Let's talk worst case scenarios: Leaks, and how to prepare for/prevent them
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Old 01-30-2013, 09:45 AM   #1
annewaldron
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Let's talk worst case scenarios: Leaks, and how to prepare for/prevent them


I had a bit of a scare last night. After I'd shut down my filter and was getting ready to do a water change and filter clean out, I discovered water pouring out from my tank cabinet. I hadn't gotten around to closing off the flow on the hose connector to my canister, and somehow the seal wasn't tight on the canister lid. Luckily it only amounted to about a half gallon's worth of water, but it gave me a good scare and got me into preparedness mode. After making an emergency trip to the aquarium store, I got a replacement seal put on the canister lid and now all is well (although I'm up way too early after a nightmare about 30 gallons all over the floor!)

I realized that having a replacement filter seal on hand is probably not that bad of an idea. What about preparing for a possible tank seam leak? Is there any way to do an emergency seal on something like this that would at least hold it until you could safely break down the tank? What other kinds of measures can I take to prepare for/prevent an emergency? A few extra buckets? Seal lubrication goo?

(I admit that rereading my filter user manual was also wise- I'm supposed to be shutting off the water flow *before* I power down the filter- perhaps the older seal got jarred by the flicker of power and stuttered water flow)

Any horror stories to share and lessons learned? Suggestions?
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Old 01-30-2013, 12:17 PM   #2
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That's an interesting question.

I can think of two things that would make ANY preparation a waste of time:

Leaks have a nasty habit of happening when you're not around.
Leaks have a nasty habit of happening at joints you can't possibly apply pressure to.

On the positive side, if the leak springs on a vertical seam, you may be able to apply pressure to it with a carpenter's clamp or pipe clamp with plastic pads on the clamp faces. Sandwiching some wood blocks between the clamp face and the tank would eliminate the need for clamp pads and would distribute the pressure more evenly.

I've seen jumbo Oceanic tanks where the enormous glass center brace separated and a few pipe clamps avoided a catastrophe.

If one of the bottom seams fails big-time, I think you'd be in big trouble.

Having critical spare parts around is something most of us don't pay much attention to until we experience a failure of some sort. Yes, the nature of the beast is that once you buy the spare parts, they shall sit there for eternity or until you need the space for something else. At least that's the way it's always seemed to work for me, lol!
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Old 01-30-2013, 12:26 PM   #3
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Just one more thought.

I my experience, seam failures have four causes:

Careless use of scraping tools near silicone beads over time. (scouring pads and fingers usually work great)

Extended storage of tanks in unprotected environments. An unheated shed or the back deck isn't a place to store a tank.

Poor workmanship. Custom tank builders should come with references and insurance.

Extreme water pressure. Seam failures are FAR more common on jumbo tanks. A 30G most likely won't fail unless we make it fail by not treating or storing it properly.
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Old 01-30-2013, 12:44 PM   #4
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Seam failure,, have a big rubbermaid trashcan around to store water, heater, filter, and fish until repairs can be made, or a repalcement brought in
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Old 01-30-2013, 01:10 PM   #5
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I keep a spare 20g tank and stand in my basement in case of emergency. I've never ever used it, but it's there if I need it (assuming I'm home/awake when said emergency takes place).
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Old 01-30-2013, 01:10 PM   #6
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Having spare critical gaskets and seals on hand is always a good idea.

A wet/dry vac, or home steam cleaner if you have carpet, helps to clean up messes.

All but one of my leaks were a direct result of me messing with something, not spontaneous failures. It's a good idea to peek back in at your tank a few minutes after maintenance is done, then maybe again after a half hour. If the water level's gone down, you have a leak. Caught one just a few days ago this way, and only lost three gallons.
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Old 01-30-2013, 01:16 PM   #7
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Make sure you have adequate insurance and that it doesn't exclude aquariums.

Here's why: http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=103155 <-You can't plan for that.
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Old 01-31-2013, 05:07 AM   #8
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I wish I could remember where I ran into it, but a while back I found some page or another that advocated making a secondary containment basin for tanks.

It was pretty much just a 4x8 sheet of plywood, with 2x4s on end around the perimeter, and then coated with epoxy or something. Should hold ~60 gallons. Granted, this would be better for something like a fishroom, and wouldn't look to hot in a nicely furnished and carpeted living room.

I'm going to try this when I get around to starting work on a planned paludarium (if that ever happens...), but I'm doing a 3'x2' with 2x6's and pvc showerliner for a 20 Gallon extra tall I'm going to try and set up this weekend. the 5x6 will make it a bit more obvious, but the tank is going in a pretty crowded corner, so hopefully it won't be a big issue. Also, what I have will only hold ~17 gallons, but I think after driftwood/hardscape, substrate, etc, that will be about what the tank actually holds.
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Old 01-31-2013, 01:42 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lochaber View Post
I wish I could remember where I ran into it, but a while back I found some page or another that advocated making a secondary containment basin for tanks.

