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Old 01/07/2008, 02:34 PM
Shekki Shekki is offline
Registered Member
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: SLC
Posts: 270
Trusting people with your tank

I recently went out of town for 10 days and had my neighbor watch my house, complete with one cat and two fish tanks. They are both equipped with ATO units and besides feeding them, should be no fuss, no muss. The JBJ ATO on my 75 gallon sometimes doesn't fill the sump all the way. I'm not sure why, but it's the second JBJ that acts like that. All you have to do is turn the switch off, wait about 15 seconds, and turn it back on. I explained this to him and how important it was to make sure the proper water level was maintained in the sump. I have a line on the sump so it's easy to see where the water level should be.

10 days later I walk in the house and notice there's no surface water movement. I open the cabinet and find that the sump was empty! There was no water even getting to the pump! I don't know how long this had been an issue but surprisingly the little giant pump did not burn up. I quickly switch on the ATO and it started refilling the tank. I think my sump holds around 13-15 gallons. The ASM skimmer somehow made it as well. He also managed to turn off a powerstrip that controlled the powerheads in the tank.

My leathers were slumped over and my bubbles were all shriveled. All the fish, clam, and shrimp seemed to be OK. It's been 5 days and things are looking better now.

I asked my business partner to feed my fish in my office and make sure the top off water tank was filled. He did neither. My 24 gallon nano was 5 gallons shy of water and the pumps were running dry on that also. He never fed my fish. Everyone is still alive but I'm not sure if I can ever leave home for more than a weekend again.
75 gallon semi-aggressive soft reef
56 gallon all in one peaceful mushroom reef
24 gallon mantis and clam
Old 01/07/2008, 02:56 PM
Rosseau Rosseau is offline
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Toronto
Posts: 1,704
It's tough... I know how you feel.

I've lost a tank this way.
Still fighting entropy.
Old 01/07/2008, 02:58 PM
DavidA717 DavidA717 is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Greenville, NC
Posts: 42
yeah, maybe you should try and find someone that also has tanks, then you will know that they know what can happen if they dont take care of it.
- Dave
Old 01/07/2008, 02:58 PM
TrojanScott TrojanScott is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Lake Forest, CA
Posts: 1,194
I'm going to comment on this and say two things. One, I'm sorry that happened.
Two, pay someone to do it. I happen to offer tank sitting in my area, and have had two people employ me. I've done the same when I've left town, paid another reefer to do it.
I have heard people complain about paying someone to look over their tanks, but when you have thousands of dollars invested in your hobby, why wouldn't you invest a little more to make sure it was safe? I know when I'm paid to do a job, it's something I take seriously... more so than something I'd do as "a favor."
Just something to think about next time.
Old 01/07/2008, 03:01 PM
rustybucket145 rustybucket145 is offline
Nightime Tank Cleanin'
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: valdosta, ga
Posts: 3,436
That's why it's good to have a 'tank buddy' Somebody local that knows your system and it's inhabitants. Also, someone who has their own saltwater tank as well. Kinda a 'I watch yours you watch mine' deal. This has worked out very nicely for me in the past.
90gal display
40gal propagation/refugium tank
30gal sump
Old 01/07/2008, 03:07 PM
The_Browns The_Browns is offline
Premium Member
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Winter Garden, FL
Posts: 118
Tank buddies are always nice
Life me = new Life();;
Old 01/07/2008, 03:14 PM
dhoch dhoch is offline
Aggressive Reef Keeper
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Maryland
Posts: 1,576
I also pay someone to come take care of our tank (and dog... we hate the kennels)...

I also have a couple of people on "call" from the local reef club. If there is a problem that is more than feeding and makeup water they can help.

A paid person is responsible. Especially if they do it for a living... references and $$$ always speak loudly.

