The 1,500 fish who were kept in the AquaDom aquarium in Berlin died after the tank burst on Friday morning. The aquarium, the largest freestanding cylindrical tank in the world, was home to over 1,000 tropical fish, including blue tang and clownfish.
The aquarium collapsed shortly before 6 am in Germany, spilling over 1 million liters (264,172 gallons) of water.
The massive aquarium was 14 metres (46 feet) and was the main attraction of the Radisson Blu hotel in the DomAquaree leisure complex in Berlin. Guests could take a 10-minute ride in a glass elevator up the aquarium to see the life inside.
“Just chaos. The whole aquarium burst, and what’s left is total devastation. Lots of dead fish, debris. It is quite a drama,” Radisson Blu hotel guest Sandra Weeser said.
“The Aquadome turned into a deathtrap for all the animals trapped there last night. This man-made tragedy shows that aquariums are not safe for fish and other marine life,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Germany said.
Rescuers saved 400 to 500 fish in aquariums from smaller tanks in the building that were not destroyed but didn’t have power after the huge tank burst. Without electricity, the tanks were not receiving the necessary oxygen to keep the fish alive.
Organizations, including the Berlin Zoo, have offered to take in the surviving fish. “Now it’s about evacuating them quickly,” Almut Neumann, a city official in charge of environmental issues for Berlin’s Mitte district, said.
The cause of the aquarium’s burst is unknown, but Berlin’s top security official, Iris Spranger, told German news agency DPA that “first indications point to material fatigue.”
US company Reynolds Polymer Technology, which manufactured and installed the cylinder component of the tank 20 years ago, has stated that it is sending a team to investigate the rupture.
The Aquadome was built in 2003 and renovated in 2020. During the upgrading work, all the water was drained from the tank, and the fish were moved to aquariums in the basement of the building.
When the aquarium first opened in Berlin, Aquadome architect Michael Jessing told news agency Reuters that sabotage could not destroy the tank: “You could make a small hole at most with small arms or something like that, where a little water might come out but not burst the whole cylinder. Such Hollywood scenarios or worst-case scenarios could not take place here.”