Fire Scare

So, this just happened.

I was on the phone talking with a friend, lying down on the bed in the second bedroom, when all of a sudden I smelled smoke.   I leaped up, ran into the hallway, and noticed smoke accumulating around the ceiling lighting.   My first thought was the air conditioner.   Even though it’s sort of past air conditioning season, today was 82 here in Chicago.   Since I’m on the top floor of my condo building, it’s always extremely hot.   When it’s 70 outside, it will register as 77 inside, so the air has to be on.

I just assumed the HVAC unit (I think that’s what it’s called) had malfunctioned and a wire had caught fire.   It had that smell of burning metal.   So, I ran to the thermostat, and turned off the air.   I couldn’t tell where the smoke was coming from.   Also in the room with the HVAC is the washing machine.   I had both the washer and dryer going, too.   My mind immediately flashed huge dollar signs thinking that this had probably broken and was shooting out smoke.   But when I opened to door to this room, there was no smoke.

The only other thing I have in the hallway, except for a few prints hanging up is my reef tank.

When I spun around to check out the tank, I noticed smoke billowing up from the cabinet underneath the tank.   When I opened the cabinet, I saw a power strip shooting sparks out of itself.   I realized that water, salt water, was dripping directly into one of the outlets.

Five seconds later, the fuse got tripped.   Darkness.

The good news is there’s no leak on the tank.   It’s a 65 gallon tank, and weighs hundreds of pounds.   If there was a leak, it would be a huge pain in the butt.

Also, good news – all my fish had dies months ago, and my corals, too.   Normally, this is a bad thing, and of course it is, but it meant I didn’t have to do anything with the tank upkeep-wise for awhile.

My tank is seven years old, and if you don’t know anything about reef tanks, just think about the ocean.   It’s basically that.   Saltwater, with sand and rock.   You have to mimic the conditions of the ocean in just about every way possible.   After a few years, the tank settles down, and everything kind of filters itself.   You have snails, and crabs, and shrimp eating all the waste and algae.   You have even smaller critters hiding in the sandbed eating the snail waste, and so on.   The rock is alive, the sand is alive.   You really don’t need much filtration, because everything is filtered by something else.

Except it’s a HUGE hassle to keep everything in stasis.   I have ten different chemical tests for things like nitrate, nitrite, calcium, ph, salinity, alkalinity, etc.   If just one of those levels gets out of whack, you’re fucked.   Things start to die.

Plus, you can’t use tap water in a reef tank.   No way.   I have a RO/DI unit (think a Brita filter with five chambers on steroids) that drips into a bucket after going through many filtration stages.   Once the bucket fills up, the dripping stops.   Then I siphon the good water into another bucket and pour it into the tank.   You have to do this every few days, because the lighting is metal hallide, which is crazy hot.

Every day several gallons of water evaporate under these lamps.

So, you can begin to see just how much of a pain a reef tank is.   Not to mention all the food, keeping the tank to a specific temperature, etc.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours, and thousands of dollars over the years on this tank.   And I’m not a guy that throws around money at hobbies just to do it.   When four fish die, that’s probably $200 to replace.

I figured out it was the protein skimmer that had been jostled and somehow decided to leak, out of the blue.   So weird.

So, I have made the decision to sell ALL of my equipment – the tank, the lighting, the live rock, the sand, everything.   If I wasn’t home during this, there’s a good chance my place could have caught fire.   I can’t handle that sort of thing in my life right now.

Dealing with the aftershocks of a divorce, new career, and taking care of a cat and dog is plenty for me.

I will dig up some photos soon of the tank in happier times.   Just glad my place didn’t burn.




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One thought on “Fire Scare”

  1. Michelle says:

    Someday remind me to blog about the time the neighbor kids set our fence on fire. Scary, yet funny. Glad your apartment didn’t burn down.

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