Vacations are awesome but for a reef keeper they can be a bit stressful. I do get nervous before heading out to decompress away from home, especially when the trip is a week or more. And the stress level tends to increase the further I am away from home. God forbid I have to race back to take care of an emergency. Here are some tips on how to prepare a reef tank before leaving on vacation.
10 Tips For Prepping a Reef Tank Before Vacation
1. Don’t Make Any Major Changes to Tank
You have a new skimmer that needs to be installed or you want to add a second return pump to your sump. DON’T DO IT! Chances are a new piece of equipment needs to be tweaked after it is installed to make sure it is running at an optimal level. It can even malfunction if not installed properly. A reef keeper should be around a while to babysit any new install.
2. Top Off RO/DI Water Reservoir and Other Additives
Make sure your RO/DI reservoir has enough water to last the length of the vacation plus another week. There should also be an ample supply of other liquid additives such as trace elements or two-part calcium and alkalinity supplements. A tank with a heavy demand for calcium and alkalinity can crash if dosing ceases for a few days. If you use a calcium reactor, check to make sure your C02 is not running low.
3. Stay on Top of Maintenance
Equipment will eventually fail if it is not maintained on a regular basis. For example, I perform maintenance on my peristaltic dosing pumps every three months to make sure they run as smooth as possible. As noted in point #2, you don’t want two-part dosing to stop while you are gone.
4. Invest in a Controller
An aquarium controller is a great tool to have while on vacation. Just make sure you don’t set one up right before you go on vacation. Remember Tip 1 🙂 I actually use a controller as a monitor so I use the data myself to take action. For instance, if my alkalinity is dropping while I am away I lower the pH set point in my calcium reactor. This increases the alkalinity since more C02 will be injected with a lower set point. A controller can also alert you if certain parameters such as temperature, conductivity or alkalinity are out of whack. I have email and text alerts setup for this purpose.
5. Utilize Web Cams
I have two web cams trained on my 187 gallon system. One, an Axis M1145-L Network Camera, generates a 24/7 live stream on YouTube while the other is a Nest Cam pointed at my sump. The Nest Cam has infrared, allowing the video to be viewable in a dark room. Live streaming a web cam to YouTube is a bit more complicated to setup but it is a breeze to setup a Nest Cam. While on vacation I like to look at the webcams on a daily basis since they can identify a problem before it is detected by a controller. As an example, lower than normal water in the sump could indicate a problem with the auto top-off device.