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Exploding Fish Tanks

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Smooth, Ethan. Real smooth.

In action movies, it has become almost mandatory that if an aquarium is shown at any point, the aquarium will inevitably be destroyed, spilling the water and all the poor fish it contains out onto the floor. Sometimes this is the result of collateral damage, the fish tank was merely in the way, and sometimes the destruction of the tank is intentional, with the fish - always some deadly and often poisonous species - being used as weapons themselves.

Occasionally Played for Laughs in comedies. May start with an Ominous Crack. Compare Opening the Flood Gates. For the outdoor version, see Big Dam Plot.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In an episode of Cardcaptor Sakura set at an aquarium, the Water card-spirit invades and causes just the sort of damage you'd expect.

    Comic Books 
  • The Punisher once had to deal with a druglord who kept a Shark Pool with a big glass wall behind his desk. You have all of three guesses as to how the druglord, the glass and the shark ended up at the end of the story.
  • When Richard Dragon, Bronze Tiger and Nightwing attack the Circle of Six at a Bludhaven restaurant the prominent fish tank seems like it's going to miraculously survive the fight, until some gangsters looking for retribution against the Circle arrive and shoot the place up, blowing the fish tank to bits and ensuring the rest of the fight takes place on a slippery wet floor covered with dead and dying fish.
  • Robin Series: In the tenth issue's Zero Hour! tie in Tim and a time displaced young Dick Grayson chase a jewel thief into the Gotham Aquarium where the crook proceeds to shoot the large shark tank when the boys are next to it causing the glass to groan and then give-way, filling the room with water and sharks.

  • Martin Riggs intentionally shoots the aquarium in the office of Arjen Rudd, Minister of Diplomatic Affairs for the South African Consulate, Lethal Weapon 2.
  • Ethan Hunt blows up the floor-to-ceiling aquariums in a restaurant as cover for his escape in Mission: Impossible.
  • The destruction of a very large (and thus very expensive) aquarium is the driving force behind the plot of Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo, a rare comedy example.
  • In the original Total Recall (1990), Diabolical Mastermind Vilos Cohaagen has an aquarium in his office. After he is forced to give the order to kill his brainwashed undercover best friend, he angrily kicks over the the aquarium. The shot of the fish gasping for air was a foreshadowing of the scene later in the movie where several characters are ejected onto the airless surface of Mars without pressure suits.
  • Octopussy. Octopussy is shown feeding her poisonous blue-ring octopus early in the film. Later, the aquarium is destroyed when James Bond rams an assassin's head into it (and said assassin ends up with the octopus wrapped around his face).
  • In Push, the Pop Family's first encounter with Nick and Cassie. The Bleeders' screams first make the fish inside the tanks burst, and then the tanks themselves explode.
  • Happens in Rush Hour 2.
    • And earlier, in Police Story 4: First Strike.
  • In the 2008 Speed Racer movie, the mob boss's piranha tank gets a single bullet hole, forcing one of the mobster underlings to sacrifice a finger to plug the hole.
  • Several shots are enough to crack an aquarium at a zoo in Eraser, which then explodes, covering the bad guys with water… And alligators.
  • Bizarrely averted in Gigli: a man is shot in the head with a large enough caliber gun to blow a chunk of brain out the back of his skull— and the chunk of brain lands in the undamaged fishtank behind him, leading to a lovely shot of fish nibbling at the thinkymeat.
  • In Sing, Buster equips the Moon Theater with a hastily built glass stage and fills it with bioluminescent squids to create a living light display. This becomes his downfall, for when the glass breaks, it floods the theater and causes the already dilapidated building to collapse.
  • Pokémon Detective Pikachu features an underground fighting ring with a Magikarp in a fish tank at one point. It gets shattered when a pair of Loudred end up inhaling some R and start spewing out incredibly loud dubstep.

  • Don't forget the aquarium with the huge Portuguese Man-of-War in Stormbreaker.
  • Happens with some very large fish tanks when Harry Dresden gets into a fight with some Denarians at an aquarium in Small Favor.
  • What did you think was going to happen in The Heroes of Olympus when you put Percy in an aquarium exhibit?
  • Early on in The Illuminatus Trilogy an office building gets destroyed along with a whole shop full of rare fish.

