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Plant Life After Heater Malfunction!?


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Hello fellow #nerms 😊

Alright - here's the sort of "story" ::

Last Tuesday (the 20th), all was fine and well at least at / around 9:30 that morning, in all 7 of the tanks.

Looked in each tank, and watched the fish in each one for a moment or two -- and fes each tank as usual.

Cut to 2:55pm (so just over *5 HOURS* later) - I was doing water changes on the small tanks that day and I got to this one particular tank. ((the tank I am referring to in this post is a 5 gallon Marineland Eclipse (hexagon) tank - so not one of the bigger ones))

Unplugged the things I needed to unplug before removing water, then reached in to begin removing the duckweed……..

But the water was warm.

Way way way way too warm.

( and then I did a big "no-no" ) I tapped the side of the tank --- nothing moved.

Tapped again - still nothing.

So then (within the same 5 seconds) I looked at the thermometer… 


As you can see ----- yeah. It was ACTUALLY as correct of a reading as it could give me. The water in this tank, had reached OVER the 104°F 'cut-off'.

There was actually steam coming off the top / surface of the water (circled)


So I started to look about the bottom of the tank, and yup. Sure enough. Dead.

The few fish - which consisted of 4 (older ,virgin) juvenile female guppies, 2 young juvenile female platys, and 2 {left of originally 7} Pygmy Corys; and all of the snails (bladder/pond & ramshorn). Just…dead.

And of course it was also a fully planted tank.

So, after coming to terms with the fact that everything living in this tank was now dead - I turned my attention to the plants.

I don't know how long the temp had been as high as it was, I don't even know when the absurd increase had even begun.

I DO know it was NOT that warm at 9:30 though - because I reached a hand into this tank and pulled a few bladder snails out to feed to my assassin snails.


But I ended up doing was removing absolutely everything from this tank, the substrate, the filter media oh, the Sponge Filter, and obviously all of the plants as well.

Because of the number of snails I knew were in this tank, and that nothing, and I mean nothing, had survived this malfunction, I was not willing to risk keeping the substrate, which I'm sure is for obvious reasons.

And at this particular time, I did not find myself feeling too worried about the plants that were in the tank, because at that time none of them looked to have been damaged too horribly, although there were a few leaves on one of the crypts that had started to yellow and become almost see-through.

So after I replaced everything (except the sponge filter - but this was very thoroughly cleaned) I replaced the plants back into the tank with some root tabs.

They stayed green --- for about 3 days after this.

And now, this is what they look like :

So my question?

How do I know if these plants are REALLY dead, and not just that their leaves have all melted away (I've had plants that started with DOZENS of leaves, and the melt back, so much so, that only the bit that goes in the substrate with its roots was left -- but then EVENTUALLY they'd come back).

Sooooo ARE they just completely done-for!!? ***also to note - the crowns of the swords are NOT mushy / soft -- but all the leaves (as well as most of the roots) on the swords, crypts, and apongeton plants , all basically feel like mush when you touch them***

this is just a pic of what it used to look like - vs - now:


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First I am sorry this happened to you. I would place in a clear container on a windowsill with some easy green. I blanched Val in the summer sun by accident. Same thing happened but after 2 weeks doing this new shoots emerged. I also have had heater malfunction in this manner. I now use these inkbirds on all my tanks. It cuts the power when it goes above your chosen temp.  There are more tech more expensive one but I’ve never used them. If you decide on inkbird make sure you get the aquarium one with the rubber probe not the beer brewing/bbq grill ones with the metal probe. I’m sorry again for your loss I know first hand how devastating it is. 


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OH NO!! I am so very sorry for your loss 😞 . I had the opposite thing happen, the heater didn't turn on. I was lucky I caught it on time. I purchased the Inkbird above and @ARMYVET and @Streetwise as well as @Guppysnail came to the rescue. I also purchased the heaters @Guppysnail recommended as well. 

The inkbird was a bit of a learning curve for me (still is a bit) but its worth the extra insurance that the fish will be safe if a malfunction should occur. 

Again I am so sorry for your loss 

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On 9/29/2021 at 6:28 PM, Sandra the fish rookie said:

@Guppysnail it was VERY ticky to set up. Are your heater lights on in your tank? You have the vivosun heaters right? 

I switched all but two to Aqueon pro metal.  I replaced one more with vivosun. I like it. I got another. The temp display isn’t calibrated correctly but I LOVE the external temp adjustment and it works great so far. The lights on the heater itself come on when they are on. The work light is on on the inkbird. I set the inkbird with a 2 degree over desired temp so it kills power before my fish are uncomfortable and so I know the heaters actual shut off is still working 

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On 9/29/2021 at 10:40 PM, TifNee837 said:

But will this help with all 7 tanks? That's the issue - 7 tanks, in separate rooms 😢😔

I use 7 inkbirds. It traumatized me when mine overheated and demolished the tank so for peace of mind and to reduce my worry every morning that something went wrong it was worth saving up for. 

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On 9/29/2021 at 10:40 PM, TifNee837 said:

tanks, in separate rooms

I have one on my 20G and now one on my 40 G.. Absolutely you can have one on all the tanks if you wish! Its a hit to the pocket book but it will give you peace of mind! 

When I have a few extra bucks. I add on to my cart.. eventually I want to have at least 1 extra one.. for a back up.. 

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On 9/30/2021 at 4:02 AM, Guppysnail said:

I use 7 inkbirds. It traumatized me when mine overheated and demolished the tank so for peace of mind and to reduce my worry every morning that something went wrong it was worth saving up for. 

I only have 3 tanks with heaters right now. 

I have 6 tanks, out of 13, that ever use heaters, so I own 3 Pymeter double control units and program accordingly. 16330516262902751732511722913585.jpg.db188d77d6cc842fa3a0a75d976a75bd.jpg

This controls my Q/T and my turtle tank.

They turn off at 81°, turn back on if it drops to 78°. Temps outside dropped 30° this past week, so heaters will be working hard until the landlord gets our heater running. I am running a solid Aqueon heater in the Q/T, it's not programmable so the pymeter takes care of it. 

I have a turtle heater inside a turtle cage in the 'turtle pond' that is set to 82°, and the pymeter takes care of that too.


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