Check out my tanks website... click the red box above my post
Old 01/07/2008, 03:46 PM
Craig Lambert Craig Lambert is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 2,676
I have a neighbor add top-off water and b-ionic two part each day. I think that's as simple as you can make it. In the event of a power failure, I leave my portable generator on the back porch, and an instruction sheet. They also have my cell in the event of power failure so I can walk them through what to do. I think getting juice to two powerheads and adding a heater directly to the tank (with the temp already preset) is fairly easy.
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will spend all day in a boat drinking beer."
Old 01/07/2008, 06:43 PM
thecichlidpleco thecichlidpleco is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Toledo
Posts: 814
as with the comments by rustybucket, unless someone knows saltwater tanks, they are just gonna feed and leave, not know if something is wrong. I got a call, "the air conditioner is out" and no comment about the weather or temperature of tank, I get home and the tank is 89 degrees.
Best bet is to pay a local store $50 an hour to do it like dhoch said.
-it's okay to eat fish because they don't have any feelings.
Old 01/07/2008, 07:03 PM
Macimage Macimage is offline
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Quartz Hill, CA
Posts: 1,155
I also pay someone to stop by every day when we are away to feed and top off the tank. I typed out a long list of instructions they could refer to the first few years. Now they would only need it for the emergency instructions such as a power or pump failure.

Old 01/08/2008, 04:42 PM
Shekki Shekki is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: SLC
Posts: 270
Turns out the guy delegated the duty to his girlfriend's son, who is only 9. It was his way of teaching the kid some responsibility. Sad thing is that the kid has no idea how close he was to killing everything.
75 gallon semi-aggressive soft reef
56 gallon all in one peaceful mushroom reef
24 gallon mantis and clam
Old 01/09/2008, 09:07 AM
deep_sea_Dennis deep_sea_Dennis is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Lagrange, Ohio
Posts: 15
I went on a trip for 4 days a few years ago and left my wife in charge of the tank. when I got back she managed to kill 8 black and white percs I had. she feed them over and over cause " they looked hungry".
Old 01/09/2008, 09:52 AM
Giga Giga is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Chesapeake, VA
Posts: 523
I've thought about this too and this is what I did: I put together a 3 ringed binder explaining every part of my tanks(reef and planted freshwater) from what the stats are how to do it, water top off, what should be turned on/off how to fix timers-everything. It is written to be understood by someone who knows nothing and has lots and lots and lots of picture diagrams. Also everything is in order with a index in the Front. I also have a problem/fix kinda part that i'm working on.So if there is a problem then someone can try and fix it. While this does take a week or so to complete( I had fun doing this) it does help my wife if i'm away and she need to maintain the tank. I leave my father in charge if me and my wife are both away. He likes tanks but doesn't really know how to do it so this helps and i've never had a problem "so far"
"You said it didn't bite!"......."Well"......"It didn't bite me."

Even in failure, your only a failure when you quite trying.
Old 01/09/2008, 10:38 AM
miwoodar miwoodar is offline
I like sticks in my tank
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Displaced Hoosier
Posts: 1,092
Giga - that's a good idea.

I tend to rely on neighbors more than reefers and I leave a detailed instruction sheet full of bullet points. My neighbor takes the job seriously. Any reefer I've ever had taking care of my tank has either tinkered with things way to much (changed the heater setting, not cleaned the skimmer cup, etc) or neglected the tank ('it has an ATO so I do not really need to stop by'). My neighbor has always taken a strict read of the bullets.

I try to stay on-call in case something goes down and I keep a service number in my phone in case it's something major.
Old 01/09/2008, 10:38 AM
Macimage Macimage is offline
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Quartz Hill, CA
Posts: 1,155
I have all my instructions written out in the front of a 3 ring binder too. I have the manuels to all the equipment in it, one page printed out from the Internet on each fish and one page for each of the corals.

Old 01/09/2008, 10:50 AM
ACBlinky ACBlinky is offline
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Join Date: May 2005
Location: Peterborough, ON, Canada
Posts: 3,804
That's brilliant! You guys are very smart, I'm going to make up a binder for anyone who has to care for our tanks when we're gone.

Shekki - that man had NO business 'delegating' to a 9-year-old child, that's not fair to the kid or to you. I'm glad your tank survived his idiocy. I agree with the others, a tank buddy or a paid tanksitter is a very good idea -- having someone who understands more than just the basics taking care of your system can take a huge weight off your mind while you're away.
"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea."
- Isak Dinesen
Old 01/09/2008, 11:17 AM
tkeracer619 tkeracer619 is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Golden, CO
Posts: 3,200
Tank buddies are important, having your system stable is also important.

Shekki, you should not have left town with a tank that has a faulty ATO. If thats the second JBJ that has failed you, I would suggest a different method.

Setting up a web cam gives you the ability to look at your own tank while away. If something looks odd you can call your tank buddy.

