You’re listening to Fish Grow Plants—A podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft.
Hello, and welcome to Fish Grow Plants, today’s episode is all about my power outage experience in the cold Texas winter.
This is a true story. That’s why I want to share it now—so I don’t forget stuff that could be helpful to you if you ever face a similar situation.
So, it was February 2021. Texas.
At a little past 4am, on Monday the 15th, I lost power (electricity that is, just to be clear). And it was cold and snowy outside. I decided to get up and just start the day early—via batter powered lights—so I could be of help later, if needed. The temperature in the house was in the mid 60’s at the time of the outage. In approximately three hours it dropped to the low/mid-fifties. (The thermostat is battery controlled, so it was always telling me how cold it was in the house.)
Honestly, I did nothing to my system—I didn’t feed the fish, or even adjust settings on a single thing. I really thought power would be back by the end of the day. That’s why I went to work—the generator there had things nice and toasty; relative to my place.
But the power didn’t come back on that afternoon, or at 6pm, or even 9pm. And it was still cold and snowy outside. The house temp was now around 43F and the fish tank water temperature was fixing to drop below 60F.
Still feeling optimistic about the return of power, I figured I might as well try to get my fish a little air. So, I grabbed the equipment I used to transport them with and set it up. Hooking up that air pump to a small inverter on a battery pack probably did more for me psychologically than it did for the fish, but nothing died or froze during the day.
Since my confidence in the length of the outage was waning, I only ran the pump for about ten minutes that evening. I knew the DO (dissolved oxygen) would be higher in cold water but was uncertain if ten minutes would do anything to increase the DO substantially.
Fast forward to Tuesday morning. Still no power. Still cold and snowy outside. The house temp was around 40F, and the fish water temp was getting closer to that every hour.
At this point, it’s been 24 hours and I’m contemplating what the minimum “help” I can give my fish and plants until power is restored. I decided to not touch the sprout tray (that had been covered since Sunday), and to run the pump for another 10 or 15 minutes. I also decided to manually circulate water through the system. That just meant I was scooping water from the low end and dumping it back in the high end. Trust me, this is not much fun, and if you don’t love your fish and plants, you probably wouldn’t have done this at all! But again, it made me feel better, and it could cause no harm (other than wearing me out).
Tuesday evening had me a little worried. I decided to test the ammonia level, and it was creeping up to the “stressed” area for the fish. So, I decided to run the air for an hour while I scooped more water and added fresh water, in hopes of diluting the ammonia and raising the DO. I had still not fed the fish since Sunday evening, and I was glad I hadn’t (I can’t imagine the ammonia they would put out on a full stomach).
Surprisingly, the fish seemed ok after that, so I calmed down, as best I could in a 40 degree house and went to bed. (By this time, I had figured out my camping routine and was actually sleeping pretty good.)
Wednesday morning, I repeated the hour-long air pumping, coupled with water transfers and additions. I could only manage about a 25% change of fish tank water before I got fed up with the scooping. But, everything was still alive. Cold and grumpy, but still alive.
At work that day, we were hearing reports and possibilities of the outage lasting through the weekend, or to the weekend at best. It had been over 48 hours since it went out—we were not very happy people…
Wednesday evening, I walked into my house, put my stuff down and heard a random beep noise. I went into the kitchen thinking a battery backup must have died, but no! The power flickered, and then came on! I actually wish I could have seen the look on my face.
Figuring this might only be a temporary situation (I still had little hope in the grid I guess), I immediately made sure the fish had all the air and water pumps on, with the heaters going as well.
Needless to say, a hot shower was the next thing I did. But afterwards, I checked the fish water and was glad to see everything was returning to normal, even if it would take a while to get the water temperature up.
I’ll end this story by saying the power never did go out again, or even flicker! I slept warm and cozy, as did my fish. But I did leave my battery pack charging, just in case…
So what the point of this rambling story of mine?
Be prepared. That’s the point. I knew a power outage could occur—I’ve been through them before, but usually they don’t last too long. As a back-up measure, I have my battery pack and inverter that can limp me along. It’s not pretty, but it works in a pinch.
If I had to give advice to myself, it would be something like this:
Don’t overcrowd your fish tank, so when (not if) you have an outage, your fish don’t use up all the oxygen in the water within a few minutes.
Have a short-term support system in place, like a batter pack and inverter (and it wouldn’t hurt to make sure you have enough tubing, wire, etc. to use it easily).
Practice with your support system. No, you don’t have to turn off the main power, just get all the support stuff out and hook it up so you know how it works.
If you have a bigger system, or have long power outages, maybe a generator, or a decent sized solar battery system would be great. This one could end up pretty expensive, so you’ll have to judge for yourself if it’s worth the cost. For me right now, it’s overkill and not practical, but I’m planning on one for my next system!
Ok, just to leave you with some concrete information, the two critical parts I used to get through this power outage were:
BoosterPac Brand ES2500 12-volt power supply, and a
Foval 150-watt power inverter
There you have it. My story, and a few tools to take away, and hopefully prepare with, in case you ever find yourself facing a power outage in the middle of winter.
I hope this never happens to you, but if it does, I hope you are well prepared.
Questions! Let me have them! Do you need clarification, more information, or maybe you just have a tangent thought—send all your thoughts my way. See the website fishgrowplants.com for episode details, or just fire off an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you.
So, was this episode good, bad, ugly, or other? Let me know! Comment, email, smoke-signals it doesn’t matter! I love to hear from you. Your feedback is immense, and I am always grateful for it. Likewise, thank you for taking the time to listen and share your thoughts. Have a wonderful day.
This has been another episode of Fish Grow Plants—the podcast all about practicing and sharing the love of aquaponics; hosted by Logan Schoolcraft