How To Feed Fish While On Vacation (Holiday Tips)

Image Credit: BRSTV via YouTube
Image Credit: BRSTV via YouTube

How To Feed Fish While On Vacation (Holiday Tips)


As the world slowly begins to open up again, you may have begun planning your next big traveling adventure. However, you also started a whole new hobby with your saltwater aquarium and you have never left your fish alone to go on vacation before.

Don’t worry because there are options to deal with this situation safely and make sure that you feed your fish as routinely as you can while away. Here are some ways to make sure that your fish are fed and will survive the days without you.

Can you leave fish alone for a week?

Most fish can not be left alone for a week without some sort of food reassurance. Wild fish are not used to eating daily like our spoiled saltwater aquarium fish but that doesn’t mean that they can suck it up and go several days without food. As a general rule, fish can go without food for 2-4 days but remember that is only a guideline. Fish still experience stress and the disruption to their routine may leave them in distress and cause complications in their lives. 

If you do need to leave your fish alone for a week you need to find a way to support them even though you are not there to help them.

Glass Vs Acrylic Aquarium
Image by makeitsomarketing from Pixabay

How long can aquarium fish go without food?

How long a fish can go without food really depends on the type of fish that you are caring for. However, there are a few quick boxes you can check to estimate how long your fish can survive without starving. 

How big is your fish? How old is it? If they are older and bigger they can survive a little bit longer than small and younger fish. That is because the older fish have more fat to use in case of emergencies than the younger ones. 

You should also consider what type of eater your fish is. Are they a carnivore or an herbivore? Carnivores are okay with skipping a few meal days while herbivores are much more demanding and will quickly miss their daily feedings. 

Those are just quick guidelines to live by because you never know when an emergency might present itself and you need to leave a care plan for someone to look after your fish. The guidelines I listed can differ between species of fish too so it is always good to familiarize yourself with your specific fish species preferred diet in varying circumstances.  You never know when that knowledge will save your saltwater fish. You can even test this knowledge if you are comfortable doing so!

That means acting as if you have already skipped town without providing for your fish. You shouldn’t feed your fish or perform tank maintenance. You will want to carefully monitor the condition of your fish so you don’t accidentally kill them over this time period. If not feeding your fish for several days makes you nervous, you could just test using different automatic/vacation feeders to see how your fish react to them. Either way, you will have a better sense of how your fish will fair when you really do have to leave town for a few days. 

However, I can not stress enough, you need to monitor your fish and if their behavior starts to become concerning or they are looking rough in general start normal care again. A test is never worth the life of your fish friends.

How do you feed fish when on vacation?

Maybe a test isn’t even worth it because you need to leave no matter what for work or to see a loved one so how do you care for your fish when you can’t be there? Well, you have a few options you can consider. You should choose the one that not only is best for your fish but will allow you to sleep soundly at night knowing they are cared for appropriately. 

Recruit a neighbor or friend to be a fish sitter

An obvious choice and hopefully an easy one if you have good friends in your area or trustworthy neighbors like Mrs. Doris three doors down would be to ask them to be a fish sitter. No matter who you ask, you should prepare a care plan for them that lists food and feeding preferences for your fish. Keep in mind that your family and friends don’t have the same level of knowledge that you have regarding the hobby so they won’t be able to do much else besides feeding your fish.

Even feeding, depending on your fish, might be a little complicated for them. Spell everything out exactly so that there isn’t any confusion between you and your fish sitter. If you have the time for it you should walk them through the entire process that you are expecting them to carry out while you are gone. A fish sitter is only as successful as the hobbyist is at explaining their care routine.

Even better, if you are part of a local hobbyist club you might be able to reach out to a friend there and they would be able to follow your care plan without any issues (probably). They might even be more willing to perform maintenance if something were to happen or you had to be gone for an extended period of time. The best fish sitter is one that is a part of the hobby already.

ecause you need to leave no matter what for work or to see a loved one so how do you care for your fish when you can’t be there? Well, you have a few options you can consider. You should choose the one that not only is best for your fish but will allow you to sleep soundly at night knowing they are cared for appropriately. 

