Reefkeeping During the Apocalypse

How would you keep your saltwater aquarium alive during an apocalypse? 

It’s not too difficult to keep your fish and reef alive during a power outage if you are prepared ahead of time. All you need are some battery air pumps or backup batteries capable of running powerheads and pumps. EcoTech and IceCap make long-running battery backups that can be daisy chained for more time. If maintaining the temperature is a problem, you can float bottles of hot or frozen water in the tank, changing them often to maintain the temperature. It is wise to insulate your tank with Styrofoam or blankets. Some hobbyists buy gas generators or power inverters to run their equipment if they have a larger aquarium or live in an area prone to hurricanes, blizzards, or other natural disasters. Even if your electricity is off for a few days, with a little preparation you can keep it going with no long-term effects.

Things get tricky when you’re trying to keep an aquarium alive during an apocalypse. Just like preparing to keep yourself alive, you need to prepare for your aquarium inhabitants by gathering items they will need for long term survival.

Stock up on aquarium salt, extra pumpspowerheadslightsheatersskimmersimpellersgaskets and O-ringsreplacement skimmer pumpsfiltersfilter media, even extra aquariums, stands, and sumps in case yours break. Frozen foods will likely be a lost cause at this point so it would be worth it to keep a healthy supply of dry seaweedpellet and/or flake foods on hand. You can seal these in vacuum pack bags for long term storage. You’ll need a lifetime supply of everything, because you won’t be able to purchase these items any longer.

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Most importantly, you’ll need access to clean water. Unless your well has enough water pressure, you may not be able to use your RO unit. If you do, make sure you buy an efficient RO/DI unit that makes a 1:1 ratio of product water to waste water. No one wants to stand around pumping a well for hours every day if they’re wasting 75% of the water like standard RO units do. You probably won’t be able to find much RO or distilled water jugs lying around after the apocalypse, so you would have to stick to fish and soft corals unless you’re willing to make RO water or you live near a beach. You would also be able to collect fresh, live foods for your tank, so you may as well just move to the coast right now.

The biggest challenge in keeping a saltwater tank after an apocalypse will be generating power. If the electricity is lost, it may never return in your lifetime, and you’ll be thrown back into an 1800s lifestyle. You will either need an endless supply of batteries or you’ll need a generator with an endless supply of fuel.

We can also take inspiration from Victorian aquariums that existed before electricity. Victorian era aquariums were not known for their safety or ability to actually keep fish alive. Heaters were open flames, and water movement was accomplished with “Heron Fountains” and a ridiculously complicated system designed by Hermann Lachmann in 1889. If you are so inclined to build your own fountain that works without electricity and happen to be a physicist, it may be worth looking into.

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Lastly, you may be tempted to keep your tank in front of a window to help supply free lighting, but you’ll probably want to hide the fact that you have an aquarium until order is restored. Those who did not prepare for the apocalypse will not appreciate that you have been hoarding supplies, batteries, and tasty live fish while they go hungry. Your blue lights and swimming fish will be a siren song for the hungry masses and may attract zombies, so it might be a good idea to keep your tank and supplies in your secured concrete underground bunker.

Thanks for sticking with us this long.  You made it to the end so heres a small present!

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