Mr. Saltwater Tank

You’ve Spent Thousands On Your Saltwater Tank, Spend $50 or Less To Protect It

One thing that drives me crazy is the amount of money people spend on their saltwater tanks, yet they refuse to spend a single dollar to give themselves a backup plan in case of the most common tank emergency: an extended power outage. Most people think being prepared for an extended power outage requires a generator and while we’d all love to have a generator sitting outside, wired into our house, ready to go, for most of us, that’s beyond our budgets.

By spending $50 or less, and remembering the tip below, you can use the backup power that is already waiting outside. Which would you rather have: a new frag, or an easy way to protect the thousands you’ve already put into your tank?


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Comments for this article (31)

  • Peter says:

    we had a power outage today from 9am to 330pm all i had was prime which seemed to help though the fish were very stressed, but at least i know now about power inverters as i didnt know if they would power my tank

  • Peter…your car likely wont power your whole tank. However, during a power outage, if you don’t run your lights or media reactors, then it’s not the end of the world. I’d focus on the return pump and power heads

  • poloJeff2003 says:

    The only thing is you didn’t explain what it is and how it hooks up to the car.
    Most of them plug right into the cigarette lighter, and the other end is an outlet like the one in your home that you plug your tank equipment into. Just plug in your skimmer pump, for air, and one or more water movement items, and you should be good to go for a while. Make sure the one you buy can handle the amount of watts needed to run the minimal items needed to get through a power outage. For longer power outages, make sure to feed very small amounts, since the rest of the tank items are not operating, and the extra waist can wreck havoc quickly on your water quality.

  • Peter says:

    thanks for letting me know, thought that might be the case

  • Peter says:

    even one pump would have being great, because I was getting a little stressed

  • Tony says:

    Ups!!! got it!!! Best thing to have. If you can get the the biggest one you can.

  • Rick says:

    Inverters work well, but what many people don’t realize is that you can get a 900 watt gasoline generator for under $100. Plenty of power for a return pump and a heater and very simple to operate.

  • Soutzee says:

    Ive uses tgat tip twice works like a charm. And if you you frain the whole battery and your car is manual transmission, you can always push you car to start it and recharge your car battery. 😉

  • Soutzee says:

    Drain* the car battery

  • Steve says:

    Great tip Mark! I’ve used a 350 watt power inverter for this reason very reason before I had a UPS and a generator.

    I must be in a time warp though because my calendar is saying it’s Thursday not Friday 😉

  • Arthur says:

    I use my car when I go camping and a lot of things

  • Mark you have no idea… During Hurricane Sandy my wife called my McGuyver with a car battery a pack of matches and a hand crank radio flashlight combo we went a week plus with no power. I quickly learned that if you run a power inverter off your car battery be ready with extra gasoline. There were lines that went 3 hours plus to get gas. Thank god for the two battery operated air pumps and the Apex with told me the power was fluxuating. I quickly purchased batteries and ran my reef tank and planted tank with out a loss through that entire mess. My tank acually came out ahead as a little unwanted algea died off and I found leather corals started dividing when the power came back on. Man I don’t take anything for granted anymore.
    I quickly bought a generator, gas cans and additional battery powered pumps. a good scout learns from experience. One thing I did find very useful during this was a solar powered garden fountain pump which also moved water nicely. You live and you learn…

  • Its funny that when we lose power the family is running around worried about how to heat dinner charge the cell phones and power the kids night lightsand video games. we only worried about keep the fish swimming…. Lol

    Best hobby on Earth..

  • Tony says:

    Hey me again I live in Florida lighting capital of the world and hurricane alley. I am no stranger to power outages So with that said I have a UPS, generator, and 2 inverters. And a 12v pump if needed. Now I have a question, I read some where that one can use hydrogen peroxide to increas oxygen levels in the tank but you must be careful on how much to put in. Can some one in lighten me with this. Thanks.

  • Barbara says:

    I just happened to have a power outage last night. This is the 3rd outage I have had since I started this hobby last November. The 1st time I was running around trying to find what I needed, I got a couple of the fishing minnow battery operated bubble contraptions and thankfully the power was not out but a few hours. I knew I needed a longer term solution and found a DieHard 425 watt power inverter. The next time the power went out I used the bubbles for about an hour and then decided to try out the DieHard and as soon as I had it plugged into my car and was getting the extension cord toward my tank the lights came on. Last night the exact same thing happened. I used the bubbles for about an hour and then we went to eat, when we got back the lights were still out so I pulled out the DieHard and as soon as I got thing plugged into the car and had the extension cord inside the lights came on. I am not 100% sure this is the right thing to use for this purpose so if anyone has insight let me know. I could test it but once the lights are on you just want to get back to normal.

