HALP! Power Outage! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-01-2019, 04:36 PM Thread Starter
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HALP! Power Outage!

We had a lovely (grrrr, not!) power outage in our city yesterday. It was a brown-out that gradually became a full outage, lasting up to 5 hours. Between work & home, I have 10 tanks (ranging from 1-29 gallons), and now I need to come up with a plan to get all these fish & inverts through the coming mini (hopefully mini) cycle that I am pretty sure is coming!

What I have to work with: plenty of Prime water conditioner, the ability to do regular water changes in as large a % as needed, an ammonia testing kit (API liquid kid, and a Master test kit from API, though that will not last long with 10 tanks!), and access to PetSmart & Amazon for some supplies (small-budget allowing).

Tank details:

Work:
4 ten gallon planted tanks (crypts, elodea, & frogbit, mostly), each with 3-7 guppies, and 0-7 mystery snails. Some with a few ghost shrimp, all with pond/bladder snails. These tanks have the old "bubbler" filters, with aquarium gravel & filter floss inside them.

1 twenty-nine gallon tank, with a decent internal filter, a random air-stone, and a *small* HOB that has a bamboo plant growing in it (I cannot believe the motor on this didn't die last night, as it did not restart correctly - of course - and I came in to it still dry-running, probably for about 12 hours). This tank has 15 guppies, a "living out their long life" assortment of 5 random tetras/otos/twig catfish, along with around a dozen mystery snails, a nerite, 3 amano shrimp, and a metric ton of cherry shrimp. It is also quite heavily planted with many, many mature crypts, cyperus helferi, & exploding frogbit (over half the surface full).

Home:
*all tanks are planted but not old enough to be "heavily" planted yet, most significantly with crypts & frogbit, have pond/bladder snails, and are 3-8 months old. There are random other plants in most of the home tanks as well, but I don't think it matters enough to waste time writing/reading those specific details. Suffice to say that some tanks have amazon swords, a moss ball or two, cyperus helferi, java fern, java moss, anubius petit nana, etc. None are terribly mature and some are still in the struggling stage, due to the age of the tanks*

1 gallon jar: 1 betta (plans to move him to bigger accommodations, I promise - he was a surprise & this was supposed to be a cute shrimp jar!). Has homemade undergravel filter running with an air-stone.
2 1/2 gallon "dirted" jar: 1 female betta, 1 mystery snail, 1-2 ramshorn (I think) snails & about 6 cherry shrimp: has a very small sponge filter.
5 gallon: 1 betta, has stock "Tetra" HOB filter with gravel, sponge, and a bamboo plant growing in it.
5 gallon: 1 betta, 6+ cherry shrimp, & 1 mystery snail. Has sponge filter & treasure chest/airstone decoration - only has a very few, floundering plants total.
5 gallon portait: 1 mystery snail, ??10-24 cherry shrimp, has stock internal pump (Marineland Portrait tank AIO, without cartridges & carbon, with ceramic rings & sponges instead) - this tank is a little more heavily planted & is the oldest of the home tanks
15 gallon "dirted" tank: 2 female bettas, 6 panda/dawn tetras, 3 female guppies, 6-12 cherry shrimp, handful of ramshorn (I think) snails, and a Dwarf Mexican Crayfish. Penguin/Marineland HOB with a bio-wheel & customized sponges & bio rings filling the container, instead of the cartridges. I am most worried about this tank, as I JUST added 3 tetras & the crayfish on Saturday night, and the guppies a week ago.

My plan:
1. regular ammonia testing (and more conservative nitrite testing eventually)
2. water changes as needed (both normal weekly 25-40% changes & similarly sized whenever ammonia is present at harmful levels), with prime added for the entire tank, not just the # gallons changed
3. possibly unplugging heaters in the 29 at work (others @ work have been unplugged since April or May), and 15 & 5 gallon tanks at home (the jars do not have heaters right now). When I was researching the nitrogen cycle, I noted that lower pH's and lower temperatures allowed ammonia to be converted to ammonium, which is not harmful to fish, but will allow the cycle to progress, so long as the pH isn't TOO low. My tanks are usually around 6.8, though the oldest of them can get as low as 6.2 when I don't keep up with water changes.

