I travel quite a lot, usually to see family and so I knew this day was inevitable. I knew that one day I would come home and …….
Well, I have a hard time saying it but I had a tank catastrophe. I have had previous tank crashes in my 22 years or so of saltwater reefing but this was different. Atleast it feels different. In my past crashes , I can recall two but there may be one more that I have willfully forgotten,. With my previous crashes, I was either shy on knowledge and/or I also simply became overconfident or just too experimental. This time I was neither, I don’t think.
Bad things can happen to our tanks at any time. Certainly there is a long learning curve in this hobby and there are all kinds of mishaps to be had. Some sort of equipment malfunction, or a bad batch of something whether salt, testing solution, food, or carbon, on and on or maybe even just a touch of distraction. Lots of stuff can go wrong. And so many reefers, including myself buy the best equipment we can afford, watch our livestock for health, test regularly, and have all kinds of redundancy. And sometimes, unexpected things just happen.
So what happened, I was visiting my sister out of state when my wife called to tell me she had evacuated from our home by mandatory order. There were firemen on our street with bullhorns yelling to get out now. There was a huge fire. No not in the house. I live in Southern California and the Woolsey fire came into my neighborhood. Fortunately, my house and my neighbors homes were not burned. But the power went out because of the fire. It was out somewhere between 37 hours and three days. It happened on Thursday, November 8 and we were allowed back in on Tuesday.
The power outage was devastating with the lack of water circulation and the loss of oxygen to the water. As you can imagine, most of the fish were dead, actually pretty much decomposed and gone by the time I was back in the house on Tuesday. Almost all the sps colonies were RTN’d. Surprisingly, the LPS and the only two monti’s I have were all fine. The LPS and my clam were quite happy and looked their best. With the death of the livestock, the alk went from 8 dKh to about 10.5 and nitrates went from around 5-10 to closer to 25 ppm. Neither of those parameter changes were really surprising. It is a big tank with lots of rocks, siporax, chaeto and sand so I think it handled the amount of dead fish fairly well. I don’t think it recycled at all.
And so obviously, I don’t have a generator. It is California, and in my lifetime this was the longest power outage by far I have ever seen. Can’t really explain away why I never just added the cost of a generator to my reefing budget with everything committed to this tank in terms of time, money, energy and love but I didn’t.
I will be able to salvage just a few sps hopefully although not really sure how much. I believe I lost about 90 to 95 of my 100 or so sps.
I don’t want to quit and I don’t want to jump right in. For now, I am planning on just getting the tank back to health without trying to restock it. Getting parameters back to a range I am comfortable with. I might downsize in a while just because it is a really big tank and it may finally be more labor intensive than I want to continue with. Can’t imagine not having sps to look at though. Although I am not really sure what direction I will eventually head in. But I am a stick head, an SPS guy, through and through. I have trekked to World Wide Corals, Reef Raft Canada and certainly all over Southern California’s many great sps spots just to look and sometimes collect some incredible gems. I have also visited so many hobbyists as well, to look, admire and sometimes accumulate a frag or two all over the country. So its hard to imagine not having sps to look at and enjoy and be mesmerized by.
Right now, its pretty unsettling not to have all those colorful sps. A good part of my daily routine has started with checking the tank and equipment in the morning to confirm everything is working before I start my day. Maybe even flicking the blue leds on early in the morning for a few minutes just to get a glimpse of all that incredible color being displayed under the lights and then turning the lights off and back to the automatic setting. And like everyone else’s routine, taking a few minutes during the course of the day for feeding. I routinely check parameters atleast once and usually twice weekly. Water change, filter sock change, clean the skimmer, and clean the glass on the weekend. Maybe trim the chaeto once a month. Make sure my RO/DI and saltwater reservoirs are ready. It a long list of activities associated with the tank routine. Plus of course, following the online forums. A lot to see and learn from other reefers and certainly one of my favorites has been sharing photos. Not much to photograph right now.
The hardest part though is I am very much missing that Zen time. What I mean by Zen time, is the time you stop to take a look at the coral for just a few minutes and then before you know it an hour or more has gone by. For me, getting lost in the delight and amazement of the coral and fish for many, many minutes at a time has been one of the best pleasures of reef keeping. I still have lots of pretty LPS to look at but I have always found SPS more interesting. Everything about SPS I find captivating, polyp extension, colors, growth patterns, fleshy skin, macro photos, on and on. I could wax poetic about SPS but I wont.
Anyway, that is where I am at now, certainly saddened and of course humbled. I hope no one takes pot shots for not having a generator, I get that part. I can’t imagine myself ever out of the hobby, but this certainly feels like the end of a saga for me. I hope that doesn’t sound pitiful. Some of my sps were pretty rare and I don’t think I will likely come upon them again. I also recognize that there is lots of pretty SPS still to be had and perhaps one day I will be there again. Some friends have already volunteered to share some of their sps with me. I am not quite ready for that yet. This happened almost a month ago, and its taken all of this time for me to get the gumption to share it.
As I road my bike north on the strand during the first day of the fires, I paused at Dockweiler beach to view the mushroom smoke clouds forming over Malibu. Winds were whipping and devastation began. Unfortunately, just a matter of time before a story such as yours surfaced, very sad .... All phases of grieving will apply.
I concur with your observation, in the last 30 years in my area, no power outage beyond 4/5 hours max ... I have no generator.
So sorry this happened to you or anyone else. Knowing your love of the hobby, I’m sure we will be reading some great posts in the future. I did look at the possibility of power outages, so when I added my solar panels I had 2 batteries added to the setup. As long as the sun comes out, I should be able run my indefinitely. Anyway very tragic on all sides and good karma to you and your family
As someone who has been following your thread over the years and admiring all your rare SPS, I'm sorry to hear that this happened. Bummed that all those pieces were lost. I hope you'll get back into it someday so that we can admire all your awesome SPS again.