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Freshwater Aquarium/Leaving the Aquarium for a Month


QUESTION: Hi! I'll try to make this short and concise, and hopefully you could help me as soon as possible with my dilemma!

I brought a 10 gallon aquarium to my dorm room (attachment problems...) and now I have to leave for 3 weeks during the winter holidays. It is heavily planted (with mostly hardy and low light plants like cryptocernes, java ferns, liverwort, mosses, etc...) and has a large red cherry shrimp population. Other inhabitants are 3 harlequin rasboras, a young bristlenose pleco (which I am going to rehome to my 20 gallon back at home) and 3 kuhli loaches. My first plan of action was to move the aquarium back home for the break because it seemed as though I had no other choice. However, circumstances have resulted in this being very, very difficult for me to do! So, my backup plan was to bag up the fish and put them in my 20 gallon at home, and leave the shrimp and plants for a month. However, this results in several problems...
- the heating is turned off during the break, and even though i have a heater, i am not sure whether this would be enough to keep the tank temperature stable?
- no feedings for 3 weeks. Would the shrimp be OK?
- general anxiety... what if something goes wrong? if the filter stops working?
- no water changes for 3 weeks! i could do a big one before i leave but will this be enough?
- the kuhli loaches will be a pain to bag up, especially considering the dense foliage they like to hide in. If I am not able to get them all, would they even have a chance of making it through?

So, I'm wondering whether you think it would be okay to take these risks, or am I better off just trying to move the entire thing? I don't know anybody who I can approach with advice, so I'm kind of grabbing at straws here... I've worked very hard on setting up and maintaing this aquarium (for nearly 5 years!) and would hate for things to go downhill at this point. Also, I have a light timer, so lighting should be okay.
Mostly, I just need reassurance. What do you think?

Thanks so much!!

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ANSWER: Hi Paula

I would leave all the fish in the tank. Placing them in bags and taking them with you would stress them out greatly and probably do more harm than leaving them for 3 weeks.

Here's what I would do in your case

Do a 50% water change the day you leave. Replace the carbon in your filter. Make sure your aquarium heater is set to 78 degrees. Then do another 30% water change when you return.

Go to Petsmart or Petco and purchase an automatic fish feeder. There are several available and you can set them to feed once or twice a day, as well as the amount of food for it to dispense. I would set for once a day in your case. You can also set the time for it to feed. I use them when I leave for vacation without any problems.

Attached is an image of a feeder to give you an example, although models at your pet store will vary.

Hope this helps you, good luck!


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Richard,

Thank you so much for your quick reply. I had never considered an automatic fish feeder! I was all ready to buy one until I got an email from the housing services. It turns out that they will be doing some work with the electrical panels over the break and for 4 different days (19th, 27th, 28th, 30th), from 7 am to 9 pm (14 hours!), the electricity will be shut off. I've also been told that these times are only approximations. This pokes a major hole in my plans, and all though the lighting and feeding shouldn't be a major problem (I can adjust the lighting and feeding schedule around these shut-offs), the temperature and filtration definitely might be. I feel like I may have to take the whole thing home.

I'm just wondering whether you might have any input? I know that it most likely won't work out. After all, 10 gallons of water will probably cool down fairly quickly over a 14-hour period. I'm still clinging to a thread of hope here, though... Perhaps I could move it into the closet, where it would most likely stay warmer??

Thank you again! I really appreciate your help!


Hi Paula

I apologize for the delay in answering you...I was stuck in some bad weather.

I would leave it up to you at this point. I would chance it simply because I've been away when the power went out for extended periods before and my fish were fine. I left my fish behind during a hurricane once when the power was out for days and they were all fine. Of course, the weather was warm then.

If you decide to leave them, make sure your heater and filter are plugged into a surge protector. The filter should restart itself with no problem. Move the aquarium as far interior and away from the windows as you can. The closet you mentioned is an option, but make sure nothing in the closet is touching the aquarium to prevent a fire. (the casing of the filter and tank lights can get a little warm)

Hope this helps you, good luck!


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Richard Hight


I own and maintain several freshwater aquariums from 2 to 180 gallon. I can answer most questions about freshwater aquariums, including setup, cycling, maintenance, compatible tank mates, feeding. Moving? I've moved fish both across town and across the country and can help you get your little aquatic friends to their new home safely. I know and have experience with most freshwater community fish, South American Cichlids and African Cichlids. I don't answer questions about Goldfish or keeping Goldfish with Tropical Fish. I also don't answer questions about keeping crustaceans (shrimp, snails, crabs etc) with Tropical Fish, nor questions about saltwater fish or aquariums. I'm not available to answer questions on weekends, this is when I do maintenance on my own tanks.


Many years of personal experience with community tank fish, semi-aggressive fish (Barbs, Tetras, etc), Angels, South American Cichlids and African Cichlids.

HSG 2010-2011 prof

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