Several months back we discussed how to keep your aquarium running through a Hurricane. But now we have to tackle a new issue that is wreaking havoc on the eastern coast of the United States…and that is blizzards.
Blizzards hit the US every year. Most of the time they are somewhat short lived, but this year has been different. The eastern half of the US has been pummeled with blizzards to the extent of shattering snowfall records for previous years. Many people have been trapped in their homes and many of those homes, at some point, lost power. As with hurricanes, power loss and temperatures are the primary aquarium killers brought on by blizzards. But hopefully this short guide will help hobbyists who find themselves in these situations.
Power is the most important thing to consider when planning for disaster prevention with your aquarium. You must have power running to the tank to run return pumps, protein skimmers, ozonizers, UV sterilizers, and whatever other gadgets you employ. When large storms roll in, they often knock over power lines or cause other objects, such as tree limbs, to fall on the power line. Regardless of how it happens, the power is likely to go out.
As soon as your power shuts off, the water quality begins to drop. The temperature will slowly decrease, water will begin to stagnate, and harmful organics will begin to accumulate. To prevent a total tank failure, you must have a generator or some sort of power supply. A generator is ideal as it can provide energy to numerous items. The most important of which are the return pump, heaters, and any other devices that promote water movement and gas exchange. If you do not have a generator or access to a generator, you can use an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). This device is essentially a battery that can supply power to electronic devices when the power goes out. Use it sparingly though, as most of our aquarium equipment will drain the power very quickly. If the UPS is also unavailable, you can use battery operated bait bucket bubblers to promote some water movement and gas exchange. If you want to provide heat to your aquarium and you do not have the means to power a heater, use the fireplace if you have one. The heat being emitted will probably not be uniform, but it might help you to prevent the bottom from falling out of your aquarium’s temperature.
Other devices to consider when power outage proofing your aquarium include EcoTech Marine Vortech battery backups, car or boat batteries, and even solar power. These devices may help you out more than you could imagine.
The temperature of your aquarium is crucial for blizzard survival. When your aquarium doesn’t have power, chances are your home is also without power. The ambient temperature and the building’s insulation will keep the water temperature up for a brief time, but the temps will drop fast, especially if you have any drafts blowing through your home. A fire burning in your home’s fireplace will certainly help keep the tank warm, and tracking down drafts through openings in floor boards or windows will allow you to block them up, further aiding your situation. But a fire is not always available to use a tool, or it may be too far from where your aquarium resides to be effective.
If you have anything fueled by natural gas, you may be in luck. You could hookup your RO/DI unit to the hot side of the water output and make a batch of warm top-off water. You can do only do this a few times before the salinity in the aquarium begins to drop, so you may have to add salt to the water and mix it by hand and do a “warm water” water change. But do this carefully. Introducing water that is too warm might cause your livestock to go into shock. Instead, introduce the water a little at a time.
It is preferred that you have some form of generator or power supply. But in extreme cases we have to make due with what we have.
If your aquarium is without power for a few hours, or a day at the most, then there’s not a whole lot to worry about. But fellow aquarists in the Northeast are experiencing power outages for several days on end. In these situations a generator is an absolute must. I know they are expensive and sometimes difficult to maintain, but a generator is the only thing that will save your aquarium in long durations of being without power.
Good luck to all of the reef keepers on the east cost. Stay warm, stay safe, and keep those tanks running.