2020 - Year of Hell
2019 was wonderful. I finally got to set up my dream aquarium after purchasing it more than 10 years prior and lugging a giant empty tank around from house to house and everything went better than I had planned.
2020 started off great as well. Early in the year I moved the juvenile barbs up into the main tank to join their parents and create a lovely school and added a colony of cherry shrimp to the refugium in their place. Some plant species had struggled for various reasons, most notably hungry barbs, but I had found others that were thriving and had the CO2, dosing, and lighting, and maintenance dialed in so algae was rarely a bother.
Then covid hit. I'm lucky and was able to switch to full work from home but my workload tripled and I went from 9-5 M-F to working 12-16 hours days 7 days a week for several weeks in a row. During the second week of this chaos, I came downstairs in the afternoon to check the fish and was crushed to find all my barbs dead.
The final loss count came to:
All 24 black ruby barbs
All 6 cherry barbs
1 Rainbow shark
1 Horseface loaches
Over the next few days I lost one zebra loach and my opaline gourami.
This left the following survivors:
4 Pearl Gourami
12 Kuhli Loaches
8 Horseface Loaches
4 Zebra Loaches
None of the dead fish showed any signs of disease but I had just done a water change the night before so I assume something must have gone wrong there. All the water parameters tested normal but it had been nearly 24 hours since the WC and I hadn't checked the tank with the lights in between so it's possible whatever did it might no longer have been present by the time I tested. The best guesses I've been able to come up with are that I either:
a) accidentally turned on the CO2 system when reactivating the pumps after the WC. The WC was after the normal lights out time so the auto off wouldn't have triggered until the end of the next day.
b) grabbed the wrong bottle when treating the water and added some kind of meds instead of dechlorination. Excess chlorine could have evaporated off
Regardless of the exact cause it was a crushing blow. I've been in this hobby for 25 years and have never had losses like that. For a little while I just wanted to give the tank away but knew I could never do that. I kept up regular water changes but didn't devote much attention to plants over the next few months leading a very overgrown tank. To try to prevent a similar failure I reorganized the whole cabinet to separate chemicals used for different purposes and added additional shut off triggers for the CO2 system every hour outside of the run time so if it ever gets accidentally turned on it won't be able to reach a dangerous level.
Photo from May: