One consideration in keeping a reef aquarium is how you will protect your investment during an absence. Whether you are traveling for work, on vacation or have an unexpected emergency that requires you to travel, you may not always be there to make sure your aquarium stays in pristine condition. The best solution for caring for your aquarium in your absence, is to hire a local professional, but I know this is not always possible. The second best thing you can do is to recruit and train at least one or two people to care for your aquarium in your absence. Survey your spouse, family members and friends to find someone that seems interested in learning the basics of aquarium care. Even if you recruit someone in the hobby, take the time to show them the specifics of your setup. Never assume that the person knows how you like your aquarium to be kept. If you have some warning before you need to be absent, have that person come over and refresh themselves with the daily responsibilities of the aquarium. Be sure to also take the time to cover some basic troubleshooting.
About fifteen years ago, I was gone on vacation and asked a neighbor to look after my aquarium. We were out of town for a week and upon arrival home, I immediately knew something was terribly wrong. Our house smelled like a marsh at low tide and anyone in the hobby knows that is never a smell you want to come home to…EVER! In all, we lost about 20-30K in livestock and our coral farming business died with it. Our return pumps were all on one circuit breaker and unfortunately that breaker tripped at some point while we were gone. My neighbor did check on the aquariums, but believed everything was on timers, including the return pumps. I would have thought the smell might have tipped him off that there was a problem, but he did not have an aquarium and apparently thought that was normal even though he had looked after the aquariums for several years. I had taken for granted that he knew that pumps should always be on in an aquarium. Lesson learned…the hard way. From that trip on, I always made sure there was someone trained to care for my aquariums and trained to spot problems.
If you don’t have anyone you can train to care for your aquarium, one possible solution is to check with your local reef club to see if anyone would be willing to help when you go out of town. Getting to know your local fellow reefers has it’s benefits and who knows, you might find some new friends that share a common interest with you. Even if your setup is completely automated, it’s still nice to have someone local to check on things while you are away. You can never be too careful with your investment!