 6-8 hours a day.
  5. Whether you’re going to go longer or make a guest watch the tank, split the regular volume of food into your Ziploc bags so that your friend doesn’t overfeed.
  6. Leave detailed directions on how to top off the water if you’re going to be long enough to make this a concern.
  7. If you have a friend coming to the tank to inspect, leave them a rundown of what to look for (check floor for leaking water, check thermometer to ensure temperature is X degrees, check for dead fish or fish gasping at the surface, check water level, etc.). In fact, it’s best to schedule a short meeting with your fish sitter before you go, so you can walk over it all.
  8. If you are leaving in the summer or winter, make sure that your air conditioner or radiator is set to a reasonable temperature so that the temperature of your aquarium heater can be controlled.

TOP TIP: If you’re just going to be gone for 1-2 weeks, don’t worry about feeding.

Things to Avoid

The following common practices are best to avoid when going on vacation:

Vacation Feeders

They’re available in a lot of fish shops, and at first they may seem like a smart idea. After all, you should drop them in and feed your fish for days to come. The trouble is that they are not very successful at supplying food to your fish, and more often than not, they only end up clouding and polluting your water. 

Automatic Feeders

These are a safer choice than vacation feeders and can be used in extreme occasions where you don’t have any buddies who can watch your tank and you will be staying away for more than 1-2 weeks, just make sure it’s the last resort. The trouble with automatic feeders is that they can quickly get stuck or malfunction, in which case they either spill a lot of food into your tank or avoid supplying food at all. Without you there, some pretty catastrophic stuff will happen from time to time. If you’re going to have to use one of these, make sure you buy a high-quality one and don’t be cheap. Saving some money could cost you a lot of dead fish later. Often, make sure to install brand-new batteries into the feeder before you go for vacation to ensure that the feeder does not run out of fuel.

Overfeeding Before You Leave

Some people believe that if they feed their fish a lot of food before they go, they will be able to live without feeding them while they’re on holiday. As described above, this is totally needless. You can feed them just as you always do, and then you can just go on holiday. They do not need to be over-nourished because, in reality, over-nourished right before holiday is going to create problems. It’ll probably cause water waste, and it’ll be horrible for your fish’s digestive systems. Stop performing this practice completely.

What to do When You Return

You’ll definitely be excited when you get home from your holiday. Before you unpack your bag and kick up your legs to relax, you should check up on your fish tank and make sure it’s all alright. If you paid a pet sitter to take care of the tank when you were out, you might have received updates regularly during your absence. However, if you choose to let your tank be, this could be the first chance to determine the state of your fish and the tank since your absence. At this time, you can conduct a detailed review of your fish and equipment to ensure that it is still in working order. Any tasks that you can execute immediately include:

  1. Visual analysis of tanks (check for leaks and ensure that the water level has not gotten too low).
  2. Check all equipment to make sure everything is running properly – repair filter media if necessary.
  3. Test the aquarium water to verify the consistency of the water and the chemistry (compare the “normal” standard of your tank).
  4. Make changes to the water chemistry when appropriate, shown by the results of the water test.
  5. Observe the fish and make sure they’re still all alive and well – check for any improvements in body appearance as well as odd habits.
  6. Perform a 25 percent water shift to eliminate accumulated contaminants from the tank and increase the consistency of the water – make sure to use the gravel vacuum to siphon the accumulated waste from the bottom of the tank.
  7. Refill the dechlorinated water tank (make sure to match the water temperature in the tank).
  8. Resume the daily routine for feeding and cleaning.


Let’s hope, after you perform the checklist of tasks above, you’ll find that your aquarium survived just fine in your absence. Many aquarium fish are fairly hardy and can also survive small changes in water composition as well as times without food. As long as you ready your tank properly for your holiday, you shouldn’t have to think about coming home to find a catastrophe waiting for you.