Automatic fish feeder to keep your fish fed

Of course, there is a very real possibility that no one you trust is available to watch your fish. Don’t worry because there are other options you can consider before trying to get out of the traveling plans. Automatic fish feeders can potentially offer more reliability than Mrs. Doris three doors down because they can be set to deliver food to your fish at specific times in the day and even multiple times a day! Depending on the model that you purchase, automatic fish feeders can last weeks at a time but you might have some serious maintenance issues to deal with if you left for a month without anyone checking in on your fish friends. 

Best Vacation Fish Feeder

Eheim Everyday Fish Feeder

The most popular automatic fish feeder on the market today has got to be the Eheim Everyday Fish Feeder. It’s a solid performer that can handle a variety of fish foods well and dispense them reliably and with consistent portion sizes.

It simply clamps onto your aquarium and can be programmed to dispense food up to 4 times per day.

This design includes a fan to keep fish food dry which is important to ensure food doesn’t clump or stick and cause problems dispensing properly.

If you don’t have a need to dispense different varieties of food, this should be your top pick for an automatic feeder.

Fish Mate F14

If the accuracy of portion or variety is required the Fish Mate F14 is a better choice.

Instead of having one large hopper to hold pelletize food, it has a small hopper for each of up to 14 days. You pick what gets fed on each day. Of course, you’re limited if you need to be away for more than 2 weeks.

Since only what you put in a hopper gets dispensed you can precisely control portion size or mix food types.

If moisture is a concern you can run an airline to it from an air pump to keep the food dry to prevent food from sticking and not getting dispensed properly.

Lifegard Intellifeed

While the previous 2 suggestions are battery-powered, this unit uses a plug so messing around with batteries isn’t a problem.

This auto-feeder design addresses moisture issues by keeping the unit sealed until dispensing food.

It’s a highly regarded unit although it is quite expensive. For this reason, you’re probably better off with the Eheim or Fish Mate unless you really want to have a unit that plugs-in and doesn’t rely on batteries.

Neptune AFS

The Neptune AFS (Auto Feeding System) is part of the Apex aquarium automation product line. It integrates nicely with the Apex controller and allows you a lot more control programmatically and remotely.

It’s based on the Lifegard Intellifeed which is a very good automatic fish feeder.

Despite this, it has some less-than-flattering reviews. The main complaints are being very loud and not properly dispensing food.

There may be some changes between it and the Intellifeed design that compromised its performance.

While I personally wouldn’t be too concerned with noise if I’m using this strictly for vacation purposes, however, I would be concerned about consistent feeding. That is obviously very important.

I’d test it thoroughly before going on vacation if this is the route you decide to go down.

Feeding Blocks - Slow Release Fish Food

Most people are familiar with vacation feeders or feeder blocks as most people who have owned a goldfish in their youth were told to throw one into their bowl before heading to the beach for a week. They are a cheap method to keep your fish fed while you are away for an extended period of time. This might have been where your mind went immediately when you first began considering options to care for your fish during your leave. The feeder blocks are super simple. All you do is drop the block into the bowl and the block will slowly release food for your fish to snack on while you are gone.

The best part about these blocks is that they are a super affordable option for people on a budget just make sure you are referring to how many fish a block can support. You also need to pay attention to what species of fish the vacation feeder can support. As we know, fish diets can vary per species so the blocks have specific nutritional needs to meet. If you decide feeder blocks are for you, make sure you are supply blocks that are appropriate for your fish. 

The block feeders also can’t support that many fish. If you have a large fish tank filled with a lot of fish, then you will be better off finding someone to care for your fish or investing in an automatic feeder. There are even some people who claim that block feeders do not provide nutrition for their fish. While beggars can’t be choosers if you have the money and the time it might be best to try the other methods we have listed to ensure that your fish are adequately taken care of. 