Questions:
1. Should I buy some bottled bacteria from PetSmart if I start seeing ammonia levels over a certain number, to help speed up the cycle? I was given some at one point when I started the 15 gallon tank, and it did speed up my cycle (I think), so I'm wondering if the PetSmart available stuff is better than I have read in these forums in the past. Keep in mind that I do not think there is any sort of $ from my workplace budget so this will be all on me.
2. Should I be adding prime every day/2 days to keep ammonia/nitrite poisoning possibilities down?
2. This was supposed to be filters cleaning week (done 1x/month) -- should I leave them alone, clean them extra well, or take care of them normally??
3. In order to be budget conscious of my testing supplies, I'm likely to test less than daily -- if anyone has experience or advice on the most intelligent way to do this, I'd love to hear it. I was guessing maybe 2-3 times per week.

Any and all advice is appreciated -- I read A LOT online, but there is no substitution for specific advice from experts! Thank you!

It's not a mystery...snails are the BEST!
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Last edited by Cinnamonamon; 07-01-2019 at 04:36 PM. Reason: title adjustment
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-01-2019, 04:43 PM
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Test ammonia daily and go from there.
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-01-2019, 05:05 PM
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Just 5 hours? That's probably not going to cause much of an issue. I regularly experience outages that last days and never run into major issues. The last one (thanks, crumbling infrastructure!) was a couple weeks ago. 85-90 degree days with 111,000,000% humidity for 2.5 days. No issues at all with spikes, mini cycles, nothing like that. And I keep super-sensitive critters.

Worst episodes were each 8-10 days. Once after an ice storm, once after a tornado.

Just monitor your water parameters, do water changes if necessary, keep Prime handy. You'll be more fine than you think.

Now would also be a good time to stock up on battery-operated air pumps. They've been useful for me when I've had to endure several days without power. Many are strong enough to operate sponge filters so you can just switch over to them from your regular air pump. Nice to have for surface agitation.

Some people run UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply - backup batteries) to avoid issues but it can get expensive when you have multiple tanks. But having a couple units could also operate several air pumps for sponge filters for quite some time. Definitely enough to get you through an outage like the one you experienced. I have a ~$50 one that'll run my cable modem and a cheap, USB-powered travel router for about two days.


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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-01-2019, 05:24 PM Thread Starter
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Really?! Oh man, that's excellent! I was convinced that most all my good filter bacteria had died from the hours of non-movement! I am SO happy to hear this!

I do have 1 battery operated airpump, but the power came back before I got to digging it out, and I had an internal moral debate going on, regarding which tank to use it on!

My husband used to have an UPS for his computers, but I think that when it died he didn't bother getting a new one...I should tell him I need one for my fish tanks -- it would be hilarious to see his expression (he is not a fan of this new hobby, lol). Still, if/when I get a bigger tank, I may grab one eventually! Thanks!

It's not a mystery...snails are the BEST!
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-01-2019, 06:13 PM
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It all seems scarier than it really is. You're more prepared than you thought you were. A day or so is usually nothing to worry about.

When you get into multiple days like others have experienced? That's when you should get worried. But even with partial bacterial die-offs, it's usually not that big of a deal to get things re-established if you have a reasonable amount of critters in your tanks. Your tanks are so lightly stocked that I wouldn't worry at all at this point.
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-01-2019, 06:55 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somewhatshocked View Post
It all seems scarier than it really is. You're more prepared than you thought you were. A day or so is usually nothing to worry about.

When you get into multiple days like others have experienced? That's when you should get worried. But even with partial bacterial die-offs, it's usually not that big of a deal to get things re-established if you have a reasonable amount of critters in your tanks. Your tanks are so lightly stocked that I wouldn't worry at all at this point.
Good to know! It is sometimes frustrating trying to figure this stuff out, when there are so many alarmist comments (such as: transferring seeded media is only "active" for up to 1 hour, and then it dies and is no good)...but if it sits in a tank or filter without movement that is somehow different? These are the things that frustrate me, lol.

It's funny you say that my tanks are lightly stocked, when I feel like they are mostly all full or even a little high, lol. Thanks again for talking me off the hysteria ledge!

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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-01-2019, 08:16 PM
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Maybe lightly is the wrong word to use. How about reasonably? I think you're reasonably stocked. Nothing too outlandish, that's for sure. And the critters you do have don't produce the kind of waste that, say, a large fancy goldfish or an Oscar would.

Bacteria will absolutely start to die off. But is it enough to really impact your tanks? Probably not.

