How to prepare your saltwater tank for vacation

The thought of jumping on a plane or getting in your car, to go on holiday can be both exciting and daunting at the same time for saltwater hobbyists. Unless you have a fully automated tank, the chances are you will need to do some thoughtful prep work before you close your front door and hope for the best. In this article, we will look at the measures you can take to ensure that you can have a calm and relaxing holiday knowing that you have taken the time to prepare your saltwater tank for vacation. This article assumes you have arranged for a tank sitter, family or friends should the need arise.

prepare your saltwater tank for vacation

Keeping your saltwater aquarium heated while on holiday

While a massive drop in temperature can be the leading cause of death of all inhabitants in a reef system, temperature is often the most overlooked when preparing for a long getaway. With the advancement of technology in the saltwater hobby, we now have the ability to take advantage of simple tech that could save our watery investment. Most saltwater systems, at the very least, should be set up with two heaters plugged into a temperature controller. The purpose of a second heater is to ensure that should one become redundant, the other is still operational. However, what happens if your heating fails altogether? If you were at home, you would notice the change and act immediately.Β 

Inkbird ITC-306A WiFi Temperature Controller, Wi-Fi Aquarium Thermostat Heater Controller 120V~1200W Temperature Control with Two Probes only for Heater Aquarium Breeding Reptiles Hatching.
  • 🐠🐠 [Dual Protection] The aquarium temperature controller is equipped with 2 relays to ensure that the power can be turned off under any circumstances, this will protect your fish from being hurt by overheated water. (US Socket Only)
  • 🐠🐠[Two Probes] Your fish might be in danger as it is hard to know the probe is broken immediately if the temperature controller has only 1 probe. The dual probe aquarium temperature controller will alarm if the temperature difference between 2 probes is bigger than 3℃/5℉, and the INKBIRD app will push a notification at the same time.
  • 🐠🐠 [Continuous Heating Alarm] The heating time can be set according to your needs from 1 hour to 72 hours, the controller will alarm if water can not be heated to the setting temperature within the specified time. The temperature setting range is 20.0℃~35.0℃/68.0℉~95.0℉ and the detectable temperature range is -40℃~100℃/-40℉~212℉.

To prepare your saltwater tank for vacation it is worth considering the purchase of a WiFi temperature controller. You can use the WiFi controller as a replacement, or you could use it as a stand-alone temperature monitor alongside your current controller. The great thing about a WiFi controller is, not only the ability to control the temperature from a phone app, but also the ability to receive alerts should the temperature start falling.
If you happen to be on vacation when this happens, at least you will have an opportunity to get someone over to the house and rectify what could be a disaster. I can personally attest to the effectiveness of the Inkbird temperature controller, and would highly recommend it.

How to prepare your saltwater tank for evaporation while on vacation

Evaporation is a given when you own a saltwater system. Most reefers deal with evaporation by using either a gravity-fed top off system, or an automatic top off. In my experience, gravity-fed top off systems can be somewhat unreliable and glitchy. Even when at home, I would find myself readjusting the feed hose, or unblocking the outlet. The last thing you need to worry about when on vacation is if you can rely on your gravity-fed system to continue working for the duration of your vacation. In addition to the top off capability, you also have to think about the amount of water your system will require top off the evaporation. To make things much easier, I would consider installing a reliable auto top off, such as the Tunze Osmolator. I can personally recommend the Osmolator having had mine running faultlessly for more than 10 years.


Invariably, inbuilt reservoir tanks typically cannot hold enough RODI water to last the duration of a long vacation. I would work out how much evaporated water is replaced on a daily basis, then go ahead and buy yourself a water container that will hold the amount of RODI water your tank will require for the period you are away. For larger tanks thisΒ RV Tote Tank is perfect because of the manoeuvrability on wheels – just make sure it is new!Β  Take the auto top off pump out of your reservoir tank and drop it directly into the tote tank. I personally use 7 gallons of RODI water a week, which is what my in-built reservoir holds. If I go away, I use a 28 gallon tote tank to ensure that I do not run out while on vacation. The tote tank below would easily accommodate smaller volume aquariums.

Barker 10893 Tote Tank - 10 Gallon Capacity , Blue
  • 11 pounds empty
  • Blow-molded polyethylene construction and quality zinc plated steel brackets throughout
  • Extra large, heavy-duty wheels and standard bayonet fittings included on all tanks except 5 Gallon size

How to feed your saltwater fish while on vacation

Your fish will need to be fed if you are going to be away for longer than 4 or 5 days, and thankfully, if you do not have a helper, you can automate this too. Read this article where we have covered this topic in detail.

How to prepare your skimmer for vacation

Skimmers are notorious for going nuts at the most inopportune times, and sometimes for absolutely no discernible reason at all. This is made worse when the skimmate you have been collecting over a week or two suddenly overflows back into the sump. Suddenly you are left with a cabinet full of dirty bubbles! To offset the chance of this happening, empty and clean out your collection cup. If the skimmer does go bonkers, hopefully the collection cup won’t be full of crud.

If your skimmer if fitted with a drain off hose, run the hose to a bucket and leave the valve open. The hope is that the drain off will be able to counter the sudden over-skimming and prevent the dirty skimmate from re-entering the system.

Use a webcam for your aquarium while on vacation

If you really want to immerse yourself in technology, think about placing a Blink Mini Compact Camera in front of your saltwater aquarium. The camera can be accessed by an app on your phone, and you get to look in (literally) on your fish and coral from half way around the world if you so desired.

Topping up additives before you leave

Before you step out of your front door, remember to top up your dosing additives too. It would be all well and good if you have taken care of heating, evaporation and food, but if you have forgotten to top up your alkalinity buffer, you may be in for a nasty shock when you get back. Therefore, anything that you auto dose needs to be topped up. This could include Alkalinity buffer, Calcium, Magnesium, trace elements and nutrient control.

Replace your filter socks before you go on vacation

This is a bit of a controversial one, and it really does depend on your system. When I had filter socks, they would need to be replaced every 3 to 4 days. This means that by the time I returned from a two-week holiday, they were well overdue for a change, and building up nutrients in the meantime. I decided to forego filter socks while on holiday. Technology has come to the rescue again, and I have to say that the installation of a roller mat was the best addition to my tank, or any tank I have owned, ever!

prepare aquarium for vacation

Don’t make any changes before you go on holiday!

We have all been there. We have introduced something new into the tank, and instead of everything working the way it should, it sends everything into chaos. Wait until you get back, and then make the changes you wanted. This is not a good way to prepare your saltwater tank for vacation.

Prepare for power outages while on vacation

If you live in an area known for power cuts, you probably already have the tools to deal with the situation. You may want to talk your tank sitter, family, or a friend through using either a generator or battery backup.

Just starting out in the saltwater hobby? Get your copy of How To Set Up A Successful Saltwater Aquarium ebook today.

This ebook will help to guide you past the mistakes I have made over the years.

Hi, my name is Craig.
I am the owner of The Salty Side.
Firstly, thank you for visiting us. If you have found this article to be informative, and you now have a better understanding of the topic, then my job is done.

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