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Saltwater Aquarium Emergencies

Contingency plan must be in place once any of the saltwater aquarium emergencies occur. You need to know how to keep you saltwater aquarium pets alive.

The most common emergencies when we talk about saltwater aquariums are power failure, water leaks, overheating and pollution.

We won’t really know when an emergency will happen. If we do, then we wont call it an emergency do we?

Try to pay attention to your saltwater aquarium fish and invertebrates when an emergency happens.

It can cause extreme stress that can lead to fish diseases.

Power Failure

Puffer Fish

You can’t really do anything to prevent a power failure. This is one of the most common saltwater aquarium emergencies than can happen.

Try to aerate the water when the power is down. Power outages are usually temporary. It should not even last for more than 24 hours. So your saltwater fish and invertebrates should be fine.

It is also smart to own a battery-powered air pump. It helps you maintain dissolved oxygen levels. And to keep the heat, try to wrap a blanket – the thick ones, or even a sleeping bag around the aquarium. And don’t to feed your fish when there’s a power outage. Remember that the filters are not working!

But if you live in an area where there are usually power failures all the time, try to invest on a portable generator for your saltwater aquarium. Yes, this is a very expensive option.

Well, you’ve already invested hundred of dollars setting up and maintaining your saltwater aquarium. Don’t take the chance of losing everything in just one power failure. You’ll save both time and money later on anyways with a generator.

Water Leaks

What about leaks? Another one of the saltwater aquarium emergencies that you may encounter. There is a low chance that this will happen to your saltwater aquarium. But if it happens, you should know what to do!

Try to collect the water leaking from the aquarium into a bucket as much as possible. Then place your saltwater fish and invertebrates into it. Be sure to aerate the water.

Hurry out and run to your nearest local fish dealer and get a replacement. Transfer all the equipments, including the gravel to the new aquarium. Then add the fish and water from the bucket.

Try not to repair the aquarium. It may take too long and your fish won’t live in buckets for more than 24 hours.


A broken heater can lead to overheating. Most saltwater aquarium fish can handle up to 86 degrees Fahrenheit of water temperature. They don’t really like it though.

The best way of dealing with this saltwater aquarium emergency is by avoiding it! Try to use two smaller, less powerful heaters instead of one large one.

This way, when problem occurs, you can detect it during your daily routine check. Not before it literally boil your saltwater fish alive!

Moorish Idol

But when the problem actually happens to you, turn the heater down immediately. Remove 20 to 50 % of water and place floating ice bags in the aquarium itself.

You should save the water that was removed and let it cool down. When the temperature is in the normal range, you can slowly return the water in the aquarium.


This is the rarest of the saltwater aquarium emergencies - Pollution! This won't happen if your filtration system is working properly.

But what if one of the fish dies? And let’s say you didn’t know that it’s been dead for a day or two in your saltwater aquarium. Ammonia and dissolve oxygen will rise! pH will drop! POLLUTION ALERT!

What if you notice that the water became cloudy and the water stinks? I would recommend changing the water. Up to 50 % would be good. Change the carbon in your filters and then test the water. Try to change up to 20% more if the water doesn’t improve.

Try not to feed the fish until the water condition return to normal. When the condition stabilizes, change or rinse the filter media and replace the filter carbon.

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