Energy Prices and Winter

Wills

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Hi everyone, this might be a UK focused thing as other countries seem to be dealing with it better but I just wanted to start a thread because in the UK we are all facing huge energy bills and its going to make things difficult for a lot of people. Realistically fish keeping issues are going to be so minor in comparison to the choices some people are going to be making but I wanted to see if we can share ideas, advice and support as we get through it.

Just for people outside of the UK to get an idea of whats going on here. My energy bills are nearly 3x what they were when I moved in here in 2019 and nothing has changed and we are facing an 80% rise again in October and a 20% rise again in January as the government body Ofgem raises the price cap. There are also reports of black outs through winter and some state organisations like schools and hospitals are starting to make preparations with emergency generators to prepare for it.

So, what are peoples plans to get through these weird time? I'm planning to up my riparian planting and move to Pothos and Peace Lillys, I also want more fast growing plants in the tanks too to try and deal with ammonia in the event of a blackout. Does anyone have any suggestions of fish we can use as ammonia sponges?

I have 2 tanks set up at the moment, one with cherry shrimp and the other has a community with puffers, rasboras and gobies. I've been planning for a while to rehome the rasboras and gobies and I'm still going to do that but not replace them until next year - or at least until I have a better idea of whats going on.

An other factor is heat, are conventional heaters the best solution? Is there anything else we can do? I think more than a few people will be trying to work out if they can turn the heater off much or down etc. Some homes will not have heating on apart from the coldest of days so its going to have an effect on the tanks too. I've seen a suggestion of putting a panel of insulation on the back pane of the tank but not sure what that would do in isolation?

Just a note that I was in two minds if to post this as there is an unavoidable political angle to this but let's just try and keep it in check.

Wills
 

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You aren't alone with high electrical rates. There should not be any political angle to this because it's just the utilities increasing rates. That's been going on forever regardless of governmental policies . Right here in little far flung backwater Billings Montana USA I was watching the local news last night and Northwestern Energy has applied to the Montana Public Service Commision for a 25% residential rate increase. That's a big jump ! I am casting the hairy eyeball on my fish room and looking for ways to economize . The prices will go up and there isn't one thing that little me can do about it except make cuts in my usage. The big target in my sights ? The television.
 

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You aren't alone with high electrical rates. There should not be any political angle to this because it's just the utilities increasing rates. That's been going on forever regardless of governmental policies . Right here in little far flung backwater Billings Montana USA I was watching the local news last night and Northwestern Energy has applied to the Montana Public Service Commision for a 25% residential rate increase. That's a big jump ! I am casting the hairy eyeball on my fish room and looking for ways to economize . The prices will go up and there isn't one thing that little me can do about it except make cuts in my usage. The big target in my sights ? The television.

Surprisingly HDTVs don't use much power. If you are still using incandescent light bulbs going to LED would probably save you more. Also, if your fridge is really cold turn it up to ~39 degrees F. Do you leave a computer on 24/7? If so, don't. Also, if you have ceiling fans, make them blow down in the winter and up in the summer. Heat rises. In the winter having ceiling fans blowing down will help return heat that has risen back to where wanted.

I'm fortunate enough to have my electric included in my rent. Rent went up $60.00 a couple of months ago but was the first increase in like six years so was expected.

If you are retired and on Social Security the last projected increase for January 2023 was 8.6%. That should help with the rising energy costs.
 

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The energy crisis isn't just in the UK. It is mainly caused by Russia invading the Ukraine and the lack of gas and oil coming out of those countries. Grain is another issue and has gone up significantly because of the war.

In most parts of Australia there is also an energy crisis caused by the war. This is because state governments let private companies control power, water and gas, and they put all the gas and oil on the world market for overseas companies. They didn't bother to keep anything in reserve for their own states. This means they now have to buy oil, coal and gas back in from the open market and the price of it has skyrocketed due to the war. Most places over east have seen their power and gas bills triple since the pandemic started and it's expected to go higher and not be fixed for about 5-7 years.

Currently over east they have rolling blackouts (it's winter here and there is snow in some areas) and people literally can't afford to buy food, fuel or pay bills because many were laid off due to the pandemic, and because pay packets haven't increased in 9 years thanks to the previous federal government. The problem has been made worse by the oil and gas companies refusing to buy in oil and gas from the world market saying it's not profitable for them. So now the state governments are in talks to try and get gas and oil brought back into the country.

In Western Australia, our state governments put some gas and oil on the world market but kept a reserve specifically for the state. So whilst other states have screwed themselves by letting greedy private companies take control of power, water and gas supplies, the WA government kept control of it and only sold what it could spare and the rest remains in the state.

