Power Outages - Lessons learned
OK... now that we've got power back on after our huge windstorm up here in WA state, I just want to pass on some "lessons learned" to folks just starting out. I'm guessing that most seasoned aquarists have lived through several power outages already and this will all be obvious to them, so that's why I'm posting it here. (Moderators can feel free to move this if they see fit!)
1. WRAP YOUR TANK - As soon as the power goes out, wrap your tank completely with something insulative. Make sure you wrap it on all sides, which implies if you're locating it against a wall, and you have hang-on back equipment, leave enough room behind that equipment so you can get back there.
I wrapped my 46 gallon with two queen size comforters and didn't ever open it up until the power came back on. I started out with 76.6 degree water. 36 hours later when the power came back on, and the inside of the house was at 51 degrees, the tank kwas at 70.4 degrees. I was amazed! (However, during 8 hours of that outage, I had power to my heaters via a battery backup. See further note below.)
2. KEEP THE SURFACE AGITATED - If you have a battery backup or finite source of backup power, use that enegy to run a powerhead or hang on filter or something low-wattage to keep the surface agitated. You can run a little powerhead waaaaay longer than a heater on backup power.
3. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ROOM BEHIND YOUR TANK - See #1 above. Leave enough room back there including all your hang on equipment.
4. BACKUP POWER - I hate the drone of generators, and our power is not normally out for long periods. So, I purchased a Xantrex PowerSource 400 battery backup. This was it's first "for real" use. Regular computer UPSs don't have enough amp-hours to really run anything aquariumish for very long. The PowerSource is beefy, heavy, big and is rated at 400W. After the initial outage, it ran my 2x 100W heaters, a Penguin Biowheel 100, and a Maxijet 600 for just about 7 hours. Luckily, my work still had power so when my PowerSource ran out of juice, I charged it back up at work. I then took it home and just hooked it up to the BioWheel100 and Maxijet 600 and left the heaters off. It was still going strong with more than 50% capacity left after 18 hours of use.
I'd seriously recommend this unit to everyone even though common recommendations are "battery backups don't last long enough". This is true for most computer backups, but there are a few units out there that are meant for more than just orderly shutdown of a computer, and are worth the money in my opinion.
However... in the future, seeing how long my tank stayed warm, I'll probably just unplug the heaters from it to save the energy for water agitation.
5. WHEN POWER RETURNS, REACCLIMATE YOUR FISH - Don't jack the heat up too fast. Your fish has gotten used to the lowered temperature as it SLOWLY decreased. If you're running two heaters, maybe just run one heater for a while as your tank gets warmer. And don't unwrap the insulation until the room reaches at least the tank temperature. No need to pump the heat from the tank into your room.
This goes with lighting too. I just let the fish get used to room lighting and about 8 hrs later just turned on the actinics. I did turn on all the lights for a moment (accidentally) and he freaked out. I suppose it makes sense... if you were in a dark room with no lights for 36 hours and suddenly someone busted in with a flashlight, you'd freak too.
6. DON'T STRESS - Hard to do, but as long as you're doing everything you can to keep things stable in the tank, stressing about it won't help.
Being just a newbie myself, I don't mean for this to be an all encompassing list of what to do. I just wanted to let folks just starting out know that a power outage isn't the end of the world for your tank. I thought it was going to be when my house was 51 degrees! My O.Clownfish *seems* to be doing OK, he's eating again like normal and seems to wander around the tank more than before. (Guess with the lights off he found the rest of the tank he didn't know existed!) No corals yet, so I got lucky there... but the only casualty I could find so far was one snail who I think pitched off a rock at some point and augered himself into the substrate which he couldn't right himself from.