Sustaining your aquarium during the COVID-19 virus lockdown


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Following on from the blog in which we considered all the consumable products needed to see us through these uncertain times, we also need to think about two commodities that no tank can manage without.

Of course, there’s no telling what we may face in the forthcoming weeks, but we have to plan ahead in the event of possible power cuts or water supply failures. I am not foreseeing dramatic events such as the collapsing of facility providing companies, but there could be staff health issues or logistical hold ups, which could mean that small supply interruptions become longer outages.

A possible water shortage is relatively easy to prepare for. Acquiring some 25 l butts and filling them with up with either fresh or filtered tap water is a good short-term solution. It will store like this for weeks, even months if aerated, and can be re-sterilised with the addition of a little chlorine powder, if necessary.

To protect against long-term water shortages, we should be harbouring rainwater as much as possible. An ideal solution is to plumb a rainwater butt into some guttering, and fit an activated carbon filter for the water to pass through, as this will deal with any possible contaminants. Before adding the supply to the tank, some buffering minerals will need to be introduced, another item to add to the aquarium survival shopping list.

For the fishkeeper with multiple tanks, or a high demand marine tank, it is worth considering a small generator to cope with electricity cuts. For the single tank hobbyist the outlay for a generator is hard to justify, but the purchase of a battery powered air pump could be a good backup plan. Some work from traditional, disposable batteries which can be replaced for longer term use, some have built-in rechargeable batteries which can offer up to 12 hours of use on a charge, which is hopefully long enough for a problem to be remedied. These pumps can be used to simply aerate the tank or to run air powered box filters which can be filled with mature bio media.

When it comes to sustaining the temperature of a tank during a possible power cut, we can implement a few plans in advance. Many tropical fish are happy in cooler temperatures than we realise, and it is the maintenance of a stable temperature which is the most important factor. In order to limit swings of temperature, it would be a good idea to gradually reducing the heater setting now, by a degree per day at most, and bring it down to the lowest setting which is comfortable for the fish.

Being prepared with some form of insulation such as a hot water cylinder jacket or an old duvet to wrap around the tank to mitigate heat loss is also a good stand by. As we head towards spring time, our household temperatures may soon be warm enough to sustain tropical fish without any extra assistance anyway.

In the event that your immune system is inhibited by the COVID-19 virus, the last thing you want are further health complications. It is therefore vital to adhere to hygiene procedures such as avoiding sucking on syphon tubes, cleaning your hands thoroughly after a water change, and if you have open cuts on your arms or hands, ensure that you wear full-length protective gloves.

As a last resort, if you run out of something that’s absolutely vital, there’s a whole community of fishkeepers out there. Join a local fishkeeping social media page and maybe someone close to where you live can help you out. I urge all hobbyists to come together in this tough time, but if items do exchange hands, please observe the social distancing guidelines and settle for a wave from a distance rather than the normal handshake.

Let’s look after each other and stay safe.