Different blocks for different stocks

Vacation feeders come in more than different food styles to feed your tank’s inhabitants. Blocks can vary in how long they last in your aquarium’s water. Some blocks are designed to feed fish over just a couple of days like a weekend. These might be good for an office tank that won’t be monitored over a weekend but if your fish will routinely be left alone it would be a better idea to invest in an automatic feeder that you could monitor every weekend the office was empty.

Some feeders last as long as 2 weeks. These feeders will definitely last longer and might work in a pinch for small tank environments but you still have some issues that you will need to think about while you are away and prepare to deal with when you return home.

Then some blocks are designed for different types of fish altogether. For instance, there is Zoo Med which is projected to last for the full 2 weeks and will cater to bottom feeders while TetraVacation makes a block feeder that is great for tropical fish but is only projected to last around a week.

You need to make sure the block you choose is appropriate for the fish type that you want to be fed and that the block will last long enough. Look at reviews for the feed as they will help to gauge if their projected time will actually last. You could also test brands yourself in the weeks leading up to your vacation so that you know which ones are reliable and which ones to avoid.

Feeder blocks create waste

Vacation feeders can also create a lot of pollution for your tank. As you might imagine if you have been caring for your saltwater aquarium for a little while now, you know if you overfeed your fish that extra food is going straight into the waste pile. Automatic feeders are easier to set a particular amount of food you would like to be released so your aquarium doesn’t accumulate as much waste while you are away.

Some blocks try to prevent this from happening but they aren’t one hundred percent successful. If you do choose to use a feeder block because you won’t be gone for too long then you need to make plans to perform some water changes and cleaning for when you return. The tank water is going to be ripe with excess food waste and algae.

Other handy electronic fish sitting gadgets

Why do they make automatic feeders that last for so long if there is no way to monitor my fish to ensure they are okay during those weeks. Well, they do make monitoring equipment so that you can sleep better at night and they can offer some really important information.


A webcam might be a no-brainer but it can be easy to overlook in the grand scheme of care practices. 

A webcam allows you to see how your fish are doing at any time of the day from anywhere in the world from the comfort of your tablet, phone, or laptop. 

You could even double-check that Mrs. Doris actually fed your fish that day if had your worries however it is always a good idea to let people know you have a camera watching your saltwater fish. It’s less weird than if they found out at a later time. 

A webcam is a great choice for you even if you aren’t going on vacation. It offers just that little extra bit of reassurance throughout the day.

Neptune Apex Controller

This handy gadget does almost everything that you might need from a more competent fish sitter. 

The device will alert you about minute details that most friends wouldn’t be able to help you with like the pH levels, temperature, and salinity. The alerts can be sent through text or emails so you can receive them in a way that fits your lifestyle best. 

It even allows the user to control certain pieces of aquarium equipment over the internet like the pump, lights, and heaters. 

If you have trust issues or simply can’t find people to help you manage your fish tank while you are away, this gadget will certainly help relieve some anxiety. 

Auto Top Off

One of the most useful items on this list if your fish tank requires frequent water top-offs or changes.

The auto top-off will ensure that your tank has the sufficient amount of water that your fish need to thrive.

It is important to keep your reef tank top off with water to make sure that the salinity in your tank stays consistent. As water evaporates the specific gravity begins to alter and this can affect the health of your fish. 

Final thoughts

If you are about to go on vacation or you are simply being proactive, there are a lot of ways to feed your fish while you are away. Whether you use an automatic feeder or have a good friend stop by, your fish should be in good hands. Just make sure you are taking the appropriate precautions to insure that nothing goes amiss. If that means investing in some of the monitoring systems to track your fish’s health while you are away.

The longer that you are away the more you should consider investing in more substantial upgrades to care for your fish while you are gone, especially if you foresee this being a regular thing. As long as you have a way to feed your fish while you are gone there shouldn’t be any issues. Plus, if you do ask a friend to help care for your fish for a little while, maybe if you use a friend it’ll inspire them to get into the hobby too. So go on vacation and leave the stress behind!

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