I've found unsettling situations like this to be extremely helpful through the years. Allows you to think about disaster and plan for the future. Working through those anxieties really helps make things easier if something does go wrong down the road. Plus it's a good excuse to load up on more tank goodies!
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-01-2019, 09:47 PM
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Agree that you are not in tooo bad trouble. Some of the things mentioned are good but also the type of filter can have some difference as well. A canister is very much closed for air when it stops running, so that means the bacteria get less O2 and die somewhat quicker in canisters. And I also agree that five hours is not a terrible problem on tanks which have been running long enough to get the "slick stuff" on walls, plants, sub and all the rest. That slick stuff is often something we clean off but lots of it are the bacteria, so part of the question is going to be how clean everything like the plants were. Kind of a catch -22 on being somewhere being too much debris to make ammonia too fast and being too clean so that you've just given the good bacteria large hit if you've just scrubbed them off everything you could find?
Assuming the way most of us would be, we are not neurotic enough to have just scrubbed all that stuff off the plants, etc. so maybe only 50 % was in the filters anyway and all that is still getting some O2 as the water moves around.
So my plan would be to do a few more water changes, while watching for anything to show up or any fish to act odd, like strange behavior, banging into things like they need to scratch, etc. or ammonia enough to test. But a few good water changes is almost always a good med, almost like aspirin. Give 'em a few , just in case? Don't do any major changes for a while and let things get normal again before doing anything like super cleaning or moving plants, etc. that tends to upset a tank and the bacteria.
In future, if you are where the tanks are, doing small frequent water changes is one way to both remove pollution and get the right temperature and clean water with O2 in it moved through the system. I think of it as kind of setting up your own little creek, where new water comes in at intervals?
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-01-2019, 09:53 PM
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100% this.

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I think of it as kind of setting up your own little creek, where new water comes in at intervals?


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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-01-2019, 09:58 PM
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I have two UPS systems from when I had two tanks. Today I have two tanks, but only one has fish in it; the other is a plant grow out tank. When the power goes out for more than 24 hours, we drag out our generator for fish and other things around the house like the fridge. I live in a area where we have blizzards, hurricanes, ice storms and all those things that tend to knock power out.

Another thing to do if you don't have a UPS system is take some of your biomedia, put it in a mesh bag, and shove a airstone under it. This will allow water and oxygen to flow through the media. This is what I do when the power goes out for a couple of hours because somebody took out a telephone pole or something.
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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-02-2019, 03:23 PM
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When looking at emergency power for things like this where it is not a true storm and you can get out, I do not favor UPS for a number of reasons. Understand what you are buying is always step one in shopping and this is a good time.
A UPS is a basic battery with a number of bells and whistles that we don't need for tank use and those extra items will cost you a bunch. Most of us don't need an auto switching and instant response which the UPS provides as it is okay for our tanks to shut down for several hours in most of our situations. It is necessary to look over what your situation might be but most of our tanks can go a few hours (at least) with no harm, making other sources of emergency power much better.
If we are looking at a storm ( hurricane, ice, etc. ) we will get a long enough warning to provide for that, if we think in advance so that we are not running around looking for power AFTER we need it. In that situation, you may find the stores are sold out of what you need!
But if it is only a temporary situation where power may be out at your house and you can go shopping, that is a far better time to
go to the store and buy a new fresh, fully charged battery as it will last far better than the UPS. But part of that plan has to also involve the small parts we might need but take longer to acquire. Whatever battery powered pump, heater, etc. that you need may be much slower/harder to get than the battery, so those may need to be stocked way in advance but I favor putting off the actual source like UPS or battery, as I am certain that I can buy a battery in almost any situation the would require it. I do not need instant power, so do not invest in something that slowly dies while stored and not being used.
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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-02-2019, 03:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
When looking at emergency power for things like this where it is not a true storm and you can get out, I do not favor UPS for a number of reasons. Understand what you are buying is always step one in shopping and this is a good time.
A UPS is a basic battery with a number of bells and whistles that we don't need for tank use and those extra items will cost you a bunch. Most of us don't need an auto switching and instant response which the UPS provides as it is okay for our tanks to shut down for several hours in most of our situations. It is necessary to look over what your situation might be but most of our tanks can go a few hours (at least) with no harm, making other sources of emergency power much better.
If we are looking at a storm ( hurricane, ice, etc. ) we will get a long enough warning to provide for that, if we think in advance so that we are not running around looking for power AFTER we need it. In that situation, you may find the stores are sold out of what you need!
But if it is only a temporary situation where power may be out at your house and you can go shopping, that is a far better time to
go to the store and buy a new fresh, fully charged battery as it will last far better than the UPS. But part of that plan has to also involve the small parts we might need but take longer to acquire. Whatever battery powered pump, heater, etc. that you need may be much slower/harder to get than the battery, so those may need to be stocked way in advance but I favor putting off the actual source like UPS or battery, as I am certain that I can buy a battery in almost any situation the would require it. I do not need instant power, so do not invest in something that slowly dies while stored and not being used.
This is all fine and well, but I'm not telling anybody to buy a UPS system. I have them, so I'm going to use them. Neither are hooked up to my tank, so if there is a electrical burp for some reason, they are not coming on.

