Sometimes it's really all about the silver linings. I mean, I'm not the worlds most emboldened optimist - trust me, but in the wake of a devastating circumstance, I think if we can find just one flake of positivity, then at least we can't consider it a 100% failure. I have often considered the “first crash” an essential rite of passage in every reefers journey. Whether by malfunction, equipment failure, direct human error, the result of pests, or some other quirk we never discover, this crash will be a turning point for you, I guarantee. I see it as an almost well earned catharsis to expel all the crap you piled in your tank before you had any idea of what you were doing. For me, it was Flatworms back in about 07. Up till that point, I would put any frag in my system, no matter what it was, without consideration of any sort. Just “fill me up”. Like an empty hobo at a free buffet, I nabbed as many frags I could get, and threw them all in that tank, as fast and recklessly as possible.
Now I’m not poised to have a debate about the quality of life and whether or not we should eradicate any particular species simply because they do not fit into our aesthetic construct anymore. But, the serendipitous beauty of the crash can be, that in one heartbreaking moment, all that “whatever” coral: the "brownesque” monti caps, the green and brown digita, the ugly polyped Millie, those dormant duds your patience ran out on ages ago, the five different tables that all somehow look exactly like the red planet! - quintessential "newbie stuff", all haphazardly placed without any consideration or notion of future development, just filling in space rather than complimenting each other in any way - all that crap is all gone now! What you are left with is a clean slate, which can be a very beautiful thing, and with any luck, a bit more wisdom in your brain than you had the first go round.
A “total loss” brings with it a new found sense of selectivity. Whether, you are aware of it or not, at this point, you have developed some idea of what you like and what you don’t, and probably have a better understanding of simple growth patterns and structures as well. There’s a real good chance that unless you’re nostalgic for it, you wont be re-aquiring the majority of the “whatever” corals you lost. It’s time to move on and stay positive. The worst is definitely over. You may also consider a full re-scape. This is perhaps the best excuse you’ll have for some time to reconfigure your aquascape. Get creative! Build elaborate sprawling pillars, or keep it simple and take a minimalist approach. Whatever you decide to do, now is the time, I promise, your fading memory of the old tank and subsequent crash will become distanced even further as you completely re-envision and recreate, whats in front of you. Your spirit will begin to lift and sadness will soon be replaced with enthusiasm. But, now is really when the fun begins, because as I said, you are a lot more keen on what you like and what you may not be so into. It’s time to put your polished exclusivity to practice, and I promise you, that you will build for yourself a new reef, far beyond the aesthetic potential of the crowded, “wall of coral” like vision of your very first iteration. You will choose and place coral with a more precise concept of what you like and want to see. More importantly, you will most likely know very well what you do not want to see, and this may be the key to enjoying your reef for all its worth. And let’s not forget that starting out a new reef is often the most exhilarating stage of all. You get to experience all of that one more time, and take it from me, It’s pretty awesome.
Ultimately, your first, second or even third crash, no matter how extensive and horrible it will feel like in the moment, and may in fact be the worst thing you and your reef ever experience together, in the end, is truly an essential building block to future successes. Whether learning the importance of proper QT protocol or just having a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t, or perhaps being driven to join a forum or two to seek advice. I promise you that there will always be some good that comes from a crash. We just may need to look for it a little harder sometimes.
So whether you’ve already been through it, or that impending crash is on its way, try to remember through the heartache and duress, that loosing a tank is not the end of the world. Heart and potentially wallet breaking indeed, but not a reason to give up on the hobby at all. A good crash only puts you in the driver seat of a brand new experience.