Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Power Outage! - How Me And My Fish Survived Hurricane Katrina


There are lots of web pages about what to do in the event of a power outage. Here is my story of 15 days of no power and five weeks of no drinkable/usable water and how all of my fish in my three tanks survived the ordeal. I'm writing this nearly two years after the event so forgive any lapses or inconsistencies in the story. I'm trying to be as accurate as possible without Googling all of my previous forum posts about my ordeal.

Preparing For The Big One -

I prepared my home for the coming hurricane, as I have done many times over the years. I stocked up on lots of food and beverages that would be consumable without power. I taped and boarded up windows and battened everything else down as secure as possible. Filled the bathtub with water (to be used for flushing the toilet and washing up each night). Filled every spot in my refrigerator and freezers with bottled water so it would be cold and/or frozen (dual purposes - to save my other frozen/refrigerated foods and for use as drinking water when it finally thawed out). I stocked up on emergency supplies as found on the many web pages with emergency preparedness information. Now I was ready... but what about my three fish tanks?

In preparation for the coming hurricane, I did daily 25% PWC's, vacuumed the gravel super good and did proper filter maintenance so the tank ecology, biology and chemistry would be in the best possible condition. I purchased several bundles of Anacharis (Elodea) plants and had plenty floating in my three tanks. These grow fast even with low light so they suck up nitrates and CO2 and put out lots of O2. I know I should keep battery powered air stones but I didn't have them and when I went looking for them, none were to be found. So I prepared the natural way with plants and good water. (Edit added August 2008 - Now I have UPS battery backups on all of my tanks... at least for the filter systems and a nice big generator and window A/C unit for me and the fish. The UPS systems, same as used for computers, protect the filter systems from electrical spikes/surges and also keep the filters running for an hour or so if there is a short term power outage, you will not lose all of your biological filtration and hopefully not dump all the stagnant water back into your tank if the power is off for more than an hour or two.)

Sunday, August 28, 2005 - The Day Before Katrina -

Eight of my neighbors and I had decided to ride out Hurricane Katrina, out of the 47 condo units in our courtyard with over 100 residents... only nine of us were smart enough and/or crazy enough to stay! ;-) You'll find out why I say "smart enough" a little later.

The weather was bad all day but the winds didn't pick up till after it got dark. Due to the way the power lines run through a bunch of trees on the edge of our property, I knew we would lose power quickly since we lose power all the time whenever the wind blows... but surprisingly, we did not lose power until Monday morning around 5:30 a.m. By that time, Hurricane Katrina was well inland and the winds had shifted to where they were coming out of the northwest.... but they were coming faster and gusting harder than they had in the past 24 hours. As of that time, I had nearly zero damage to my 2nd floor condo... just a few minor roof leaks, mostly from wind driven rain getting under the roof flashing and from where the A/C units wiring and copper tubing coming through the roof... but after the power went out, due to the really hard winds, I could hear glass breaking and large objects hitting the buildings around mine... but my unit was still almost completely saved from major damage.

Here's where the "smart enough" part comes in. By riding out a hurricane, when a small roof leak starts up, you will see a small wet spot form on your ceiling. Simply poke a hole through the wet drywall/plaster and put a bucket under it so it drains. If you don't do this, the ceiling eventually fills up with enough water that the entire thing comes down ruining all of your furniture, etc. I had a total of four areas of my ceiling throughout my unit and had to poke around 10 holes in the ceiling, all together, but I never had any catastrophic ceiling damage from Hurricane Katrina or the rains the followed in the coming days, weeks and months until the roof was finally fixed. Many of my neighbors, who evacuated, came home to find their units a complete wreck and all of their life's possessions ruined, moldy and mildewed.

