How to Care for Fish While Traveling on Vacation

Brett Schiller

Aquarium keeping can be a very fulfilling hobby, though it can be high maintenance. Fishkeepers know the stress of finding an arrangement that works if they are ever absent. But preparing can be easy if you know how to care for fish while traveling on vacation.

In this article, we'll help you prepare so that you can enjoy your time off without worrying about your beloved pets. Let's dive right in!

Need to Know: Temperature, Water Changes, and Diet

Before we talk about what you can implement to keep your tank healthy while on vacation, you should first know it will most likely impact the crucial factors of an aquarium: temperature, diet, and water change. Regardless if you're a beginner fishkeeper or not, it helps if you know these basics.


Some species of tropical fish are sensitive to temperature swings. This means a simple change in the water temperature can be damaging if you're not there to monitor it.

For example, the ideal temperature for Betta fish, also called fighting fish, is around 76°F to 80°F, or 24°C to 27°C. Any more or less than that, your betta will likely fall ill. A sick betta will find it difficult to recover if you're away.

Keeping the temperature constant in your fish tank should be one of your priorities if you can only monitor your aquarium briefly. One of the best ways to do this is to invest in an excellent underwater thermometer from a trusted fish store.

Water Changes

Another crucial factor to consider is water changes, especially if you will be gone for more than two weeks.

Your fish's waste will become toxic elements such as ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite. These chemicals will harm your pet fish and other invertebrates like snails and shrimps, creating a toxic environment that can kill your freshwater fish. Aquarists keep high water quality with proper filtration and, notably, frequent water changes.

The smaller the tank volume, the more often you must change the water.

For example, you need to change a five-gallon fish tank more often than a one-gallon tank and fish bowls even more often. This is because fish waste will make the lesser water volume more vulnerable to poor water quality.

Water changes are critical, but this can be difficult if you're away for long.

Missing one water change might not immediately cause your tank to collapse, but your fish's health will likely take a downward turn and will continue to do so unless the water is changed.


Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, consider how your fish will eat in your absence. Like humans, fishes have a daily nutritional requirement, and going for too long without food can also make them fall ill and even die.

But it's not so drastic as that–not feeding your fish for some time can be a viable solution, depending on your fish and how long you'll be absent. Let's delve deeper into the next sections.

How Long Can Fish Last Without Food

There are different answers to the question of how long fish can go without food while you travel, depending on the fish species and how long you'll be gone.

To help you better determine your strategy, here's a short list of how long the most popular aquarium fish can go without food.

  • Goldfish. An iconic choice for small ponds and large aquariums, this hardy fish can go for two weeks (14 days) without feeding.
  • Betta. This colorful and vibrant fish is a top choice for many freshwater aquariums because of its unique appearance and entertaining personality. This species can go for two weeks (14 days) without food.
  • Guppies. This species is a common choice for 10-gallon fish tanks because they are hardy, colorful, relatively inexpensive, and last for two weeks (14 days) without food.
  • Danios. This schooling fish is another popular choice for aquariums for their active schooling personality, colorful, and ease of care. They even last one to three weeks without proper feeding.
  • Tetras. These small, peaceful, and highly varied fish are a good choice for a beginner community tank. They can go for one week (7 days) without food.
  • Platies. Platies are another great ornamental fish because they are hardy, colorful, and prolific breeders. They can last up to two weeks (14 days) without feeding.
  • Swordtails. Like platies, this fish is well-loved by beginners and veterans alike for their distinctive tail shape, striking coloration, and ease of care. A hardy species, they can survive one to two weeks (7 to 14 days) without food.
  • Mollies. Mollies are peaceful, easy, and hardy fish for community aquariums. While adults can survive up to two weeks (14 days) without food, molly fries can last only a few days. That's important since mollies often breed quickly.
  • Rasboras. Peaceful and entertaining, Rasboras are a popular choice as a schooling fish for planted community aquariums. They can thrive for a week (7 days) without proper feeding.
  • Barbs. Another interesting schooling fish, aquarium hobbyists love barbs for their species variation and highly active personality. Barbs are a hardy bunch and can live for up to two weeks (14 days) without food.

