Me: “YEAH!! It snowed it snowed!!”

Radio: “The winter storm that’s moving across the Southeast has forced schools and businesses to close.”*

Me: “No school! Whoopee! (opening cupboards) Popcorn? Check. Hot cocoa? Check.”

Radio: “Ice brought down power lines — forcing hundreds of thousands of people to lose power in Alabama, Georgia and in North and South Carolina. In Raleigh, N.C., motorists got trapped on the roads as the storm moved in quicker than expected.”*

Me: “Flashlight? Check. Batteries? Check.”

Radio: “Battery operated air-pump for the aquarium?”

Me : “Che—? Wait. What?”

Radio: “Don’t tell me you don’t have an oxygen supplementing battery operated air-pump for your aquarrrrrrrriummmmmmm……*blip*

Me: (blinking in the dark):   *sigh*

Because, let’s face it, your fish can only live so long in an aquarium that’s lost its filter and heater to a power outage, especially if you don’t happen to own a generator.

Let’s tackle the heat equation first – as temperature changes will affect your fish before the loss of a filter will.

How quickly your tank’s water temperature drops depends on the volume of water it holds and the temperature of the room it’s housed in. Most fresh-water aquarium fish can tolerate water temperatures that drop as low as 60 Fahrenheit, so long as the drop is gradual and the chill doesn’t last longer than a few days.

“It’s not necessarily the cold that gets them,” warns David Stone, President of the Greater Hartford Aquarium Society, . “Most healthy fish can survive temperatures that drop as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s the ICK and other diseases that can crop up later that can overwhelm them, especially because their systems are already stressed from enduring a chilled tank.”

Stone recommends having warmed water ready to gradually add to a tank that’s losing temperature. Make sure you’ve treated your tap water with a chlorine neutralizing product:

But Stone reminds fish-keepers to “be very careful not to raise the temperature more than two degrees at a time. As fish are especially sensitive to sudden water changes and can die quickly from temperature shock.” He adds having an old fashioned hot water bottle ready to lean up against the outside of the tank and floating a warm-water filled, secure, tight-sealing plastic food container (filled with treated water in case of leaks) in the tank are good emergency measures.

If you cook with a gas stove or are lucky enough to own the kind of BBQ or wood stove that lets you boil a kettle on the side – you’ve at least got a chance to refill those containers with warmed water. If you haven’t got that option, wrapping your tank with blankets is a better than doing nothing. But, don’t choke off fresh oxygen by covering the top of the tank; just wrap the sides. The idea is to maintain and retain as much of your tank’s natural temperature as possible.

Toward that end – and this suggestion’s especially good for cold weather power outages of extended duration – have a large supply of hand-warmers ready. You know, the kind you tuck into your gloves or socks. I have a friend who tapes dozens of them to the entire outside surface of her tank. She says they generate heat for 10 to 12 hours.

Of course if an outage occurs during warm weather months, you’ll still need to know how to maintain a livable temperature. This truly excellent site offers expert all-weather advice:

And, no matter the season, if you have heads up regarding an impending storm, consider making a 25-percent water change. That way you’ll go into the event with a clean tank – staying ahead of the many stress factors associated with less than optimal water quality.

Here’s a basic and lovely-to-look-at tutorial on that subject – offering practical advice that might not occur except as a regrettable afterthought:

Do take note of this fish keeper’s advice to purchase that aforementioned battery-operated air pump for some future rainy day – as he quite rightly points out this oxygenating aid isn’t always readily available at your local pet shop. In fact, they’re much easier to find them line:

If a battery operated air pump sounds like a no brainer… not so a battery-operated heater.  They’re much harder to locate, even on line. I found this discussion at:

Interested about one users suggestion to use a UPS – Uninterruptable Power Supply to keep the heater and filter running, I searched to see what other aquarium keepers had to say on the subject.

Here’s an interesting exchange about UPS benefits and wattage requirements — wattage being determined by the number of gallons you’ll want to filter:

If a UPS makes sense for your setup:  you can find more information and product links at:

Of course preparation’s 9/10’s of a problem avoided. Toward that end I’m adding a battery-operated air-pump to my storm-prep cupboard. The UPS I’ll have to save up for. I think my fish will consider it a good investment.

Benjamin Franklin

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin

p.s. – I’ll bet Ben Franklin would have kept a pretty spiffy aquarium!

*The part of the radio was played (mostly) by NPR Morning Edition:


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