Monday, August 29, 2005 - Katrina Is Causing Havoc All Around Me

Once the sun came up, I could see pink insulation pieces wrapped around the tree in front of my front window and there were 4' x 8' sheets of plywood and roofing material all over the courtyard... it was the roof from the north building in our courtyard and the wind had basically peeled the back rubber membrane of the flat roof up and folded it over but the plywood roofing panels became air born objects... the large objects that were hitting the buildings around mine. A tree was in the swimming pool. All night long, Sunday night into Monday morning, I could hear what sounded like boulders rolling around on my roof... it was the round A/C compressor units that had been knocked over and were rolling back and forth, some still connected by the copper tubing and wiring, some others completely loose but somehow they did not roll off the flat roof of the building.

The wind subsided dramatically on Monday afternoon but the rains continued all day and the water kept rising until it eventually rose to around 12" inside the 1st floor condos. Later we would find out that our idiotic Parish President, Aaron Broussard, had sent all of the flood pump workers out of town so nobody was around to start up the generators or do maintenance on the pumps to pump the rain water out into Lake Pontchartrain or the Bonne Carre Spillway so it just filled up the low lying areas inside of our levee protection system. We tried to do a recall petition on him to throw the bum out of office but Louisiana politics being what they are, it's very difficult to throw a bum out of office. Heck, the idiotic voters down here even re-elect the Each Parish (same as County) in the Metro New Orleans area is protected by its own Levee Protection System and our levees did their job while the City Of New Orleans, just 5 miles west of me, had catastrophic failures to many areas of their levee system which resulted in Lake Pontchartrain and the Mr. Go (Mississippi River Gulf Outlet) flooding into New Orleans filling them up with up to 10' of water in many areas. Only Uptown (formerly the City Of Carrollton) and the French Quarter (still called the Vieux Carre in tourist items) escaped the major flooding. Of course, these were two areas of the city that were first inhabited a couple hundred years ago. I guess those early settlers knew how to look for high ground when they were settling into new cities in America.

How I Saved My Fish -

EVERY HOUR after the power went out, except when I was sleeping (which was only around 4 hours a night since it was so dang hot and humid), I would pour 10-20 32 oz. cups of tank water through the HOB on my 65G. I would also pour 10-20 32 oz. cups of water through the canister filter. I have a Rena Filstar Canister and there is a black cap that can be unscrewed on the top of the intake/suction line and a small funnel can be screwed in so that water poured into the funnel goes down into the canister and returns like normal. This is used to prime the canister when it first gets set up or if it ever loses it's prime during maintenance/cleaning. On my smaller tanks, with HOB's I would do the same thing with lesser amounts of water volume depending on the size of the tank.

This solved two of the problems that occur with a power outage. This manual "filtration" kept my biological filter media alive and kept my tanks aerated enough, since I keep my HOB's raised up high by putting dowels between the HOB and the tank so the waterfall always creates a splash. I know some people do not like this splash noise but it's a huge help in keeping the water aerated and causes more surface agitation to allow for proper gas exchange. FWIW, I found that HOB's are much easier to pour water through manually, compared to canisters. This manual water filtration process was a nuisance but it kept my tanks well aerated and filtered enough to keep them healthy.

One other thing I forgot so far... I also had my computer UPS (battery back up) that I would charge up every couple of days, when a friend with a car and power inverter would come by (my own car was flooded by the flood waters) and I would run the filters on this battery backup for about 5 minutes each every night before I went to bed. Then I would wake up in a couple of hours and do it again. This allowed me to get a couple of hours of sleep without worrying too much about my fish.

BTW... I did not lose a single fish during the 15 days of no power and five weeks of no drinkable water in any of my three tanks. Part of this was because of my pre-hurricane preparation and my diligence in doing the manual filtration of the water but the biggest reason is because NONE of my tanks were overstocked and they had easy-to-grow live plants in them. I didn't try to beat out Mother Nature using chemicals, I just worked with her on my tanks by setting them up more naturally and stocking them lightly.

