Waking up to find your floor covered in pools of water, big shards of glass and sad-looking bits of coral and seaweed – not to mention fish – isn't any renter's idea of a good morning.
When a home aquarium or fish tank is damaged due to an accident or another unexpected event, it can be upsetting. It can also be expensive, given the costs of repairing or replacing the tank, and the fact that a damaged aquarium can also cause damage.
So, as a renter, what can your insurance do to help in a scenario like this? Is the tank itself covered? What about its occupants? Would the financial responsibility for damage that the aquarium caused be yours or your landlord's?
Let's find out.
The short answer? Contents insurance.
Renters insurance and contents insurance is pretty much the same thing. The reason you probably want contents insurance is that, as a renter, insuring the building itself is the landlord's (or strata's) responsibility, not yours.
But while the landlord's insurance should cover, say, a leaking tap, it won't cover your leaking aquarium and any damage it causes to your belongings.
With the right policy, your aquarium can be covered against a range of insured events, including:
- Storm damage
- Fire damage
- Impact damage (e.g. from a falling tree or branch)
- Water damage
- Accidental damage (usually as an optional add-on)
Many contents policies will also cover your legal liability if someone gets injured at your rental (e.g. by broken glass from a fish tank).
Here are a few points to keep in mind as you shop around:
- There's a high level of variance in how insurers treat aquariums and fish tanks, so if you have an aquarium that you care about, it's recommended that you do your research, read the fine print and talk to insurers about the aquarium-related specifics before committing to a policy.
- If you're in a share house situation, you'll have the option of taking out a combined contents policy with your housemates. If you'd prefer, you can also fly solo with an individual policy that'll just cover your things.
- If you have a deluxe aquarium that's worth more than the maximum amount that the insurer will pay out for it in a standard policy (e.g. $2,500), you might need to specify the aquarium in the policy to get it covered up to its actual value.
- If you only have a few important things you want to insure, you could consider single item insurance, which gives the same protection as straight contents insurance but only for nominated items.
Note: Unfortunately, whatever insurance you take out for your aquarium, the fish (and any other creatures) that live in it won't be considered "contents".
As well as being expensive to repair and replace, home aquariums can be accident-prone.
And they're not just damageable – they're also capable of causing damage to your other belongings.
That's why insurers tend to group them with other potentially troublesome "water containers", such as hot water systems, water supply tanks and (interestingly) waterbeds.
Renters insurance with accidental damage cover can protect your aquarium and other contents in case the unexpected happens. Add in your landlord's insurance to protect the building itself, and your aquarium-related cover starts to look pretty comprehensive.
Yes – with a few important caveats.
Different insurers have different approaches to aquarium leaks, so it's crucial to do your research first. Some policies will cover fish tanks but not fish bowls. Some will only cover aquariums containing a defined volume of water. Some will cover accidental glass breakage, while others won't.
What led to the leak will also be a key factor. Was it something sudden and unforeseeable, or could you have seen it coming (e.g. a slowly expanding crack)?
Importantly, most insurers distinguish between:
- Damage caused by "escape of liquid" or water damage from an aquarium, which standard policies generally do cover.
- Damage to the aquarium itself, which many standard policies don't cover.
Your landlord's insurance should cover any damage to carpets, flooring or other parts of the building that your aquarium damages. But as an aquarium-owning renter, it's recommended that you look into adding accidental damage insurance, which can strengthen your cover for the tank itself.
Yes. Most standard policies will cover any damage a leaking aquarium causes to your home and/or contents but not the costs of repairing or replacing the aquarium itself.
If you add accidental damage insurance to your policy, your aquarium could be covered for the costs of accidental glass breakage, as well as mishaps like dropping the aquarium while you're unloading, installing or moving it.
Be sure to research what different insurers define as accidental damage, specifically in relation to aquariums and water containers.
Which brands offer cover for accidental damage?
Home aquariums give us a lot of pleasure, but if something goes wrong, they can also cause serious damage and be expensive to repair or replace. You and your fishy friends will sleep better with the right renters insurance policy.
Picture: Getty Images