Venice Middle School students pictured with fish tank when it was up and running.
Venice, Florida -- A science project went horribly wrong over the weekend and a 120-gallon saltwater reef tank students had worked for is gone.
The tank was part of a project a Venice Middle School's science class started in September from scratch.
"Literally one jug at a time of distilled water with each child bringing it in," says Sheree Barlow, a science teacher at Venice Middle School.
Barlow's students cultivated the live rock, the live sand, and cared daily for more than a dozen tropical fish. Even parents helped the students build the reef tank.
"It's more than just a fish tank," says 8th grader Olivia Boczniewizz. "We've created friendships and bonds."
"It united the students," says 8th grader Alyssa Orlikowski. "It was exciting and cool."
Then, on Monday morning, Barlow arrived to school and found a mess.
"The smell was unbelievable," she recalls.
The project students spent months working on was gone. The marine life that became like classmates to the students -- lost.
"It was carnage -- absolute carnage," says a tearful Barlow.
To Olivia the news was devastating. "To come to school hear all the water drained out and the fish are dead, it's heartbreaking almost."
Barlow says the filtering equipment malfunctioned and drained the water and destroyed more than $5,000 in electronics and fish.
The reef tank marked the beginning of the first marine science program for middle school students in Sarasota County. It's a program students here at Venice Middle School say they will continue to build."
Alyssa emailed 10 News hoping the community will come together to help her class rebuild the reef tank so future students can share her love for science.
"It made me look forward to come to this class everyday. It's amazing," she says.
"We have less money than ever. We will start one jug at a time if necessary, one grain of sand if necessary," Barlow says.
Anyone interested in helping the students with a new tank, equipment or monetary donations can call Venice Middle School at 941-486-2100. The school's address is 1900 Cortez Road, Venice, Fl. 34292.
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