It was pretty much just a 4x8 sheet of plywood, with 2x4s on end around the perimeter, and then coated with epoxy or something. Should hold ~60 gallons. Granted, this would be better for something like a fishroom, and wouldn't look to hot in a nicely furnished and carpeted living room.

I'm going to try this when I get around to starting work on a planned paludarium (if that ever happens...), but I'm doing a 3'x2' with 2x6's and pvc showerliner for a 20 Gallon extra tall I'm going to try and set up this weekend. the 5x6 will make it a bit more obvious, but the tank is going in a pretty crowded corner, so hopefully it won't be a big issue. Also, what I have will only hold ~17 gallons, but I think after driftwood/hardscape, substrate, etc, that will be about what the tank actually holds.
The concept's been around a while and on a smaller scale. I'll never be able to find the thread, but more than a few folks that maintain saltwater tanks in finished areas of the house, built custom stands that are simply water-tight. Essentially made epoxy-coated basins out of the bottom of the stand.
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Old 01-31-2013, 02:30 PM   #10
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I keep my 2 rena XP-3 canisters inside 5 gallon buckets so if i was to have a leak it would fill the bucket and not the cabinet........ Now for the funny part !
The tank is 125 gallons LOL so at least only 115 gallons will flood the place !
I guess im just hoping to find the leak before it gets past 5 gallons :-)
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Old 02-01-2013, 05:23 AM   #11
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I think the idea of always checking things a while after messing with equipment if the best advice so far.

I cannot speak for everyone, but I bet we have all had that same nightmare.
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Old 02-01-2013, 12:21 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tomfromstlouis View Post
I think the idea of always checking things a while after messing with equipment if the best advice so far.

I cannot speak for everyone, but I bet we have all had that same nightmare.
No, my worst nightmare is my power company. The constant on-off min brown-outs just hammer electronics. I've had return pumps just give up and ballasts just throw in the towel. During good weather and horrible weather 23 years of it. If I didn't have so many tanks, I would have a UPS on each one. Instead, I keep spares of just about everything.

Not exactly on-topic but as you can see it strikes a chord with me.
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Old 02-01-2013, 06:10 PM   #13
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There was a thread years ago where someone was wondering if he could DIY something unobtrusive that could be placed under an entire tank setup, and detect any leak, no matter how small. Just off the cuff, I suggested two layers of aluminum window screen, separated by a layer of fabric which had been soaked in an electrolyte solution and allowed to fully dry. Should a leak occur, it would wet the fabric and dissolve the electrolyte, which would make the water sufficiently conductive to allow current to flow between the two layers of screen. A simple circuit would be able to detect this small current, and switch on a higher current device, like an audible alarm. Bonus points if it could also call a cell phone. I don't think he actually tried it, though.

If you have something that is likely to capture and contain at least part of a tank's water capacity (epoxy coated basin, buckets, etc.), then a float switch - as used in air conditioning drip pans - would be a much simpler way to trigger an alarm.

Of course, neither of these stop the leak, just help alert you to it before too much damage is done.
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Old 02-01-2013, 06:43 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lochaber View Post
I wish I could remember where I ran into it, but a while back I found some page or another that advocated making a secondary containment basin for tanks.

It was pretty much just a 4x8 sheet of plywood, with 2x4s on end around the perimeter, and then coated with epoxy or something. Should hold ~60 gallons. Granted, this would be better for something like a fishroom, and wouldn't look to hot in a nicely furnished and carpeted living room.

I'm going to try this when I get around to starting work on a planned paludarium (if that ever happens...), but I'm doing a 3'x2' with 2x6's and pvc showerliner for a 20 Gallon extra tall I'm going to try and set up this weekend. the 5x6 will make it a bit more obvious, but the tank is going in a pretty crowded corner, so hopefully it won't be a big issue. Also, what I have will only hold ~17 gallons, but I think after driftwood/hardscape, substrate, etc, that will be about what the tank actually holds.
When I had a 120 gallon tank, that was very old when I bought it, I put a big plastic pan under the center of the tank, had the top of the stand form a relatively water proof basin, with a drain down to the pan below, which also had the canister filter sitting in it, and installed a drain from the pan through the wall to the back door of the garage. And, one day I did have a leak, which I discovered when I saw the water outside that garage door! But, I haven't done that again, since my tanks have been better quality since then.
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Old 02-01-2013, 09:32 PM   #15
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When my old 55 g started to leak, up high, I had time to get a new one. So when I tore down the old tank, I used a large cooler with a lid and 3 large new garbage bags. I put the bags into each other and put it into the cooler. Tank water, fish and plants went into that. Cans with plastic bags held the rest of the water. An air pump and canister filter for the cooler, closed the lid and all was good for the night. For an emergency, that worked. Use whatever you have on hand!
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