Taking care of fish tanks during a storm, part 2

For part 1, see Here: Taking care of fish during a hurricane

Light: Without electricity, there is no light. Chances are good that the windows are boarded up and the room will be completely black, so resist the temptation to shine the light into the tank to check on everyone- the sudden light will only stress the inhabitants and cause them to race around the tank. This is a good way to end up with injured fish! What I did was use a touch light to give a moderate glow near feeding time, and then I sat a flashlight upright (shining in) on the glass hood at feeding time. This avoided the sudden “lights on!”, yet allowed the fish to see their food.

Food: The best option is to not feed! Fish can go a couple of days without food (except very young fry, those must be fed daily!). I was without power for 10 days, so that option was not available. When I did start feeding, it was only flake food and small portions. I quickly found out that frozen brine shrimp and mysis shrimp fouled the water too fast (and with no freezer, they did not stay frozen anyway and went bad). The pelleted food for the catfish sat on the bottom, so I learned to only give one or two pellets. The algae wafers for the plecos also fouled the water quickly, so those were restricted to one wafer each fish. I fretted over my new Green Spotted puffer as he would not accept anything other than brine shrimp before that. After a few days with no food, he followed his tank mates’ examples and is now an avid flake eater! If you have fish with specialized needs (tangs that need algae, for instance), try and wean them to at least accept some form of dry food. Watching your beloved fish survive the hurricane only to starve to death is not fun.

Water changes: If you are lucky enough to be on city water and have running water, you may be able to do water changes. Be forewarned that if water mains break, the water can be contaminated. Without electric, sewage pumps do not work either and may overflow. After the hurricane, municipalities will run chemicals through the water mains to clean them out-test all water thoroughly and if in doubt, do not use it. You may not want to sacrifice your precious bottled water, but that is one option. The best thing to do is have lidded buckets filled with your usual water before the hurricane. Ask nicely at a bakery for their icing buckets! If you have a well, without power you will have no water- I have a well and used the prefilled buckets to do water changes. The less you have to mess with your tank though, the better.

Last resorts: I also raise turtles, and there was no way I could leave them in their tank for 10 days without cleaning it. I put them in separate buckets to facilitate water changes, but was running short on water. As luck would have it, my workplace had power and running water the next day. They were willing to turn a blind eye to a few extra “workers”, and my turtles stayed in our break room. So if the conditions are too bad (or if your house is destroyed and your tanks are not), ask around – you may be able to move your fish to a temporary location until you get back to normal. Ask fish friends, even ask the boss if you can. Best if you ask before the storm however!

Miscellaneous precautions: As my tanks are situated near windows, I placed a piece of plywood next to the tanks between the tank and the window in case anything came through the window. Even when the window was boarded up, I placed the wood there. I had a piece of plywood that was bolted into concrete pull out, concrete chunks and all, during the storm-do not think that the window is safe even shuttered! Shutters blow off easily also. If the tanks are moveable, move them away from windows and doors (doors blow open too!).
I also covered the tanks with blankets in case the ceiling came down (or off…) in hopes that that might cushion the blow, and to keep any debris out of the tanks. Leaking roofs cause drop ceilings to sag and fall in, even if the roof stays on. That insulation and drywall would be hazardous in a fish tank. The blankets also were to keep the fish in the tank in case they started trying to jump out through the hood openings (see my page on “Hurricanes and Nimbochromis venustus” for more on fish reactions). Make sure that the air pump has enough space around it.

Continue to part 3 here: Part 3 of how to deal with fish tanks in a hurricane

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