Aquariums and Summer Syndrome

summer syndrome 2

Summer Syndrome is what happens to aquariums while you’re out having fun — for months at a time.

Summer Syndrome 1

If your aquarium is suffering from summer syndrome, it might look like this.

I know we’re a month into fall, but my aquariums are still suffering from what I call summer syndrome. It’s that sort of forlorn, algae covered, dirty filter look that happens while you are out doing other things – for like, months at a time.

If you are not subject to summer syndrome, congratulations. But I can tell you that most of my tanks suffer it to some degree and they always have.

It’s easy to maintain an aquarium in January when the weather is cold and grey and the tank is warm and inviting. Maybe you’ve even purchased a new fish, plant or coral to raise your interest in the aquarium. No matter what it is, colder weather, and fewer hours of daylight mean more time indoors – enjoying the tank.

I know it’s not just me. During the years I owned the local reef shop, I could always count on business to go up as the temperature went down. Customers would come in and conversations would go like this.


The fish and corals are actually thriving. But the tank looks like …

Me: How’s the tank doing?

Customer: Not so good.

Me: What about that awesome elegance coral you were bragging about?

Customer: Well, my son got married and then we went to the beach, and my softball team plays on weekends and Tuesdays, and well I was hoping you had another one in stock.

Me: Let me show you an excellent specimen that arrived this week.


Boom. Stores love summer syndrome.

The problem with summer syndrome is that there is no cure. You KNOW it’s coming and you are helpless to prevent it. No matter how much you tell yourself, “I’m not going to let this aquarium go seed this summer,” it happens.

In my case, my son really did get married this summer. Then my wife and I took a bicycle vacation in Glacier National Park. In order to get ready for Glacier, I had to train right? Let me tell you it’s impossible to do a water change in the middle of a 50 mile bike ride. You know what else? When you finish doing a 50 mile bike ride, you don’t have enough energy to do a water change.

summer syndrome 2

…Or it might look like this!

The result is that my office 55 planted aquarium ran out of co2 without me noticing. Twice. So the plants had lots of light which came on regularly thanks to the timer. But with few water changes and no fertilizer I wound up with a tank that looks like a science project gone wrong.

My 120 reef is in a similar state. I haven’t wiped the glass in weeks. The skimmer often went unemptied for days beyond the normal procedure and aiptasia, is running rampant with a few nice touches of red slime here and there.

The 55 African Cichlid tank seemed fine, although I noticed for the first time that I’m missing like 5 fish since the last time I spent any real time looking at it, like in oh… June. (It’s October as I write this)

Fortunately, time moves on and now the aquariums that had been almost perfect after a long winter and chilly spring are in need of tender loving care. Because I’ve been so busy, I lost track of how much I missed them. They will benefit greatly from my renewed enthusiasm.

I plan to pull the sump from underneath the 120 and replace it with a smaller one that will allow me to automate more of my systems. (Maybe I CAN do a water change wile riding my bike.) I have already purchased a huge long tentacle anemone that I’m hoping will play host to a colony of clownfish.

The CO2 bottle has been replaced on the planted tank, and already the crypts are reaching toward the light and beginning to outpace the algae. More plants are on order.

The African Cichlids have certainly grown over the summer. ( At least I remembered to feed them.) I’m sure that I can find a new aquascape with all those rocks that might reduce the aggression a little.

And soon I’ll walk into the local fish store and someone is going to ask me, “So how’s the tank doing?”

It’s going to b e a good day for that guy.





John Carlin is a fish geek who is also a local newscaster. Fish+Newscaster=Fincaster.

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