Taking care of fish during a hurricane, part 1
This article is about taking care of aquariums before and after a hurricane. This is based on my experience with two and half hurricanes in a two month period. Part one covers power, filters, heaters, and air.
First things first-if you have to leave the house, turn off the power at the main breaker box! Turn off the breakers when the power goes out during the storm if you are there (before the storm if the breakers are not in a safe place to be!). Unplug the lights/heaters/power filters. You do not want the power coming on unexpectedly and causing any short circuits or fires! If you have water coming out of the outlets after the storm, do not plug anything into them until an electrician checks it out. Sounds crazy, but houses leak in funny ways.
Filters and air:
Unplug any filters as soon as the power goes out (or before if evacuating) and make sure they are not siphoning onto the floor (especially canister types). Have on hand one battery operated pump with lots of extra batteries per tank. These pumps can be found at pet stores and any place that sells fishing equipment (they are used to keep bait alive). Also have on hand some sort of filter that is run via air stone-sponge, corner, and box filters work well. Do not forget to put an anti-siphon valve in the tubing-I found this out the hard way when during the second storm I lost a few gallons of water on the floor before I found out the problem! Your regular airlines should already have these installed. I put the filter into the tank before the storm came, and ran it in order to establish a colony of bacteria on it. Then, once the power went out, I switched the filter over to the battery operated pump. Both of the pumps I had were pretty noisy but not impossible to live with. The directions said the batteries would last 26 hours, but they usually went between 36-48 hours before changing them (“D” cell type). There are rechargeable batteries available, but if you do not have power to run your filters, you do not have power to recharge batteries! Other people tried using computer backups, but that seems an expensive way to do the same thing to me…. If you are lucky enough to have a generator, you could run your filters off of that. Generator current is not steady current though, and there is a chance of damaging your filter (or anything you run off a generator). It is important to keep the water moving, so even just an air stone without a filter will help. That way the water does not become stagnant, and anaerobic bacteria have fewer places to form. Keep the filter media wet with tank water; some of the “good” bacteria will carry over.
I live in Florida, so a heater was not an issue (especially without air conditioning in the house!). If you live in a hurricane prone area, chances are pretty good that the air temperature would be high enough to keep the tanks warm enough for the fish (except very sensitive species!). I was actually more concerned with the fish overheating, although the water temperature stayed within a reasonable range. You could run a heater off of a generator if you have one, but see the warning above.
Continue to part 2 : Taking care of fish during a hurricane, Part 2