Exploding Fishtanks

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

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.

Exploding Fishtanks are occasionally Played for Laughs in comedies, but this is rare. For the outdoor version, see Big Dam Plot. Has the visual appeal of Destination Defenestration and Sheet of Glass, but with the added benefit of the high volume of water this adds. Subtrope of Kung Shui.

Examples of Exploding Fishtanks include:


Anime and Manga


  • 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 Total Recall, 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 screamers first makes the fish inside the tanks burst, and then the tanks themselves explode.
  • Happens in Rush Hour 2.[context?]
  • 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.


  • 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.
  • 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...
  • This happened to Catherine Weaver's aquarium in 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 and 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 Sipowitz'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 had a guy who died when he fell into his aquarium, shattering it. No one knew until later that he was HIV positive, which created drama for Stella, who cut her hand while processing the scene.
  • MythBusters season 11 supplies the page image. Trope: confirmed.

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

Tabletop Games

  • The Star Wars d20 Living Force campaign has two modules (Who Goes Thaere? and The Dark Side Beckons) taking place in the Near Vacuum Cantina where the walls, floor and ceiling are all part of one big fish tank. The modules note it "is full of amphibians, so the poor things won’t die when it inevitably breaks" and the second states that, since it broke in the first one, it has been replaced with much sturdier material that shouldn't break. Note that Move Object is the only offensive force power in the system that isn't dark aligned, so enemies being thrown through it was quite a distinct possibility.


  • In Bionicle, Zaktan and the tank he was in are blown up by a sonic wave.

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 fish tanks can be used for environmental kills in Club Bam Bam as well as a few other locations.

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.
  • In the debut episode of Helluva Boss, Moxie's crossbow is nudged off-course, resulting in him hitting a tank of electric eels, which spill all over the floor and start an electrical fire in their office.