At the time, I had a 65G Goldfish tank with three fancy goldfish, around 2"-3" each, two Golden Mystery snails and a recently rescued 4" common pleco (rescued from a severely overstocked 10G tank). I also had a 20G tank with two blue/opaline Gourami's (stunted and only 3" each... also from the 10G rescue tank) and three Albino Buenos Aires Tetras (also from the 10G rescue tank). I had a 10G tank with four Zebra Danio's (also from the 10G rescue tank). I was planning on buying a matching 65G tank and setting up the tropicals in their own large tank but Hurricane Katrina changed all of my fish keeping plans.

The power finally came back on the 15th day after Katrina but the water still wasn't drinkable due to the numbers of cracks in the utility pipes that needed to be repaired. I didn't have enough water pressure up to my 2nd floor condo for nearly three weeks after Katrina. I would take showers down by the pool every day about a week after Katrina when we finally had even a little water pressure. Prior to that, I would stand in my tub (that I had smartly filled up prior to Katrina) and pour 32 oz. cups of nice cold water over my head as my nightly shower. LOL

Five weeks after Katrina, the local water utility announced it was safe to drink the water without boiling it. I was finally able to do a PWC on my tanks.

Unfortunately, about a week after my first PWC, I did lose my two apple snails. At first I thought it might be something in the water but after further research and investigation, I think they starved to death since I was doing very limited feeding of all of my fish during this five week ordeal so maybe they weren't getting enough to eat. I did start feeding everyone better after I did the PWC so I'm not sure why the snails died.. but I know that is one thing that will kill a snail quick.. lack of food.

My plan worked for my fish and tanks and I didn't even have a mini-cycle during the entire ordeal. I now have UPS (battery back-ups) on all of my tanks and I have a power inverter that I can run off of my truck cigarette lighter to recharge them daily (hoping the truck doesn't flood) so I am much better prepared for hurricane season now.

Links in alphabetical order by website name:

And now some links to other sites with "how-to" information dealing with power outages in both hot and cold weather. It seems it is a lot easier to deal with hot weather power outages over cold weather power outages. Remember that some of these links are to for-profit sites so they recommend using their products.... some of which I do not feel are necessary but the information is still valuable.







http://www.goldfishconnection.com/articles/details.php?articleId=154&parentId=2 (They push a lot of their products on this page, which probably are not necessary, but some of the information is still good)



I hope this helps!


  1. i liked how you saved your fish good thinking josh from gold fish group

  2. Thank you so much for this blog. We are trying to prepare for Gustav at the moment, and this is our first hurricane with our aquariums. We are in Lafayette. This has been most helpful!

  3. Lenny V.

    I seen a post from you regarding EasyBalance by Tetra.

    However, I am puzzled as to the conclusion of that whole subject ...

    Is it the Sodium Hydroxide and Tartaric Acid which is responsible for the ph/nitrate balancing properties? Do you suspect other ingredients as being the responsible agents?

    If you have any further thoughts, facts or suspicions I'd love to hear them.


  4. Josh,

    After doing the research for that post a couple of years ago, I haven't done any follow up research but I still strongly suggest that people NOT use EasyBalance. I still get Tetra's monthly emails and they still encourage people that they do not have to do PWC's (partial water changes) except every six months when using EasyBalance which is a pathetic thing to do to the fish. I'd like to stick the Tetra scientists in an outhouse to live in for six months at a time so they could see what it's like to live in a small space full of their own waste for six months.

  5. Very good explained article. Thanks a lot of useful material.



Related Posts with Thumbnails

World Flag Counter added April 14, 2010 and U.S. State's Flag Counter added April 22, 2010

World Flag Counter added April 14, 2010 so the numbers are artificially low by over 10,000 hits (pageviews) based on Google's Adsense numbers. I'm only showing the top 60 countries but if you want to see the full list, open the FlagCounter in a new tab/window and you can then navigate around to see a Map, List, etc. The "Visitors" number is based on unique visitors so this counter does not re-count the same person who visits again. free counters Free counters!