I've had the unfortunate situation where my biomedia was killed off. It wasn't the fault of anybody other than myself for not having my well water tested every year. I don't have the option of doing continuous water changes when the power it out as I buy bottled RO water which involves going to the store. In the middle of a hurricane, nobody should be out driving around for anything as it is a good way to drown depending on where a person lives or be impaled by things flying through the air at 70-plus miles per hour just as nobody should be out driving around in the middle of a blizzard or Nor Easter. Far too many people don't know how to drive in snow as it is. Add a couple of feet of drifting snow, and it is a nightmare. When the power is out for days at a time at my house, there is a really good chance it is out at the store I get water from too, so there is no point in leaving the house anyway. We keep extra water around, but it isn't enough for constant water changes.

I have a RO system here at home. I spent a lot of money on it and it was a epic fail. I use it once and have to replace filters as there is so much crap in my well water. Then there is the matter that I don't have running water when the power goes out anyway because well water and our generator isn't big enough to power everything in the house.

I live in semi-state of preparation all the time. Maybe where you live you don't have to do this, but where I am, if there is mention of snow, hurricane or Nor Easter a week ahead of the actual storm that may or may not happen, it causes panic. People can't flock to the store fast enough to buy 10 gallons of milk and ice cream which depending on the time of year the the kind of storm it is, there is a chance that all that stuff is going to go bad. I'm not interested in dealing with that kind of crazy whether there is a storm coming or not and I don't.
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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-02-2019, 05:56 PM Thread Starter
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Agree that you are not in tooo bad trouble. Some of the things mentioned are good but also the type of filter can have some difference as well. A canister is very much closed for air when it stops running, so that means the bacteria get less O2 and die somewhat quicker in canisters. And I also agree that five hours is not a terrible problem on tanks which have been running long enough to get the "slick stuff" on walls, plants, sub and all the rest. That slick stuff is often something we clean off but lots of it are the bacteria, so part of the question is going to be how clean everything like the plants were. Kind of a catch -22 on being somewhere being too much debris to make ammonia too fast and being too clean so that you've just given the good bacteria large hit if you've just scrubbed them off everything you could find?
Assuming the way most of us would be, we are not neurotic enough to have just scrubbed all that stuff off the plants, etc. so maybe only 50 % was in the filters anyway and all that is still getting some O2 as the water moves around.
So my plan would be to do a few more water changes, while watching for anything to show up or any fish to act odd, like strange behavior, banging into things like they need to scratch, etc. or ammonia enough to test. But a few good water changes is almost always a good med, almost like aspirin. Give 'em a few , just in case? Don't do any major changes for a while and let things get normal again before doing anything like super cleaning or moving plants, etc. that tends to upset a tank and the bacteria.
In future, if you are where the tanks are, doing small frequent water changes is one way to both remove pollution and get the right temperature and clean water with O2 in it moved through the system. I think of it as kind of setting up your own little creek, where new water comes in at intervals?
Nice analogy! It sounds like I am much better off than I thought I was. I'm doing ammonia tests right now at work, and the 29 gallon tank (with the highest bio load) is at 0 along with the 1st of my 10 gallon tanks, so that bodes well for the rest of them. Also, I'm not big on scrubbing things down -- I try to leave things alone as much as possible! Lots of slimy walls around here, though I do clean front & occasionally side glass if there is algae.

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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-02-2019, 06:26 PM
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It almost always comes down to adapting what we read to fit what we actually have in our personal situations. One of the easy things to miss is that many of us will have good clean tap water that stays warm for quite a long time, even if the water heater is an electrical type. Most will have 30-50 gallons of hot water and that water heater will often stay well above normal fish tank water for aout a day. That leaves many of us able to go to the tank and drain off enough hot water to do a water change, even though the electrical heating and well pump are out.
But where many of us do fail is in the thought process and remembering what all we have on hand that will get us by the crisis.
If we are in one of those spots where things tend to go out frequently, we do have to work harder and part of that would be having some form of alternate heat available! If we have heat, we can make water good enough to get by for a couple days but if we run out of water in that amount of time, we probably will have bigger problems to worry about than keeping fish alive!
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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-02-2019, 06:51 PM Thread Starter
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At this point I'm pretty lucky in that most of my fish are fine without heaters -- guppies, bettas, cherry shrimp and mystery snails, mostly!

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