12 Gallon Tank "explosion"

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Windy77

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OK, I have, or should I say had, a 12 gallon Marineland aquarium (plastic) that I had divided in two with one male betta on each side. I've had this particular tank for about 2 years. It was set on a small wooden table in the kitchen. I was feeding the fish this evening, after which I noticed that the lid wouldn't fit snugly on the aquarium top. Real weird. All of a sudden it seemed too big to fit -- kind of warped. After trying to get it to set down right, I gave up and simply set the lid on top. It had always been fine before! Anyway, a few seconds later, there was a bit bang, the lid went flying off, my aquarium cracked on one side and crashed to the floor, the table it was sitting on fell apart in pieces, even sending screws flying across the room, ALL at the same time. All my water, gravel, plants, and fish too practically exploded across the kitchen as I screamed.

My first impulse was to grab a bowl, throw some treated water in it and try to find my two fish. I screamed for my mom and she rushed upstairs and she unplugged the aquarium filter & heater. I found one of my fish, the blue one, thrown under the kitchen table in a pile of gravel about six feet from where the tank used to be. I managed to save him. But the weird thing is, there was no sign whatsoever of the other red betta. I combed through all the gravel -- everything -- swept the whole room with the help of my mom -- even looked under the refrigerator and dishwasher in case he slipped under there. Nowhere. Just nowhere. No trace.

To say I am upset doesn't begin to describe how I feel. My boyfriend thinks that this may have happened due to some kind of short in the electrical parts. Thank God I wasn't hurt or my poor little blue betta, who is now swimming in a spare 5 gallon tank I happened to have. Anybody have any idea what may have caused this horrific accident?
 

soarl

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Wow...I can only imagine how devastating that must have been. I can't imagine a tank exploding even if there was an electrical problem. I have heard of tanks leaking because they weren't sitting level but not plastic ones. Maybe there was just some structural flaw in it and it cracked? 12 gallons of water is about 92 lbs pressing out on that plastic.
 
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Windy77

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The thing that doesn't make sense is that, if the tank simply cracked, there would have just been some kind of slow leak that I would have noticed right away and had more than enough time to evacuate the fish. When this happened, it was like an explosion. The tank and table fell apart together. And how could a fish just disappear??

The weirdest thing of all is how all this happened just after I noticed there was something wrong with the shape of the lid and it wouldn't set down right on the tank anymore. Then, BAM.
 
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Oso

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That makes me think of the plastic measuring cup that I had. Long story short it went from hot to cold too fast and shattered.
 

soarl

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It really depends on the type of weakness in the material that led to the failure. It's possible it failed all at once causing it to burst rather than just to leak. As far as the missing fish...I have no idea...hard to even speculate with no familiarity of the surroundings.

(i got ninjaed!)Maybe the fish spontaneously combusted and that caused the failure? In all seriousness though beta's are pretty tiny and if the other fish was 6 feet away the other could have ended up anywhere. especially if it started flipping about.

You could do a quick search and see if anyone else with that same tank have ever reported any similar problems.

Was there anything by the tank that could have heated it up enough to weaken the plastic?
 
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Windy77

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I didn't do anything different with the tank than I always do. Temp was stable (there was a heater). I hadn't messed with anything aside from putting a plastic divider in the tank recently.
 

aquaticat

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I feel really bad for you that must have been the scariest thing. Really sorry about your betta, too.

I would think a tank that size would be made out of glass, not plastic. By plastic, do you mean acrylic? I guess that's the same thing LOL
 
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Windy77

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I looked literally everywhere, with mom helping. Searched the entire kitchen, under every appliance. Nearby rooms. Kitchen closets. Maybe he flipped down the air vent, even though there was nothing wet over there. I guess I'll never know. Too bad, he was a pretty one. I feel sooooo bad about that. I just got him.

Yes, the tank was technically acrylic. Is glass stronger than acrylic for holding 12 gallons? I have no experienced with glass tanks...
 
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aylad

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Re: 12 gallon tank "explosion" !!!??!?!?

I'd bet that the table, not the tank, was the problem. 12 gallons is over 100 pounds of water plus tank, equipment, gravel/sand, etc.

1. Table starts to give way, bowing down in the middle... maybe the back middle, where it's less noticeable. 2. Tank sags into the bowing tabletop, twisting the rim out of shape so the lid doesn't fit. 3. Table catastrophically fails, and under sudden extreme stress, 4. tank shatters almost instantaneously.

5. Fishkeeper has terrible day. Sorry for your loss.
 
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Windy77

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That had occurred to me. Only it appeared that the crack in the aquarium occurred before it hit the floor.
 

kinezumi89

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Oh my gosh I am so sorry RIP red betta. I'm glad you were able to save one. This is my worst nightmare.

I doubt it has anything to do with electrical equipment. I took a class called Properties of Materials last semester, so I know about this stuff Acrylic (and glass) are both brittle materials. In layman's terms, this means they they do not deform much under pressure. Think about a glass stirring rod and a paper clip. You put force on the paper clip and it bends; you put force on a glass stirring rod and it breaks. Ductile materials experience ductile failure - it takes awhile and there are warning signs. Ductile failure is preferred by far. Think of a big metal grain silo - it starts to fail along a weld, and you see it sloooowly starting to pull apart over time. If there's a ceramic pipe, you get no warning that there's imminent failure - it just explodes.

A fishtank is the same way. There was probably a tiny crack - likely microscopic. This is called a "stress raiser" because stress (force of the water on the walls) concentrates at that point. Because acrylic is brittle, you had no warning that there was a problem, until the stress was too great and the material reached the fracture point.

Long story short - it wasn't at all your fault, and there was absolutely nothing you could have done. You didn't even know there was a problem, and even if you did, the only way to prevent failure would have been to take all the fish and water out of the tank and put them in a new one - but like I said, there are no warning signs with brittle failure.

As for which is stronger, it doesn't matter, because the weak part isn't the materials, it's the seams where the panes are held together. Unless you plan on bonking things into the tank, or dropping it; those are different stories

Don't feel too bad, there was nothing you could have done. The exact same thing would have happened to anyone in the same situation. So sorry you lost your tank and fish
 

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My goodness!
I'm so sorry!

My guess would be the table wasn't meant to hold that much weight.
12 gallons of water would be over 100 pounds. Add 10 to 20 pounds of gravel plus the weight of the tank it's self.

The tank could have been compromised if the table was warping under the pressure.

If it was solely the tank exploding I couldn't see it taking the table with it.
However if the table gave it would most definitely take the tank with it.

Really stinks about the betta.
Poor thing.

So glad you were able to save the other one!

Edit:
Wow...talk about ninja! lol

As for the crack in the aquarium prior to hit hitting the floor, that could be caused by the table bowing putting more pressure on one side of the tank than the other.
 

aylad

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Re: 12 gallon tank "explosion" !!!??!?!?

That had occurred to me. Only it appeared that the crack in the aquarium occurred before it hit the floor.
If the tank was trying to sag into a bowing tabletop, it probably WAS cracked before it hit the floor... especially given Kinezumi's info. Of course, I'm just speculating.
 
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