Venice school heartbroken after fish tank disaster

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VENICE, Fla. - Teachers and students at Venice Middle School are heartbroken after a large saltwater fish tank full of sea life empties itself over the weekend, killing everything inside.

Those involved with the Marine Science program there say it was more than a just a fish tank, it was something which brought the whole school together. Now they're hoping the community will step up to help them rebuild.

The 120 gallon salt water fish tank was full of dozens of species. Students have been working on it and learning from it since September.

"It started out as just an idea, doing something small, and has grown into an entire program." Science teacher Sheree Barlow says it brought students together and some out of their own shell. In the past few months a couple local grants helped bring it together. Parents donated more, students painted the tank. It was going swimmingly.

Then Monday morning happened. “There was well over 100 gallons of water on the floor, just everywhere."

The tank failed, with the filter being the likely culprit. The fish and other sea life couldn't be saved; an estimated $5,000 loss.

“It was the loss of a program. It was a loss of something we had built together. It was huge. As one of our students said, it was a piece of our heart that died on Monday."

"I would have cried if I was not in shock." 8th grader Olyvia Boczniewicz says she, like many of her fellow classmates who worked on it, is heartbroken. "It's not just a fish tank. It's not just a piece of glass and wood and fish inside. It's a whole other thing to get attached to. It's a like a whole other family."

But now Barlow says there are other lessons to learn. “We licked our wounds for a few days, and now it is time to rebuild."

8th grader Alyssa Orlikowski started contacting local media, hoping the community will step up. "I got home and I figured why not? I went for it."

She’s hoping the media will help give them a voice. "We can raise the money to rebuild the tank and maybe even make it better than before and come back strong."

They’re hoping the watery eyes of a few students will open some local hearts and help fill a tank for learning once again.

"Ideally we need a drilled tank so this type of tragedy would never happen again," says Barlow.

If you are interested in helping out you can contact Venice Middle School at 486-2100. Donations are tax deductible.