Nothing like coming home from a vacation, doing routine tank maintenance, and noticing fish missing. That’s right, plural. Two fish, to be exact, from a 55g mbuna tank.
This tank has stacked rock from end to end. Naturally, the fish hide when I’m performing my regular maintenance, so trying to do a head count is nearly impossible. I waited until feeding time because that’s when it’s easiest to count fish, especially for tanks that are heavily decorated or have lots of rock.
I noticed that my lone Pseudotropheus demasoni and one of my Pseudo sp. “Elongatus Chailosi” weren’t coming out to eat. That’s a tell tale sign there’s a problem. So, the search began.
I started on one end of the tank and moved rock until I got to the other end. Nothing. The canister filter has a sponge on the intake, so it was impossible for any fish to get sucked into the filter. I have two glass canopies that cover the top completely, so I knew they couldn’t have jumped out either. That left only two possibilities: they had both died and decomposed to the point where nothing was left or….the powerhead. I knew that neither of those fish could have decomposed that quickly, so that left the powerhead.
Though the powerhead did not have a strainer or prefilter on its intake, I thought to myself, “There is no way either of those fish would get sucked in unless they were really sick or dead.” I could tell the powerhead wasn’t clogged to the point where it wasn’t drawing water because I have an artificial plant right in front of it, and the plant was waving in the water while I was cleaning the tank earlier. However, knowing there was no other possibility, I unplugged the powerhead, turned it over, and looked in the short intake pipe. Yep, something was there.
I took a small plastic spoon and stuck the handle end inside the intake, using the handle as a sort of pry bar. I pulled the fish out. It was the demasoni and it had been there a while. I stuck the handle back in and pried some more. Yep, the other fish was in there too. I finally got it’s heavily decomposed carcass out also. Needless to say, I did another complete water change. I also immediately capped the intake of the powerhead with a small prefilter sponge.
I don’t want to blame my house sitter, yet I can’t help but wonder what happened. Both fish were fine when I left on travel. Losing one fish would be highly unusual, but losing two would be extremely unlikely. No way to know for sure what happened. My house sitter has no experience keeping fish, and no instructions were left other than when to feed (the food for each feeding was pre-measured).