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So, what are peoples plans to get through these weird time? I'm planning to up my riparian planting and move to Pothos and Peace Lillys, I also want more fast growing plants in the tanks too to try and deal with ammonia in the event of a blackout. Does anyone have any suggestions of fish we can use as ammonia sponges?
Plants don't grow or take up nutrients when there is no light. So if you have a blackout, the plants won't be using any ammonia and won't be producing oxygen unless you can provide them with a sufficient light source.

"Wardley's Ammogon" or Zeolite (same stuff) will remove ammonia from water and can be recharged in salt water. If you have lots of power failures, then maybe get some and keep it handy in a box filter. Then put it in the aquarium during power failures and run the box filter from a battery operated air pump. Use rechargeable batteries that can be charged during off peak times when you have power.

Feeding the fish less will reduce ammonia production in the aquarium and if you know there will be a power failure on a particular day, don't feed the fish the day before. Or feed them in the morning on the day before the power failure so the filter has time to remove any ammonia produced over the next 12 hours.

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The best way to save money on heating aquariums is to have all the aquariums in the same room and have the room insulated with the door shut. Have electronic devices like televisions, computers, fridges, in the room and they also help to warm it up. This is the opposite to trying to keep a fish room cool so don't get them confused.

Insulating each aquarium with 1-2 inch thick polystyrene foam sheets can help reduce heat loss. You can use thicker foam if you like (say 2-4 inch thick). You should insulate the base of the tank, along with the back and 2 sides. Have a coverglass on the tank to trap heat inside. Thicker coverglass (4, 5 or 6mm thick) work better than thin glass (2 or 3mm thick). If there is going to be a long power failure, put another piece of foam on the front of the tank and a blanket or foam on top. Basically make the aquarium an esky (cooler for the US people).

have aquariums near inside walls and not next to outside/ external walls. The external walls of buildings can radiate cold into a room and make the aquarium cool down faster. Having aquariums next to internal walls (walls that divide rooms) means the walls won't be radiating cold air onto the back of the tank.

Normal aquarium heaters are fine to use if you only have a few tanks. If you have a lot of tanks, heating an insulated room is often cheaper.

Most tropical fish can live in water that is 18C or above. Many can even live in 14-16C water for a few months. However, these are usually the bottom end of the temperature ranges and it's preferable if the water temperature drops slowly over months, not overnight. But having said that, a lot of people (including myself) have had heaters malfunction (usually after a water change) and woken up to a cold tank. When we warm the water up, most of the fish survive. So if the water temperature does drop to 18-22C, don't panic. The fish will usually be fine.

In the UK and northern USA, most houses are well insulated and the aquarium's water temperature shouldn't drop any faster than the house temperature. In fact it should drop slower because water holds temperature better than air does. So as long as the house temp is above 18C, the tank's water temp should be the same.

Bigger tanks will hold temperature better than smaller tanks so whilst it might seem more expensive to run a bigger tank, it might be safer for the fish in the larger water mass if you have lots of power failures. Whilst people might be downgrading their tanks, a well insulated big tank with lights over the middle, might not cost anymore to run than a smaller uninsulated tank with the same light covering the entire tank. And the temperature of the bigger tank will not drop as quickly as the smaller tank due to the mass.

I used to have my aquarium heaters set on 18C in winter and turned them off when the water went above 20C. The fish were fine and lived in 30C+ during summer and 18C over winter. This winter temperature is fine for most fish but discus won't like it.
 
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@Colin_T 18 C / 65 F . I've heard and read those winter lows many times and everyone agrees that many fish will stand it so I'm going to retrain my brain away from the tropical mindset that has most people , myself among them , keeping their aquariums in the high 70 degree Fahrenheit range. I noticed last year that my Aplocheilus lineatus were spawning at 72 degrees and the eggs were hatching. No more individual heaters for me I'm going to heat the room instead with an electric space heater when winter temperatures dip too low. Too low as in the teens , single digits and below zero Fahrenheit which is brief over the course of a year. Now , having said that we'll have another ice age. What about individual air pumps ? I have eight totaling 24 watts. Would a single linear piston air pump running at 29 watts be more efficient and draw less power even at 5 more watts ? My lighting is minimal. 40 watts is all , running 8 hours.
 

wasmewasntit

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The financial side of things doesn't worry me at all tbh

I budget and I always have done, even when working and earning £1500 a week take home driving trucks to now (and the last 20 years) when on disability benefits. I have never owned a credit card in my life, never taken out a loan for anything.