    Live Action TV 
  • In The X-Files, Agent Mulder's fish tank never took any damage. The fish inside the tank, on the other hand...
    • In another episode, a man who is drowned in his own fish tank reincarnates as a creepy, telekinetic little girl who, after taking revenge on her murderers, telekinetically shatters the same fish tank.
  • This happened to Catherine Weaver's aquarium in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It also revealed that her pet eel was a liquid metal construct, presumably a part of herself detached and used to keep an eye on her office when she wasn't there.
  • A narcissistic killer on one of the Law & Order programs poisoned his tank full of exotic saltwater fish when he fled his apartment, presumably so nobody else could ever enjoy having them.
  • It was a very bad idea to even think of damaging Sipowicz's fish tank in the squad room of NYPD Blue. So you can imagine his reaction when it was summarily taken out by a stray bullet from a rampaging perp.
  • CSI: NY:
    • One episode has a guy who died when he fell into his aquarium, shattering it.
    • Averted in "Bad Beat," which uses one of the Red Herring flashbacks that police procedurals are so fond of. While Danny is questioning a suspect in her home, she is standing beside a fish tank. The "flashback" shows her holding the victim's head underwater in it. Not only is she not the killer, the tank survives the episode as well.
  • Falling Skies has an alien version: Ben shoots out a tank of Puppeteer Parasite harnesses, causing the Exploding Fish Tanks effect.
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?: In The Tale of the Curious Camera, this happens to a fish tank when photographed with the titular camera.
  • The Defenders (2017): During the fight in the Royal Dragon, automatic gunfire from one of the Hand's henchmen naturally destroys a fish tank.
  • A killer on ‘’Criminal Minds’’ was basically a Reality Ensues version of a mad scientist, who’s trying to cure diseases with jellyfish DNA in procedures that end up killing people. His jellyfish tanks are shot in the showdown so that the agents are seen wading through water and dead jellyfish to catch him.

    Music Videos 
  • The music video for Stupify by Disturbed has a recurring fish globe explode for no reason. Guitarist Dan Donegan mentions that they had a stunt-fish for different scenes.
  • The music video for "21 Guns" by Green Day has one in it.

    Video Games 
  • The video game series, The Incredible Machine, includes aquarium objects. With few exceptions, if any moving object (such as a cat or a tennis ball) just touches one, the aquarium will explode spectacularly.
  • The intro of Jak X has Jak crashing through a fishtank with a car.
  • The player can do that in the first Splinter Cell.
  • In the Kowloon level of Call of Duty: Black Ops, there is a room (apparently a kitchen) in one of the buildings, with 3 fishtanks. Considering the area is swarming with Spetsnaz, it is extremely likely the at least 1 tank will be shattered in the fighting.
  • Zork II hides a transparent object in a fish tank holding a sea serpent. The game makes sure you feel bad about the serpent dying in the open air once you break the tank.
  • Occurs in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, and is actually used as symbolism/foreshadowing.
  • Happens when you destroy the entire aquarium in Spellcasting 301.
  • In Sleeping Dogs aquariums are one of the environmental hazards you can use to dispatch you enemies. After breaking one you can pick up a fish and use it as a weapon.
  • In one of the chapters in Project Eden, there is a floor to ceiling aquarium containing a handful of fish, blocking the characters' way and there is no way around it other than shooting it down. The low-polygon fish flop around on the floor for a while and can explode with a greenish spatter (like mutant enemies in the game) when shot.
  • In the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3, a firefight breaks out at a sushi restaurant. Predictably, the fish tank does not survive the encounter. Nobody lets Shepard forget this:
    Miranda "Oh, they shut down my favorite sushi place."
    Shepard: "That's... a shame."
    Miranda: "Shepard, you didn't..."
    Shepard: "I did. Fell right through the fish tank."
    Miranda: "And how did you manage that?"
    Shepard: "It... exploded."
  • While it doesn't happen in Sonic Colors, one of Eggman's PA recordings has him strongly advise against this trope.
    "Please avoid breaking the glass, as it is the only thing between you and ten million gallons of freezing wet death."
  • Happens during the shootout in the Chinese restaurant in Mafia II. The setup cutscene prominently features a large aquarium between the restaurant's entrance and main dining area. Before control has even been fully returned to the player, the Triad gangsters have already completely wrecked it.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The comic version occurs in The Simpsons episode "Brother from the Same Planet" when Homer and Bart's 'bigger brother' Tom have a brawl in the aquarium. After the tank is shattered, they use the starfish as shuriken.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In "Mad Love", Batman deflects the Joker's shot at him into a piranha tank, creating a flood that knocked Joker down and gave Batman the chance to free himself.


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