So, you are in the process of booking your summer vacation for you and your family this year.
The dog’s been booked into the kennels and the cat is off on his week away to the dreaded cattery.
Suddenly, your attention turns to your beautiful betta fish. He’s looking happy, healthy and swimming away in the corner – but how will he be cared for while you are on vacation?
There are a few different things to consider when leaving your fish and they depend primarily on the types of fish that you have and the length of time that you’re going to be away. (Food and water quality should be your main concerns)
Let’s look at the options in turn so that you can feel better (Betta) informed to make the right choice for you, your aquarium and your fish!
Options to consider when organizing fish care while on vacation
Option one: Ask a friend or neighbor
The first and most obvious option is to ask family, a friend or neighbor.
In an ideal world, we should all go with this one as a human fish sitter can not only feed your prized fish but can also check other important things, such as water temperature and filter pump functioning.
They can also contact you for advice if something doesn’t look quite right. Sounds great, doesn’t it? What could possibly go wrong?
Well, firstly we are assuming you have a friend (or neighbor) who’s free over that period and is willing to come and feed them. Your ideal choice would be your fish keeping friend but he lives five miles away. Does he really want to do the five-mile round trip to come and feed your fish every day?
You could, of course, ask someone closer to home, there’s Overfeeding Audrey, Nosey Ned from across the road or Know-it-all Nigel from the local bar. Now, this may sound like scaremongering, and obviously, if you already have a reliable fish feeder then you really don’t need to read on.
If you know someone who’s willing and reliable but has no experience of fish-keeping then you could leave comprehensive instructions and even divide the pellets out into days so that they know exactly what to feed the fish each day.
The biggest problem with human fish sitters is their tendency to want to feed the fish lots of food because they ‘looked hungry’. Please stress the importance of not over-feeding your fish no matter how tempting it may be.
Option two: Leave the fish unfed for the weekend
For shorter periods of time, such as a long weekend, you can leave the fish to go without food.
Now, we must say this isn’t recommended and shouldn’t be done often as missing feeds is not good for your lovely betta fish and could lead to organ problems and make them more susceptible to disease.
If you are going away for only two days this could be an option – feeding them as you leave (but not overfeeding!).
How long can betta fish go without food?
Betta fish can survive up to 10 days without food, however, this is not recommended!
It is possible they may even survive a few more days than this, however, this is merely surviving and you are actually slowly starving your betta fish to death.
The point we are making here is if you are leaving your home for between 2 and 4 days you could leave your betta unfed. This should always be a secondary option, the best option would be to find a pet sitter. It is preferred that you leave your betta unfed versus dirtying the water and bloating your betta’s stomach by overfeeding. NEVER overfeed.
2 to 4 days is ok but any longer than this, and you must find a pet sitter to feed your fish. Any more and you are starving your fish. Yes, he may survive even 10 days but this is cruelty.
Option three: Mechanical auto-feeders
So you are going away too long to consider a small fasting period for your betta fish. How about you get a robot to feed your fish while you enjoy your vacation!?
There are several mechanical auto-feeders on the market, generally starting around $20 (and upwards), you may consider paying more for reliability.
They work by storing the food in a small container and then dispense the correct amount of food by rotating and releasing it after your preset time.
There are several available mechanical feeders but you must test with your tank set up to ensure that they are working properly before you leave.
Some of these feeders have issues, one of which is the buildup of condensation inside the drum which wets the food, clogs the feeder and prevents the food from being released at all!
Always check the Amazon reviews and always test before your vacation to see if your betta’s aquarium has this problem.
Fish Mate Aquarium Auto Feeder
Happy Hours Aquarium Automatic
In a very similar way, we also use a plug socket timer to time our lights on for 8 hours every day (vacation or not).
Option four: Block feeders
There are other feeding options known as ‘block feeders’. These quite large blocks are put into your tank before you leave for your vacation and work by breaking down gradually in the tank – releasing food as it breaks down.
The fish is unable to eat more than is required because it takes a long time for the block to release the food.
However ‘vacation block feeders’ are not recommended they tend to dirty the water and we have seen so many comments and reviews where they have dangerously increased the ammonia levels which in turn can be harmful to your fish.
If this option still sounds like one for you. Try the brand of block feeder before your vacation and perform a water test to see what the effects are.
You should only use them if you have absolutely no other options and they don’t come recommended.
See the available products on Amazon below:
7 Day Betta fish feeder
Tetra Slow Release Feeder
API Vacation Feeder
So now you can enjoy your vacation?
Really, there is no one-fits-all approach to fish care and feeding while you’re on vacation. It all depends on the length of time you’re away and the options you have available to you.
This vacation care checklist may help you decide
- A weekend – A betta fish could be left (but you shouldn’t do this often!)
- A week – Your betta fish needs to be fed, can you get someone to come over three times in that period? If not you should consider an automatic feeder.
- Two weeks, use an automatic feeder and ask a friend or relative. Leave clear feeding instructions and possibly consider measuring the feed out into specific days for them. The friend / relative should also be trusted to change a portion of the aquarium’s water.
The above information has been written with a betta fish in mind. You will also need to consider any tanks mates too. A general rule of thumb, the smaller the fish the less time they can go without food.
In summary, keeping fish is a hobby and a commitment and betta fish need to be cared for.
Do make sure that your fish are properly fed and cared for while you’re away. And, one last tip… you can ask a friend to send you a picture of your happy fish in its tank!
Oh, and enjoy your vacation!