Aquarists fear


I’ve been an aquarist for a few decades, but the largest aquarium I’ve ever owned was 29 gallons. I was more about assembling many aquaria, and I think maybe the largest total capacity I’ve ever had was about 150 gallons. Every aquarist has the nightmare of something happening to the aquaria — I remember George Streisinger (the original zebrafish guy) recounting his terrible dream about the quonset hut where the entire initial zebrafish colony was housed having a catastrophic collapse and all his work getting wiped out.

This is a setup for the fabulous Berlin AquaDom, a giant million liter aquarium housing about 1500 exotic fish. Here it is, isn’t it beautiful?

Fantastic. I wonder what kind of nightmares the owners had? Because they all just came true.

There was speculation freezing temperatures that got down to minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight caused a crack in the acrylic glass tank, which then exploded under the weight of the water. Police said there was no evidence the incident resulted from a malicious act.

Yikes. Yikes. Yikes.

Comments

  1. John Morales says

    Police said there was no evidence the incident resulted from a malicious act.

    So, nothing fishy.

  2. silvrhalide says

    All those poor fish… I wonder what really happened. 14°F is bitterly cold but not really all that unusual for a German winter. More like the lower end of the normal temperature range. Given the Sprockets people’s love of over-engineering any given project, I find it hard to believe that 14°F was not in the original specs.

  3. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Oh schnikeys, I visited that when I was in Berlin. It was glorious. What a shame.

  4. says

    Next time they should’ve used glass. As least a majority of the fish were saved according to the NYT.

    After initially assuming all of the fish had died in the blast, local officials and fire services learned that there were hundreds of others in the building’s basement. A few coral reef fish at the very base of the shattered AquaDom had also survived in a remaining pool of water.

    Mr. Kamrad said the fish were now being removed, tank by tank, to the nearby Sea Life aquariums. Local veterinary practices, he said, were also preparing aquariums in case more fish housing was needed.

    “The good news is that we really were able to save many protected and rare species,” he said, among them some breeds of snails and tilapia, and several types of cichlid fish.

  5. Trevor Sloughter says

    I stayed there some years ago with my family at Christmas. My first thought was “oh that’s pretty cool”. My second thought was “I…. do not trust the owners to maintain this properly, I am concerned for the fish”.

    The cold snap and surge in energy prices probably were a factor, but I’m still skeptical how well everything was really maintained. But maybe that’s just knee-jerk distrust of capitalists and the fancy hotels that serve them.

    A Berliner friend told me all that salt water is causing problems.

  6. Owlmirror says

    It certainly looks like it is indoors — why was an indoor location at subfreezing temperatures?

  7. tinkerer says

    Freezing temperature seems unlikely as that huge volume of water makes a massive heat reservoir which is in direct contact with the wall of the aquarium, and the whole surrounding space is enclosed. Any change in temperature would be very slow and it must have been well above the freezing point of sea water otherwise there would be ice forming at the top.

  8. hemidactylus says

    I used to love watching Fish Tank Kings. They would get jobs for custom aquariums in businesses and homes, some quite challenging. There was another show called Tanked which was more popular, but I didn’t like quite as much as the other show. I was never one to deal with the hassle of an aquarium but watching the intricacies in building custom tanks and getting the fish was kinda neat.

    I can’t imagine what it would be like for one of those custom tanks to fail. A former coworker had her above ground pool collapse sending loads of water against her house. Similar to:

  9. ockhamsshavingbrush says

    @Ossowo Harpist #4
    There were some fish that could be rescued but those were the ones flushed into the parking garage of the hotel. And as they were tropical fish they probably won’t survive that temperature shock in the long run.

    The people in the hotel were really lucky as the catastrofuck happened at 5:45 am and only two were injured by flying polycarbonate glass shards. Imagine that at…. let’s say 9:30 am during the rush of check out/in time and breakfeast buffet.

    The fishtank underwent major overhaul just two or so years ago, so if there was a screw up re-assembling the whole thing, this might have contributed to the failure. Pure speculation…..
    The hotel right now is beeing checked by structural engineers to see if it has suffered any serious damage that necessitates tear-down. A nearby museum of GDR history has also been damaged

  10. Reginald Selkirk says

    @4 Next time they should’ve used glass. As least a majority of the fish were saved according to the NYT.

    After initially assuming all of the fish had died in the blast, local officials and fire services learned that there were hundreds of others in the building’s basement. A few coral reef fish at the very base of the shattered AquaDom had also survived in a remaining pool of water.

    Hundreds saved – but according to one account, the original total was ~ 15000 fish. That is not a majority.

  11. StevoR says

    @6. Trevor Sloughter :

    I stayed there some years ago with my family at Christmas. My first thought was “oh that’s pretty cool”. My second thought was “I…. do not trust the owners to maintain this properly, I am concerned for the fish”.

    Why your second thought there? Why think the owners weren’t to be trusted with proper maintainence?

  12. brightmoon says

    Years ago I had a 20 gallon that developed a slow leak one night. I had some huge goldfish that I just barely rescued .( RIP Junior )

  13. Paul K says

    When I was a college freshman, I had left my 30-gallon aquarium at my father’s house when I went off to school. Two of my aunts — both in their 60s — tried to PICK IT UP in order to move it. A gallon of water weighs over 8 pounds. The tank broke, and water and fish went everywhere. No one bothered to try to save any of the fish. But, hey, they put the plants that were left in a bit of the water still in the tank into a bucket of water. They left that bucket in an unheated place, and when I cam home months later, that’s when the family finally told me.

    I was really surprised to find that, under the layer of ice in the bucket, there was a Blue Gaurami, a tropical fish, perfectly fine in its half-gallon home. I took it to school when I left, and gave it to some friends who had a small aquarium in their dorm room. It was fine well over a year later.

  14. ardipithecus says

    From DWnews:

    “Other officials said, however, that initial investigations point to potential issues with the building materials in the 18-year-old tank.

    “Investigators into the cause [of the incident] are of course not completed, but initial indications point to material component fatigue,” Iris Spranger, Berlin’s state interior minister, told news agency dpa.”

  15. numerobis says

    Cold temperatures outside don’t strike me as particularly relevant for the failure of a large tank of tropical fish indoors. Even unheated spaces that large surrounded by heated spaces will stay warm, and the tank is presumably in the upper 20s.

  16. outis says

    Ah well. So long, and thanks for all the fish.
    But seriously, it seems that while it’s true that around 600 fish could be saved, those were not washed off in the basement on the crest of the tsunami but simply residing in other aquariums, for reserve and breeding. Those are being delivered to appropriate structures that can handle them, but of the 1500 or so that were inside the main lobby tank only a few survive, and that only because they were caught in the big puddle at the very bottom of the shattered structure.
    This according to “Die Zeit”. Yet, as @11 commented, in spite of the damage the mood is one of relief that this didn’t happen during the day in crowded conditions, as it could have been a major catastrophe. Sleeping with the fishes indeed.

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