Power Outages and Your Reef Tank

power outage
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    Do I need power failure protection for my reef tank?

    Pretty much all of us have experienced a power outage, and if you haven’t, you will at some point, it’s inevitable. While this can be a stressful time for any human, it can be a life-or-death situation for your reef tank inhabitants. But, with some foresight and careful planning, many power failure implications can be avoided or at least manageable until power is restored and normality is restored to your reef tank.

    What happens to a reef tank when the power fails?

    Oxygen levels will start to drop as there is no water circulation or agitation on the surface. The pumps in your tank are actually oxygenation the water as it moves it around your tank, with this constant circulation, oxygen levels will drop. Ammonia will rise as the levels of good bacteria in the tank will drop. The water temperature will change. Small changes can be tolerated if kept within safe levels(for example 74f to 80f). If it’s winter, chances are your reef tank water temp will drop. If it’s Summer, the temp will obviously rise. So, the key is to ensure the temperature stays within safe limits until power is restored.

    When could my fish die without power?

    If you have a small aquarium then stress to fish, followed by the death of fish could occur in as little as 2 or 3 hours. If you have a larger well-maintained reef tank, then you should have more time, typically 6-12 hours following the power outage. There are many factors of course that could affect the timing, such as ambient temperature of the room, Winter or Summer, water quality, time since last feed, fish breeds etc.

    Can my corals die without power?

    Some corals are even more sensitive to water conditions than fish. In particular, SPS corals have been known to die within as little as 1-2 hours. The rise of ammonia combined with the reduction of oxygen and change in temperature can stress or kill most corals given enough time. A popular tip to give your corals some light during an outage is to direct sunlight from a mirror onto the tank.

    Should I feed my fish during a power outage?

    If you feed your fish during a power outage, then the fish waste will produce ammonia as usual. But, with levels of good bacteria dropping due to the temperature drop, then this ammonia will build up to dangerous levels and start killing off your inhabitants. As the temperature drops, so will the fish and invert’s metabolism, which means they will consume less oxygen and will produce less poop, which is a good thing as the oxygen levels will be dropping. So, by not feeding you are reducing their need for oxygen. Fish can generally live for about 5-7 days without food, so there is no need to be concerned about that.

    How can I add oxygen to the reef tank during a power outage?

    You can manually do this by scooping out the reef tank water and slowly pouring back into the tank from a height of around 18″ to 24″, and repeat for a few minutes every 30 mins or so. This agitates the water allowing nitrogen and carbon dioxide to be released, ultimately allowing oxygen to be absorbed back into the water. Alternatively, if you have a backup generator, periodically plug your tanks equipment in to keep levels up. If you don’t have a generator, then you can purchase battery or rechargeable air pumps made especially for reef tanks. These are as cheap as $15, well worth having as they last around 2 or 3 days on a single charge and will keep oxygen levels up with zero hassle. You can also buy battery packs that you could plug a powerhead into, you can then direct it to ensure plenty of surface water agitation.

    How can I keep my reef tank cool during a power outage?

    There are some simple basic steps to take if your house is hot and you want to prevent the reef tank from heating up in the Summer during a power outage. Add ice packs to the tank. These can be prepared in advance of such an eventuality by adding ice cubes to a zip-lock bag or freezing a plastic bottle of water. You can use pretty much use anything to contain the ice, just make sure it is sealed and won’t add any contaminants to the tank. Ensuring the tank is not exposed to direct sunlight is also a good idea and any methods of keeping the ambient temperature in the room down, such as keeping windows and doors open etc.

    How can I keep my reef tank warm during a power outage?

    The Winter months in most of the world can bring incredibly low temperatures and during a power outage, your reef tank temp could plummet significantly. There are a few simple methods to keep the heat in there as long as possible. Firstly, you can wrap your tank in blankets, but make sure there is a gap at the top to allow for any gas exchange. Similarly to methods for keeping the tank cool, you can add warm bottles of water(or other floating containers). Aim to keep the room where your tank is as warm as possible. The less difference between your room temp and your tank temp, the more time you have.

    I have a generator, am I good to go?

    Depending on your generator you may find that it is limited to how much energy it generates. Also, you will probably be using the generator for other things in your house such as lights, kettle, charging of phones etc. So, you will not be running your reef tank from a generator 24/7 that is for sure. So, the recommendation is, if you can switch to battery packs for powerheads, and/or battery air pumps, the easier it will be. You can then keep an eye on the tank temperature and then switch to your generator to keep the heat levels within safe parameters in Winter. You may be able to run everything from your generator, but its good knowing that your tank inhabitants are getting oxygen 24/7 with a battery air pump for just a few dollars.

    Recommended Products

    Below are some recommended products to help get you and your reef tank inhabitants through any power outage.

    Air Pumps

    Rechargeable Air Pumps

    Keep Reef Tanks Oxygenated

    Most good rechargeable air pumps have enough power to work continuously for around 18 hrs, or intermittently for 26 hrs. This can keep your reef tank oxygenated during a lengthy power outage.
    They often come with the option of recharging via USB or power by battery.

    Power Stations

    Portable Power Stations

    Power any Reef Tank Equipment

    A portable power station is a great asset for your reef tank during a power outage. They can provide you with a whole host of options as they allow connecting 3 & 2 prong power cables, USB cables and more.
    They can be recharged themselves in a multitude of ways from mains power, car lighters, or even solar power.



    Power any Reef Tank Equipment

    Positioned outside your house, a gas/petrol generator is useful all year round. Providing enough power to run virtually household appliance, they can easily run everything a reef tank may require to keep tank healthy during any length power outage.
    Plenty of quality brands are available and at a price to suit any budget and power requirement you may have.

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