  • Barbara says:

    My lights were out for 3 weeks during hurricane Ike so I need to get something else, I appreciate this info and plan to get a $100 gas generator soon as we are in peak hurricane season and you never know…

  • Bruce says:


  • Ed says:

    After losing power for almost 2 weeks I purchased a 6500 watt generator and a transfer switch. Unfortunately my generator is not an inverter type which provides cleaner power(and costs more) therefore it won’t run my main pump(mag18) because it is a magnetic pump. Has anyone found a way around this? I was considering a UPS thru the generator but I really don’t want to waste the money if its not going to work.

  • One thing that i found helpful for those considering inverters is having a deep cycle marine battery in a portable case. They sell the battery cases at Target. You can run your tank for quite a while on a charged marine battery and inverter which will take the strain off running your car all night. I also used this set up to power my phone system too as cable companies neglect to tell you”no power, no phones. Charged my cell too. But anyway nothing beats a good old fashion generator.

  • Beth says:

    Hey Steve, I must be in the same time warp because my calender says it’s Thursday too 🙂

  • Barbara says:

    Thanks Dee, I’m checking that out tomorrow.

  • John says:

    I am looking at the solar generators that have there own solar panels.
    I see they have a ac power charger too. Plus you can use it for other thing not for power outage.

  • John says:

    I read this on a web page that i google. It talked of this

    It is a Tripp-Lite LC-1800 that is supposed to provide clean AC output at 120 volts as long as incoming line voltage is between 80 and 180 volts.

    Hope this helps?

  • Pierre-Yves Bouic says:

    Its easy to forget, my aquarium mentor here in OZ who was one of the pioneers of our hobby, with degrees in aquarium sciences from James cook university Peter Jordan, some years ago set up a quarantine import fish plant with hundreds of tanks when he’d completed it all was talking to me about my power outage he realised, Oh dear (cleaned up some what from his real words) I’ve completely forgot about back-up power.
    I his case it meant buying a large gen set to run the centrifugal air turbines for life support as a minimum.
    In my case with a tank room with at that time of 14 tanks I bought a 2 mega watt petrol generator costing about $2000 aus, but cheap gen’s can get your basic needs covered for as little as $200 to $300 for a non brand name unit. Thinking long term I preferred a Honda invertor model for quiet running for up to 14hrs on 1 tank of gas, and its saved me many times because where I’m is surrounded by gum trees that have brittle braches that break & take out the power lines when ever the wind gets up over 50-60,mph. With global weather becoming more unpredictable every season if you want to protect your investment of thousands of bucks or just under 1grand a back-up generator is a must.

  • Barbara says:

    I went to Batteries and Bulbs this weekend and bought a Werker 12V battery and a Genius power plug that charges the battery, all for about $80.00. I have the inverter attached to the battery so it is all together and ready for an outage, just have to plug in the return pump and maybe a powerhead and I am good to go for about a week. Not sure if I need the powerhead or not? Thanks Mark for the push I needed to take care of this! BTW I picked up a hurricane readiness kit while I was there too.

  • I put 2 solar panels to make electricity for 2 bateries …and to feed the leds. My DIY LEDs…. There is 2 diodes to prevent inverse current to the panels or the the powersupply..when the voltage drops in the panels the powersupply kicks in… Usually with sun I spend less electricity… But the best parte is my vortech have that juicy at the emergency input from a single battery 12v… I use 24v for my leds… But they usually work at 28v only 24v without sun…. I have current stabilizers and this voltagem oscilation are not a problem.

  • Without electricity and with a temperate ambient temperature this system can handle more than 1 week with a collapsed electrical structure… My panels can produce at 28v close to 500w

  • Deven says:

    Simplest solution is to just buy a computer UPS and hook it up to your filter/circulation pumps. If your UPS is large enough (and you have LEDs) you may be able to run your lights through it as well..although a circulation pump would be my main concern.

    Solar/batteries is also another great option if you can get the power wires to your aquarium 🙂

  • Deven…even the big UPS’ will quickly get run down if you are running your return pump off of them. They can work, just not for an extended amount of time

  • Nothing outside of a generator will run a pump as long as a good old fashioned car/ or marine 12 volt battery and a inverter.

  • The solar panels are great but expensive. How much and what size did you get Antoine?

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