There needs to be a claus somewhere saying thy neighbor is allowed to kick thy other neighbors bottom up and down the street should he deligate his tank watching duties onto a kid. I would atleast drop off a bill and say thanks for watching my stuff, this is almost what you cost me.

Your lucky the pumps didnt catch fire and burn down the house.
Colorado is sweet.
I'm always down to go to the MJ
My Turbo Honda -> Click little red house.
Friends don't let friends buy from Front Range Aquatics
Old 01/09/2008, 11:40 AM
miwoodar miwoodar is offline
I like sticks in my tank
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Displaced Hoosier
Posts: 1,092
tke - right on regarding the web cam. I need to figure out how to set mine up. Last time I tried it worked for a few hours then shut off.

I forgot to mention above - my tank has an ATO that has never failed on me (unless I did something dumb to cause it to fail). I also have an automatic battery backup capable of running my stream pumps for over a day, possibly as much as two days.
Old 01/09/2008, 12:31 PM
AquaKnight407 AquaKnight407 is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Orlando, Fl
Posts: 916
The thing is, people will lump our tanks in as pets. Just like a dog, they think all the 'need to do', regardless of what you told them, is just toss some dry in their bowl. Most people have fed flakes to a FW tank at some point, and don't see our tanks as anything 'too much more.'
"Why is the rum always gone?"
Old 01/09/2008, 01:25 PM
MiddletonMark MiddletonMark is offline
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 13,532
The `binder' method has worked well for me too.

One thing to keep in mind is to either have a photo-guide for everything - else label everything. Generally I've labeled each piece of equipment [esp pumps that there may be multiples of] as well as every power cord + timer. Often a sump is crowded and confusing to anyone but you - and having equipment and cords/plugs labeled makes it a lot less scary for them to check things out.

I generally agree on some sort of payment for the tank-sitter [last time it was a bottle of duty-free booze]. That way, they won't delegate it [unless their 9 year old gets the booze ] .... and IMO it's a little encouragement for thoroughness.

Generally, if they're not a pet-lover ... they're probably not going to be a good fit for tank-sitter [person dependent, but ...]. I've found that often having a snack [cookies, something yummy] and some beverages expressly for the tank-sitter meant that they would actually hang around half an hour or so and watch the fish feed/etc. While I can check my tank over in 15 seconds [sump, pumps, water level, ATO, overall health, etc] .... non-reef-folks might take 5 minutes to realize that something's funny.

When I leave town, I've also contacted either our good LFS here or a pair of folks from our reef club to have an `emergency contact' person. The LFS would charge $50 or $75 just to come out .... and my tank sitter was provided a list of weird issues that they could happily call the LFS/etc for [and if not on list, they're okayed to call anyway].
I did make sure the LFS knew about this, was happy to help, and had a clue onto my system and how to find my house.

But, for the investment ... I figured paying a reef club person $$ to answer the call of my tank-sitter [or the LFS] was a cheap investment compared to my livestock [or my house if electrical/other issues].

It can be hard to get the binder, the emergency-contact folks, and the tank/house-sitter all set up. [and still get packed + ready for vacation] But ... once you've got the instruction sheets all worked out, it's very reassuring for the sitter + yourself.

Final thing ... I'd have your spouse proof-read the binder-information. It's easy to confuse non-aquarium people, and nice to have the binder not needing correction when your tank-sitter comes over to be shown everything.

Yup, I'm sometimes over-complete.
But, I'd prefer to completely forget about everything when on vacation, and personally - over-prepared seems to let me forget the best.
read a lot, think for yourself
Old 01/09/2008, 02:08 PM
seapug seapug is offline
clams are your friends.
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: 4980 ft.
Posts: 1,836
I don't have a problem trusting people, I have a problem trusting my tank!

It never fails that every time I leave town something goes haywire in my tank. I now just expect my wife to call to tell me about some crisis with an overflow or spastic fish that lands in her lap while she's watching TV.

Seriously though, if I leave town for more than a couple days, I call a professional maintenance service. As others have said, it is absolutely stupid to cheap out on a couple hundred dollars of insurance on my tank I've spent thousands of dollars on livestock and countless hours creating. I wish I had a tank buddy, but I'm new to my area and a little too old to have friends from school I can call on.

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