Aquarium without power: what to do in the event of a power failure

It can happen that the power goes out and your aquarium no longer functions optimally. In this article I’ll tell you what preparations you can make, how long an aquarium can go without power and what you can do to prevent your fish from dying.

In an optimally filled aquarium, fish can survive for 3 to 12 hours. In a low-filled aquarium they can even survive for a day or two. However, in an overcrowded tank, fish will begin to die within 3 to 9 hours if there is a power outage.

Power outages cause critical parts of an aquarium to stop functioning. For example, the water is no longer filtered, your heating is turned off and the air pump no longer works. However, that does not necessarily have to be a reason for panic if you know how to act.

Aquarium in the event of a power failure: you should pay attention to this

Let me get straight to the point. Your fish have the highest priority and must survive. To keep your fish alive during a power outage, you need to make sure these three points in your aquarium are in order:

  • Maintain water temperature
  • Provide sufficient oxygen in the water
  • The water must not be polluted

Turn off your filter and lighting

It may sound illogical to turn off your filter and lighting during a blackout and there is of course a reason behind it.

Below I explain that you can keep it at the right temperature with blankets around your aquarium. To prevent fire, it is important that you switch off the lighting.

You also turn off the filter because toxic substances can build up in it when water is standing still. After all, the water is no longer pumped through your filter.

Maintain water temperature

Your fish like a stable temperature, and if the power goes out it can affect the temperature of the aquarium water. The glass of an aquarium is a bad insulator and quickly gives off heat to the environment.

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With a heated aquarium, the heating element will, of course, no longer receives power, so that your aquarium starts to cool down. Depending on the contents of your aquarium, you will quickly lose a few degrees after a few hours. That could be the difference between life and death.

Wrapping Blankets Around the Aquarium

The first step you can take is to wrap your aquarium with some blankets. These blankets have an insulating effect so that your aquarium temperature drops less quickly. Also cover the top of the aquarium so that no unnecessary heat escapes.

Heating up water

If the power outage lasts for a long time and you notice that your water temperature is really starting to get into the danger zone, you can still try heating the water.

You could do this by heating some water on the stove and putting it in a Tupperware container. You do not empty this bowl into the water, but let it float on the water of the aquarium.

Make sure the water is lukewarm and not hot. Hand warm water corresponds to about 37 degrees. Continuously monitor the temperature of your aquarium water so that it does not get too hot. It won’t be going fast, but keep an eye on it.

Cooling down water

In exceptional cases, it may happen that you want to cool down your aquarium during a power failure. You can use the same technique as described above.

You then put ice cubes and water in a bowl that you let float in the aquarium water. Again, keep a close eye on the temperature so that you can make adjustments.

Provide sufficient oxygen in the water

Normally, the plants, the movement of the water and an air pump provide oxygen in your aquarium. During a power outage, you only have plants in your aquarium, so you quickly get an oxygen shortage.

To make matters worse, plants, even use oxygen when the lights are off! But don’t panic, there are a number of solutions to ensure that your fish do not choke.

Keeping water moving

Gas exchange takes place on the surface of the water. The water gives off CO2 (carbon dioxide) to the air and absorbs oxygen. By keeping the water moving, you could introduce a little more oxygen into the water, even if it is minimal.

Air stone

A better solution is to place an air stone in your aquarium. You can blow air through it with the help of a manual bicycle pump so that the oxygen can be absorbed by the water.

Alternatively, you could also use a battery-operated air pump. That of course works a lot better and it is automatic.

Oxygen tablets

You could also add oxygen tablets to the water. As the name suggests, these enrich the water with oxygen. This is often an emergency solution that is used with the air pump and is also sometimes used for transporting fish.

It’s helpful if you have a few on the shelf. You never know when you will need them, but at least you have them.

Aquarium filter without power

The worst thing that can happen to you is that your water becomes seriously polluted by the fish or the filter.

At the beginning of this article I already mentioned that you should switch off the filter installation because all that dirt that the filter has collected from standing water starts to become toxic. If you do not turn off the filter, there is a chance that these toxic substances will end up in the water as soon as the power is back. The result: a lot of sick or even dead fish.

Now that the filter is turned off, it is a good time to clean it with the water from your aquarium. Make sure to get all the dirt and sludge out of the filter sponges. Then reassemble the filter and fill it with water. And do not forget to put the plug in the socket.

Also change about 25% of your water to remove ammonia build-up and other toxic substances from the aquarium.

Prepare your aquarium for a power outage

Despite a power outage does not happen often, it is always useful to have a plan in hand. Prevention is of course better than cure.

Budget solution

As I mentioned before, oxygen tablets and a battery-operated air pump are very handy. It’s a small investment that can prevent a lot of trouble. For less than € 25.00 you have it on the shelf.

Aquarium emergency power supply

You could also opt for a more expensive option, namely an emergency power supply (UPS). This is in fact a large battery that ensures that your aquarium continues to run for 1 or more hours.

The minimum I would put on an emergency power supply is the air pump, the filter and a heater (if applicable). Then you are well covered if you are not at home during a power outage. The lighting is not a requirement in my opinion.

The more power a UPS has, the more expensive it is. The size you need depends on the power consumption of your devices and how long you want the UPS to continue to provide power.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can an aquarium filter be turned off?
In the event of a power failure, an aquarium filter may be switched off for a few hours. Without the water flowing through, the good bacteria will die and toxic substances will be released that can end up in the aquarium. To prevent this, a filter in an aquarium must always be on.

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