The successful failure

Very random reef write-ups

summer 2015

There was nothing different about today. I had gone about my daily routine just as I do any other day. Walked downstairs. A quick lights out inspection of the display followed by a couple alk tests, then off to work. It was sometime around midmorning, while in the middle of a text, my phone buzzed. texting me was my Apex alerting me that one of my power bars had lost power. Odd I thought. Maybe the wife tripped a circuit breaker or something. Could be anything really at this point but it was the first time id had a single module power outage, so I did not hesitate to call home and ask if there had been any power flutters or anything of that sort. Then I asked her take peek under the stand and see if the power bar was still on or not or if anything seems wrong at all. As she got closer, she said she heard something odd.

“There’s Water" she cried. “It's falling down the back wall!” “I’m on my way” I replied, as I proceeded to rush home. The plan was already in motion. What kind of leak was it and how was I going to deal with it? Hoping for a simple problematic drain, a snail maybe but the realist in me was already preparing for the worst. I thought, well this may be it. The day I had been carefully planning for and dreading at the same time, was here. But she wasn’t frantic when she cried "water" so I was sure it wasn’t a total blow out. When I walked in the door I took my time, in blissful hesitation as to what I was about to see, I had already begun executing a plan that had been in my head for years now.

I admit I swore. I swore loudly. Not at anyone or anything. Just out loud. My two sons near, and wife clenching our one year old daughter, I shouted at the top of my lungs, the kind of profanity that no child should should be exposed to. Yes I was mad, but not in a panic. There it was pouring from the freshly separated seam of my external overflow. I saw a small but very real and almost adorable saltwater-fall cascading onto the wall behind, the equipment below and everything inbetween. The sight I had prepared myself mentally for so long now was right in front of me. Real as ever.

Calculating risk and damage control both operating in perfect unison as I assessed the situation and began to execute my contingency plan. Pumps shut off. The acros had come out. That I was certain of. Was the tank done for? Wasn’t sure about that yet. All I knew is the first thing I had to do was make a little room in one of my tanks downstairs, get those thriving colonies out of there ASAP and into safety. And like well oiled machine my plan continued to unfold. I was calm and I was collected. Once the coral was secure, I had a little more time to assess the seam and the scope of the problem. The tank manufacturer had been called early on in shuffle and had a sound idea on how to repair it that made perfect sense to me.

Ultimately the actual damage was minimal. I believe that some acrylic pieces in the overflow designed to keep a screen in place had, in the last three years expanded to the point of excess and caused the rear wall of the overflow to pull away just enough to cause a decent leak. The rest of the tank was perfectly in tact. I decided that I did not have to drain it and kept the fish in there with a heater and a pump. I expect to get parts to repair it in day or two and have it back up and running soon after.

So what does this all mean and why I even chronicling the whole fiasco? I’ll tell you now.

This is a situation that could have easily been a disaster. A fire a shock, a bad shock, massive livestock losses etc. While still a giant pain, and a ultimately a heartbreaker for yours truly, I feel extremely fortunate that every single mechanism I have in place to avoid massive failure or catastrophe was in place and did its job perfectly. The GFI on the wall that shut down as soon as it got wet. The Apex that instantly notified me that the bar had lost power. And even out of paranoid anticipation, I had always left a generous portion of my halide lit prop tank vacant just in case I needed to do this. So once I set the ball in motion, it all went exactly as I had planned it would go. I was not rushed, hurried or even stressed throughout the entire ordeal. The only thing that wasn’t protected were my children's ears from the river of vulgarity that did flow from my mouth on first confirmation.

So I’ll leave you with this but I do not want to scare you. Please plan for every possible scenario you can come up with, and and when you’ve thought of everything, think even harder about the ones you can’t and how you’d respond when the time comes. As unlikely as big problems are to happen, unfortunately things can go wrong, and the more prepared you are, the less chaotic and dangerous the situation will be when it does.

And as I was methodically scrambling this morning, I thought to myself, this is not so bad, in fact it’s been a perfectly successful failure.


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