Maybe I am old school in thinking that if I want something, I save up to buy it and pay in cash/debit card. That is how I have afforded to cruise several times around the world tween 2005 and 2013....I wanted to go visit lots of countries, I love cruising so I combined the two and saved like crazy to do it. If you have a goal that gives you more impetus to save up to reach it.

As for the current situation, my flat is all electric since I made a decision to have the gas capped in 2018 - I hate gas, it gives me migraines. I have always rented my home (the most expensive was a converted beach hut 50ft from the Solent at £650 a month plus bills).

I do not get full authority financial assistance with rent or council tax but again I save up through the year and pay both in advance for the coming year so that I can basically forget those bills.

Electricity averages at £290 per quarter. I refuse direct debit, I always pay via the utility company website and I am 6 months infront, so the next 2 quarters are covered, I top that up periodically and remain in credit. The water bill is £240 per year, again I pay it in full before it is due each March, save up for it and pay it, get it out the way. The water bill was actually double that so I enquired about a meter but due to being on a shared supply they could not do that, so they gave me their single resident rate instead (every water company in the UK has this rate, you just have to ask for it).

Broadband & mobile are on the same package. Now I did manage to save some money by changing supplier. I had been with BT for over 20 years, had their hybrid system broadband plus a sim for my phone...£65 a month til this year when it jumped to £96 a month. Despite being part way through a new contract I cancelled without penalty (granted it took several emails but we got there eventually and a full month refunded too). I had signed for 65 mbs but it had dropped to barely 30mbs.

Changed to VM....225mbs plus O2 sim package for £37 a month for 18 months, after that ends it rises to £44 a month so half what I was paying BT. Again I pay them via their websites and I am currently 8 months in advance.

Food wise...labelled stuff...no...why pay through the nose for a fancy pants label when Iceland & ASDA will do. I have two freezers and a fridge. Enough food and drink to last me 6 months - frozen, fresh and tinned.

I qualified for the "cost of living payments" but had them automatically added to my utilities since the temptation to use the money frivolously is very strong...not that I personally would do it but I am sure others would do it.

TV....I have an ancient Sky dish that was outside when I moved here 16 years ago. I have always used FreeSat with 200 channels, no subscriptions (none required) and an initial outlay of £49.99 for the decoder from Argos.

It really angers me greatly when I see hoardes at the airport off on their Benidorm hols and then I overhear them going on about how they are behind with the bills and mortgage.

Who in their right mind anyway takes a mortgage 7 or more times an annual salary...be sensible....what about 5 years time or 10 or 15 years time if your financial status changes for any reason and you are out of work?

Why saddle yourself with plastic and house debt...even when earning good money I never ever considered a mortgage...I had three cars and a motorcycle (a Toyota Supra MK3 Turbo, a Toyota Supra MK3 standard, a Pontiac 3.8 Sunbird and a Honda CB900F2B) but they were saved up for and bought with cash

If I can't afford it, I don't buy it til I can afford it.
 

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General energy saving tips can be found online, these are from the EnergySavingTrust.org.uk :

Switch off standby
Draught-proof gaps
Turn off the lights
Wash at 30 degrees and only wash full loads
Avoid using the tumble dryer
Take a 4-minute shower
Swap one bath a week for a shower
Don't overfill the kettle
Reduce your dishwasher use
Insulate your hot water cylinder


I'm pretty good at thinking about avoiding wasting resources due to environmental concerns but I have made a couple of tweaks recently that I feel are working. We have a conservatory that is too cold in winter and too hot in summer - I added thermal curtains and draught excluders across the doors and this keeps the rest of the house insulated.
My partner always fills the kettle for just one or two cups, and can't break the habit. So I bought a travel kettle instead. Looks ridiculous but it solved the problem!

Regarding fish keeping, I am determined not to run extra tanks ( I don't have time for more than my 2 main tanks anyway so don't do them justice), except for QT or hospital tanks.
I don't have any unnecessary equipment running. I'm happy that my filter is sufficient for my tanks and fish so don't intend getting extra bubblers/ skimmers/ powerheads/ water pumps etc.
On @Colin_T s advice I insulated the back of my tanks - I just used polystyrene ceiling tiles and tape - one tank is on an outside wall so I feel this will help.
On @wasmewasntit s advice I switched off the heaters for the summer - I worried about night time temperatures but it's been a hot year so no problems at all.
I keep the tank lights on in the evenings, obviously for the plants but so I can see the fish. I don't use other lights so much now, the fish tanks have become a lamp!
 

wasmewasntit

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General energy saving tips can be found online, these are from the EnergySavingTrust.org.uk :

Switch off standby
Draught-proof gaps
Turn off the lights
Wash at 30 degrees and only wash full loads
Avoid using the tumble dryer
Take a 4-minute shower
Swap one bath a week for a shower
Don't overfill the kettle
Reduce your dishwasher use
Insulate your hot water cylinder


I'm pretty good at thinking about avoiding wasting resources due to environmental concerns but I have made a couple of tweaks recently that I feel are working. We have a conservatory that is too cold in winter and too hot in summer - I added thermal curtains and draught excluders across the doors and this keeps the rest of the house insulated.
My partner always fills the kettle for just one or two cups, and can't break the habit. So I bought a travel kettle instead. Looks ridiculous but it solved the problem!

