Australian desert goby fish Aquarium calamity – are you prepared?

Photo Dr P Andreas Svensson

Many pet owners purchase pet insurance for their dogs, cats, horses etcetera but have you ever thought about the insurance needs of your aquarium? While few insurance companies would let you take out a life insurance policy on a guppy or be willing to pay for gold fish surgery, there are other types of insurance that any aquarium owner should consider.

The insurance needs of an aquarium owner can be divided into two categories:
Insurance for the aquarium itself, including equipment and inhabitants
Insurance that covers damages caused by the aquarium, e.g. water damage to the floor and the apartment below you

Your aquariums, their contents, and any damage caused by them may or may not be covered by your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. You need to check your specific policy to find out more – and don’t forget to read the small print. Many insurance policies have quite a comprehensive exclusion list and it is not unusual for all aquariums, or certain aquariums, to show up on this list. Your insurance company may for instance only be willing to pay for damages caused by an aquarium up to a certain amount of gallons, or only cover aquariums that live up to certain standards. It is also quite common for insurance policies not to cover the inhabitants (livestock) of the aquarium but everything else. Some insurance companies will consider plants and corals inhabitants, while others see them as decor.

If you build your own hobby aquariums this doesn’t necessarily disqualify them from being insured. However, most insurance companies have rules stipulating that only “professional quality” aquariums can be insured. This doesn’t mean that an aquarium has to be built by a professional to insured, only that it has to live up to the same level of quality as a professionally constructed tank. Naturally, this is an area where insurance companies and aquarium owners do not always see eye to eye.

Last but not least, it is common for insurance companies to have a notification limit. If for instance your policy has a $1 500 notification limit, you have to inform the insurance company about any possessions that are worth more than $1 500. If for instance your home is burglarized and you file a claim for a $2 000 necklace that got stolen, the insurance company may refuse to cover the necklace if you failed to notify them about you keeping such a precious piece of jewelery in your home. If you own an aquarium, keep in mind that if you file a claim for the entire aquarium you may hit this $1 500 ceiling even if the tank itself did not cost $1 500 to buy. As any fish owner knows, the dollars can keep piling up quite rapidly. You buy a $500 tank, you add some nice filters and a heater, you get some additional stuff along the way, and soon you’ve reached the notification limit without even realizing it. Take a closer look at your aquarium. Would you file a claim if it was destroyed? If yes, have you notified the insurance company about its value?