Remember that these are all estimates; ultimately, how long your freshwater fish can survive without food depends significantly on their health. That period also is only accurate for some types of fish.

Some of the more fragile species (catfish, discus fish, or some cichlids like angelfish, for example) can't live for more than a few days without food before dying.

Herbivores, such as algae eaters (corydoras, loaches, etc.), don't have large stomachs, and they have to be fed more often than a carnivore (Oscar fish, some other cichlid) or omnivorous fishes that can hold food in their stomachs.

Strategies To Feed Fish While You're Away

Now that you know all the important things, we can now answer how to feed fish while away traveling. There are several strategies you can use, and we'll explain every one of them in detail.

Ask Someone To Feed Your Fishes for You

The most straightforward and practical approach is still getting someone else to watch and feed your live fish for you. The ideal fish sitter could be a family member, a close friend, a home cleaner you trust, or even someone you pay to do the chore for you.

The main benefit is that they can go beyond simply feeding your fish.

Your trusted individuals can alert you promptly should something go wrong with your aquarium and can even perform other necessary functions such as water changes, light cleaning, clearing filter media, and pruning a planted tank.

However, the disadvantage is that getting someone to do this is difficult, especially if you live alone. It can also be costly, in case you need to pay someone to watch your fish, and you might even compromise your security if you choose to employ someone you don't know.

Overall, this solution is only best if you already have someone you trust in mind and is only efficient if you're gone for really long periods.

Buy an Automatic Feeder

The next most popular solution is to buy an automatic fish feeder. These handy devices ensure your fish are fed regularly, even without you.

Automatic feeders can be incredibly convenient to keep your fish fed, especially if you're away for a long time. You can also trust these feeders never to overfeed since they'll only dispense what you put in there, unlike if you ask someone else.

With automatic feeders, all you have to do is to set it and forget it. However, you must buy a high-quality automatic feeder, which can cost a lot.

Horror stories of low-quality automatic feeders abound, which would fail in the middle of their perfectly-planned vacation and stop feeding their fish. Or worse, to the horror of the returning aquarist, dump all the food into the aquarium in one go.

If you plan to go for automatic feeders, ensure they're the best quality you can afford.

Put Slow Release Food

These specially designed feeders slowly dissolve over time, releasing small amounts of food into the tank. They are convenient for short vacations and can sustain fish over several days.

However, you must choose a high-quality product that dissolves just right.

Low-quality versions of this fish food can release all too quickly and end up polluting your tank. Make sure that the brand is something that you've already tried and tasted before using it when you're gone.

Add Live Food to The Aquarium

Live food is one of the best sources of nutrients that your beloved fish can get. Your fishes also love these tiny organisms, as they are the closest to their natural habitat that your fish can get in captivity.

Live food can stay alive for some time and survive in your tank, hiding among live plants and hardscapes your fish can hunt while you're not there to feed them.

However, live food requires weeks or months of advanced planning and monitoring. That's because, in many cases, you will have to raise the live food yourself, such as with brine shrimp, daphnia, or worms. All the culture and setup needed can also get a bit pricy.

Overall, live food is excellent if you have much time to plan your fish care and don't mind the price.

Simply Don't Feed Your Fish

As mentioned above, many fish species can survive without feeding for up to two weeks. If you don't have any other solution, simply forgetting about feeding can be a viable option.

However, it's important to remember that their survival rate depends on their species and health.

Fasting your fish is also not advised for too long, as they would still suffer illness and starvation.

If you plan on not feeding your fish for an extended period, ensure their species can tolerate it. It's also best to keep these excursions to a minimum, as your beloved pets are likelier to die the longer you're gone.

Caring for Your Pets While You're Away

You might think that traveling is the natural enemy of the aquarium-keeping hobby, but it doesn't have to be. With the proper fish care knowledge and careful preparation, you can make arrangements so that your tiny piece of paradise isn't just surviving but even thriving in your absence.

In this article, we've tackled the factors you need to know about and zeroed in on a diet and ways of ensuring that your aquatic friends are fed even while you're away. So equipped, we hope your aquarium stays nice and healthy!

This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.

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