Regarding fish keeping, I am determined not to run extra tanks ( I don't have time for more than my 2 main tanks anyway so don't do them justice), except for QT or hospital tanks.
I don't have any unnecessary equipment running. I'm happy that my filter is sufficient for my tanks and fish so don't intend getting extra bubblers/ skimmers/ powerheads/ water pumps etc.
On @Colin_T s advice I insulated the back of my tanks - I just used polystyrene ceiling tiles and tape - one tank is on an outside wall so I feel this will help.
On @wasmewasntit s advice I switched off the heaters for the summer - I worried about night time temperatures but it's been a hot year so no problems at all.
I keep the tank lights on in the evenings, obviously for the plants but so I can see the fish. I don't use other lights so much now, the fish tanks have become a lamp!
I use my dishwasher (its a full size one) twice a week, washing machine twice a week, tumble dryer twice a week (no outdoor drying space), I cook with a convection microwave and griddle, I have an electric shower in the wetroom used twice a day, two TV's, 2 decoders, 1 pooter with monitor, 1 laptop, 2 aquariums (no alteration regarding lights etc other than heaters always off in summer) and 2 portable electric convection heaters (which I only use if its still cold after putting on a couple of jumpers which is rarely ever)

I don't have a kettle...I use a one cup like one of these...


I have black voile panels instead of the usual white or cream ones in the windows (great privacy and they help keep rooms cooler in warm weather) and the main curtains are thermobacked, so they keep things cooler in summer and snug in winter.
 
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Wills

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The financial side of things doesn't worry me at all tbh

Really interesting points here - Personally though, some of whats going on even if people didnt go to Benedorm or have mortgages etc people are going to find it tough. You are somewhat 'insulated' with no gas but a lot of houses in the UK are gas - the vast majority - and thats where a lot of the pain is going to be. With the way things are people are just not going to have the heating on all the while the oil and gas companies have been earning billions in profit every quarter. Centrica the owners of British Gas went from 2-300m to 1.4b in a year with no investment or changes other than accepting the price cap rises. Really nice set of cars there btw :) The Supras were a very nice car!

An interesting angle I saw discussed last night was the impact on fish stores here, commercial properties are not part of the price cap and some businesses have been seeing rises of 1000%! And for a store as energy intensive as a fish shop that must be starting to become an issue - I suppose the answer is that everything instore is about to get more expensive but if the owners are not switched on it could just make them fold I suppose.

Wills
 

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@Wills

An example of what I think is being frivolous is your quest for a 4ft aquarium (and my hatred of "brand" labels)

Why, when finances are tight, would you or anyone go after a branded 4ft aquarium and spend a grand on it when you can buy 3 x 4ft aquariums made by a lesser known brand but still just as good (actually I personally think better since they use proper glass bracing).....a Juwel 4ft is over a grand and thats without a stand, you can buy 3 x 4ft Diversa with stands for that money.

Don't get me wrong, I am not nitpicking or being critical of your spending ability or desires...but I genuinely do not understand why anyone would spend a grand on an aquarium when they do not need to if they shopped around and found a lesser known brand but one of an equal if not higher build quality.

Being frugal seems to be a bad thing recently....money still gows on trees despite the lack of rain to water them cos so many are throwing money around like confetti and not considering the future if their circumstances change.

I was earning 1500 a week take home pay, loved the lifestyle although I still had flatpack furniture and non branded or lesser known branded appliances etc. When I got sick I dropped my income to what would be half my previously weekly wage and make it last a month but cos I have always been a tight-thingy, it wasn't hard to make the adjustment

I will not do direct debit cos the banks have a nasty habit of messing them up and I prefer to be in control of my outgoings. I refuse to live beyond my means and accept every credit card and loan offered to me (they get shredded).

You can live comfortably but you need to have self control and live responsibly.
 

wasmewasntit

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Another thing I do is buy cheap supermarket own brand water wipes (baby wipes) and put them in the fridge. Brilliant way to cool down the face & neck in weather like we have currently. No need for an electric fan then wet wipes keep your cool and they wipe away the grime and sweat too.

