Thursday, January 16, 2003

75 Gallon Fish Tank Lets Go in the Middle of the Night

At 3am on January 16, 2003 we were awakened by someone pounding on our door. It was the superintendent and a maintenance guy. They said someone down on the first floor was having a flood coming from up above and they thought a pipe burst. They sawed open the walls in her apartment to find the pipes intact. Then they went to the 2nd floor apartment, and they could see water was still coming through the ceiling from up above. That's when they came to our place. When we went into the living room we found our 75 gallon fish tank 99% empty and the fish flipping around on the gravel. We got the fish into buckets and saved all but one of them.

We hauled out the 33 gallon aquarium from the storage room (mind you it was buried behind boxes and junk piled up to the ceiling), set it up and got the gravel from the other tank into it, got the filter up and running and put the fish in it. When we left for work this morning all were still alive and appeared to be doing well. We examined the big tank for damage and couldn't see anything obvious... it was really bizarre. I was expecting to see a big crack or something, but nothing. Everything looked perfect. We poured a little more water in so we could see where it was leaking from, and the leak was very obviously coming from the bottom right side of the tank. The only thing we can figure is that the silicone let go. You'd think a silicone fault would be a slow leak though, one that would be noticed by a falling water level and we'd be able to drain it before any major damage occurred. Not this one though... when it let go it really let go. Everything was fine when we turned off the light in the tank and went to bed at about 1am. It was 3am when Carolyn banged on the door so within 2 hours the entire 75 gallons was out of the tank. Luckily, we have tenant insurance that covers this. That fish tank is only 6 months old and was bought brand new from Pets Unlimited.

Carolyn and Jackie (the supers) came back down to our apartment around 4am and brought us a wet vac. My neighbours must have loved me - vacuuming at 4am. They were really good about it though, saying it's not our fault and not to worry. They were really shocked all that water came from a fish tank though.

The stress that I endured this morning has put another nail in my coffin I think. I've been up since 3am and I'm fighting to keep my eyes open and I just got to work.

I told one of the lawyers I work for what happened and her eyebrows were raising up as she said "hmmm.... product liability suit". Since my insurance is covering it though I'm not going through any lawsuits. Jackie is having cleaners come in today to clean the carpet and those of the other people.

I'll be having a nice nap when I get home from work this evening!


After about a week went by, we got served with papers that we were being sued. Our insurance company went to court for us, and named Pets Unlimited as a third party. We had to go to court and testify. The case ended up getting dismissed as the apartment building people did not bring receipts to prove the damages they were claiming. They did however amend their tenant's policy to include a line that states "no fish tanks over 10 gallons allowed." Can't blame them really.

Pets Unlimited contacted the manufacturer of the fish tank, who asked us to look for a sticker on the tank with a number that identifies the employee who did the siliconing. After we provided the number, the company told us that that employee had been fired months before this happened to us, for poor workmanship. Pets Unlimited offered us our money back, or a really good deal if we wanted another tank or a different pet. We opted to get an Alexandrine Parakeet and cage as a replacement since we were not allowed to have fish tanks anymore, and after this incident I didn't really want one anyway.

Here is the tank after it was drained.

Here is the corner with the breached silicone.