Home | Aquarium Equipment | D’oh! Why did I do that! – Aquarium Mishaps

D’oh! Why did I do that! – Aquarium Mishaps

How many times have we been working on our aquariums and done something that made us utter that phrase (or something more colorful, perhaps)? Maintaining aquariums can sometimes be a chore, and sometimes it can be downright dangerous, whether for us or for or fish. Bad things don’t just happen to newbies! I thought it might be interesting to find some examples of “oh, crap” moments, mostly from people who work at That Fish Place, just to show that even experts have bad days when it comes to keeping fish and corals.

Our coral master, coral god, coral guru, Cory claims he can’t remember doing anything silly. So everyone should give him a hard time, because we all know he’s had an oops or two in the past decade or more. One recent mishap (though not to the detriment of an aquarium directly) occured during an outing to an aquarium install. While stuffing some pvc pipe into his Dodge Caliber, a minor miscalculation of the pipe length resulted in a lovely crack in his front windshield. Big oops, especially when he had to explain it to his wife!

I’ve had my days, too. One instance years ago, I was doing a water change on a 46 bowfront West African set-up that I maintained in the store. As I was filling the tank back up I noticed that the fish suddenly dropped to the bottom of the tank and before I knew it half the tank was lost. First thing I did was taste the water…it was salty! Seems that I used the saltwater line instead of fresh. Sad day caused by a moment of not paying attention. UGH.

Our young Sam, being a college man, had a party with a bunch of friends. One cup of beer, perched on the edge of his aquarium by a happy party attendant, spilled into the tank. Seeing the colored liquid (which resembled the fluid from thawed fish foods), the fish wasted no time in flocking to the beer. Luckily only one fish “drank” too much of the beer and died. Sam did a 50 percent water change the next morning and only lost that one fish. Lesson learned? Buy a canopy and don’t feed from beer cups.

What can we say about Dave Acland…cuts, scrapes, bruises, bites, electrocution, he’s had a lot of bad days working on aquatic displays. But the funniest (and I bet other fraggers can relate) mishap he’s recently survived happened while gluing frags to rubble rock. He ended up with his fingers bonded to the rock along with the frag! It happens a lot, I bet.

Sales associate Jeff B. had a small planted aquarium with some Amazon Leaf Fish. After weeks of successful care and great plant growth, he ended up accidentally wiping out all the fish in one afternoon. He performed a 25 percent water change, as he did regularly. He was using RO water and followed the instructions on all the other additives, but this time he somehow added too much blackwater extract to the bucket of new water. Within 30 minutes of adding the water, fish began dropping off. Panic! Sadly, even a series of water changes proved to be futile. In the end everything died, all due to a momentary lapse in attention.

Sometimes that moment of panic send us into overdrive, and we don’t always think the safe way. Supervisor Doug had an aquarium sitting on a counter beside his sink at home. One day his seaclone sprang a leak. With water all over the floor, he reached for the plug while standing in the water…and ZAP! Poor Doug, he’ll think twice next time, I’m sure.

Despite our best efforts and best intentions, we all have times when things don’t go the way we planned. Mistakes we make usually end up making us better aquarists in the end, even if it means learning the hard way. We’ll see what I get from some of my other colleagues for next month, until then, feel free to share your own mishaps, maybe someone else can learn from your mistakes, too!


  1. avatar

    Mishaps such as these while keeping an aquarium is really come. I’ve come across one scenario where i kept an electric catfish. While cleaning the tank, i got too close to it and, ZAP! My right hand was all tingly for the rest of the day. hahahaha

  2. avatar

    Once I was “playing” with an eel and while transferring ir to another tank, with my hands, It fell on the floor. When I caught it back, I was sereously injured on my wrist. I had to take 13 stitches and never played with eels again!

  3. avatar

    I’m sure flooding has happened in one form or another to everybody out there. I left my RO filter on overnight while filling a 5 gallon bucket. Suffice it to say about 10 gallons of water were on my floor. The rug had to come up and we ran fans underneath it for days.

    At least it wasn’t saltwater, though!

About Jose Mendes

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That Fish Place’s resident “Cichlid Pro.” In addition to working at TFP for 13 years, Jose’s been breeding Cichlids for over 14 years and has produced over 200 different species. Jose is the man to question for everything cichlid. Check out Jose’s work in the article: Keeping and Breeding African Cichlids in Small Aquariums, and his many other contributions on cichlid husbandry, behavior, and his personal experiences with keeping cichlids from across the globe.