Cheaper still, use a face cloth soaked in water, put in a sandwich type bag and in the fridge.
 
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@Wills

An example of what I think is being frivolous is your quest for a 4ft aquarium (and my hatred of "brand" labels)

Why, when finances are tight, would you or anyone go after a branded 4ft aquarium and spend a grand on it when you can buy 3 x 4ft aquariums made by a lesser known brand but still just as good (actually I personally think better since they use proper glass bracing).....a Juwel 4ft is over a grand and thats without a stand, you can buy 3 x 4ft Diversa with stands for that money.

Don't get me wrong, I am not nitpicking or being critical of your spending ability or desires...but I genuinely do not understand why anyone would spend a grand on an aquarium when they do not need to if they shopped around and found a lesser known brand but one of an equal if not higher build quality.

Being frugal seems to be a bad thing recently....money still gows on trees despite the lack of rain to water them cos so many are throwing money around like confetti and not considering the future if their circumstances change.

I was earning 1500 a week take home pay, loved the lifestyle although I still had flatpack furniture and non branded or lesser known branded appliances etc. When I got sick I dropped my income to what would be half my previously weekly wage and make it last a month but cos I have always been a tight-thingy, it wasn't hard to make the adjustment

I will not do direct debit cos the banks have a nasty habit of messing them up and I prefer to be in control of my outgoings. I refuse to live beyond my means and accept every credit card and loan offered to me (they get shredded).

You can live comfortably but you need to have self control and live responsibly.

Hmmm not sure thats fully fair, the expensive aquarium was because I wanted something in the 90 gallon range for some of the fish I wanted to keep in there and I wanted a specific type of rimless aquarium and stand, I don't think its really a crime to want nice things. We are very comfortable financially, live very well within our means in a lovely village.

My bills are astronomical now but thats because I have a big house with 2 boilers and an Aga but we also have the cash to pay for that. Choosing to buy the aquarium or not is just a matter of priorities for us, we are renovating our house, raising our daughter, want to go on holiday etc so a one sided hobby like mine is a bit down the list.

Don't know why I'm justifying myself to you like this. I started this thread because a lot of people are going to need a bit of help and I thought this could be a place to share ideas or concerns etc but anyway...
 

wasmewasntit

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Hmmm not sure thats fully fair, the expensive aquarium was because I wanted something in the 90 gallon range for some of the fish I wanted to keep in there and I wanted a specific type of rimless aquarium and stand, I don't think its really a crime to want nice things. We are very comfortable financially, live very well within our means in a lovely village.

My bills are astronomical now but thats because I have a big house with 2 boilers and an Aga but we also have the cash to pay for that. Choosing to buy the aquarium or not is just a matter of priorities for us, we are renovating our house, raising our daughter, want to go on holiday etc so a one sided hobby like mine is a bit down the list.

Don't know why I'm justifying myself to you like this. I started this thread because a lot of people are going to need a bit of help and I thought this could be a place to share ideas or concerns etc but anyway...
I used it as an example and did state it was not a nitpick on you....so not sure why you are being defensive @Wills tbh but nevermind.

At the end of the day, spending habits need to change generally across everyone who is living beyond their means....such as those in the media pleading poverty but still having their Sky TV subscriptions, Nike trainers and expensive furnishings and clothing

It is fine to have these things but not if you are doing it on credit all the time and then falling behind on the bills and not feeding the kids right.
 

wasmewasntit

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Anyway, my next saving up goal is to pay for my funeral since I have no family and am not going to force the taxpayer to pay for something I can save up for myself. I live in a modest council flat, furnished with flatpacked furniture, I am housebound so no longer have a car (and I miss that more than anything).

I live to my means, I am comfortable, I am completely debt free, no credit cards, no loans, no mortgages, nothing owed for several months on utilities cos I pay in advance.

I live entirely alone...apart from the fish...no visitors, no family (all deceased, including a son who I had adopted out when I got sick) and resigned to dying without anyone knowing til the smell wafts from the windows...hence sorting the funeral out now so that I can relax on that aspect. A best friend who lives in Belgium will inherit everything knowing there are no debts or bills to pay.

I have been incredibly lucky to travel the world and enjoy many different cultures by saving up to experience them on cruise ships. I would still be driving trucks had the body not given up on me and frankly and honestly at 58 I can hardly wait to go cos being on your own is hell. But at least I am 100% debt free and can sleep at night (on a very expensive 2000 spring mattress that was half price in a sale).
 
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Sorry I don't know why it rubbed me the wrong way but fair enough, let's park it.

Really sorry to hear you are having such a rough time but glad the fish perk you up, and hopefully our company does a bit to boost you :)
 

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