Last night at midnight, as I was typing away at the computer, the entire house suddenly went pitch black. The deafening silence buzzed in my ears. After Travis and I made sure no one was trying to break in, I realized it was a major SDG&E issue (not that anyone in customer service would admit it or even apologize). When I woke up this morning and the power was still not on, I panicked. Help!
After consulting with the local aquarium stores, I was informed that most fish and inverts will be okay as long as the power outage is 24 hours or less. The main problems are: sudden drop in temperature, depletion of oxygen from the water, and build-up of nitrates from waste (not to mention changes in pH as a result from oxygen depletion, the lights being out, nitrate build-up, etc.).
First, the temperature. Even on a hot day, because water is so good at cooling, the temperature will drop. My temp went from 78 degrees to 72 in 12 hours. I wrapped the entire system in blankets and a sleeping bag, paying extra careful attention to the top, where the aquarium loses most of its heat to ambient air.
Second, oxygen. For $11, I purchased a battery-operated air pump, connected it to the tubing and air stone and dropped it into the tank. For my tank, I used 3 (2 would have probably been fine). They also sell rechargeable, back-up air-pumps that only go on if there is a power outage (like if you're out of town). I picked up some of those as well.
Third, nitrates. Don't feed the fish. That helps prevent excess waste.
Finally, this experience has made me consider looking into a back-up generator for future problems. They can be pretty expensive; however, Home Depot rents them out by the day.
Power is back on and aquarium is running smoothly. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!