Cut and Pasted from the Morning Call news paper of July 3, 2005
Home decor in a fish tank
Special to The Morning Call
More homeowners are up to something fishy these days.
They are setting up cool-looking, oversized aquariums and making them the focal
point of the rooms where they spend lots of time.
Standard rectangular tanks or round goldfish bowls are out; in are aquariums
built into walls or hung to look like large flat-screen TVs.
''There are a lot of people today with some pretty amazing tanks in their
homes,'' says Craig Flyzik, manager of American Aquarium & Pet Supply in
Flyzik includes himself in that group. Flyzik has three tanks in his Coaldale
home: a 37-gallon mini-reef, a 55-gallon and a 180-gallon filled with African
cichlids, which are some of the most colorful fish found in freshwater
Lisa Bauber, owner of Tanks 2 U in Moore Township, has seen aquariums balloon
along with her business.
''When I first started 10 years ago, everyone was buying 20-gallon tanks,'' she
says. ''Now it's more like 55- to 100-gallon tanks that are most popular.''
David Bishop of Slatington, owner of KissYourFish.com, installs and maintains
aquariums and ponds in Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He finds the average
size aquarium ranges from 90 to 200 gallons. Some of his clients have custom
tanks that are 800 gallons or more.
Not only are people into bigger tanks, they also are spending more on them.
Some homeowners invest several thousand dollars for the tank and filtration
system. Then they spend several hundred to several thousand to stock them with
livestock — fish and plants — and for accessories.
The labor to install the tank is even more. Bishop charges from $150 to $3,000
for installations. ''The price for the labor depends on the size of the
aquarium, where it's going, and the accessibility to that location,'' he says.
Maintenance, which consists of cleaning the tank and checking that everything
works properly, is extra. For that, Bishop charges from $50 to $300 a month.
That typically includes one in-home or business visit a month, but possibly
more, if needed.
Jon Kenyon, 30, who has a 90-gallon reef aquarium in his Germansville home, says
if his wife kept track of how much he has spent on it in the four years he has
had it, ''she probably would kill me.'' He figures his set-up cost him between
$3,000 and $4,000 and that's with his installing the aquarium in their basement
Aquariums are not just a trend among higher-end homes. It's all price ranges and
types of homes.
''One day I'm installing an aquarium in a $50,000 home in the Lehigh Valley and
the next I'm in a $10 million home in New Jersey,'' Bishop says.
Bishop has worked in new construction as well as historic homes. ''I'm doing an
aquatic turtle habit — a zoo quality exhibit — for an addition to a 200-year-old
home in Bethlehem,'' he says.
Many tank choices available
Bishop says most people call him wanting a custom-built tank. However, he says,
manufacturers make so many shapes and sizes today, most people can find one to
fit their needs and save thousands of dollars. Still, he takes great pride in
that no two of his aquarium designs are ever the same.
Most people, he says, want their aquariums to look like they are part of the
house. If it is a newly built house, he typically will install the tank during
construction. ''I can work with the contractors and have one built in,'' Bishop
Statistics from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association confirm that
aquarium ownership is riding a wave of popularity
Over the past decade, 1994-2004, the
number of U.S. households that own freshwater fish has increased from 9.4
million to 13.9 million — a nearly 50 percent increase. Saltwater fish ownership
also has increased from 600,000 in 1994 to 800,000 last year — a more than 30
Retailers suggest a number of reasons for the growth, including TV home shows,
the Internet, improved technology and transportation, and childhood nostalgia.
Home decorating shows on cable television often help set trends, and several
have featured decorator aquariums.
Bishop, who has been in the aquarium business for 20 years, notices more
homeowners wanting higher-end, quality products and quality woodwork around the
aquarium after shows featuring such installations air. ''I get an awful lot of
requests for intricate designs since HGTV,'' he says.
''There's a lot of pet business in general on TV 24 hours a day, seven days a
week,'' agrees Mike Winzer, owner of Angels R Us in Allentown, ''and I think
that has a lot to do with the popularity of aquariums.''
Movies such as Disney's ''Finding Nemo'' also helped push the hobby, Bauber
Lots of Internet info
The Internet, too, has made fish owners out of more people, retailers agree. The
incredible amount of information on the Web makes it easy for people to learn
how to set up and maintain aquariums. Also, pet owners learn about different
fish available for their aquariums.
Kenyon often visits Web sites and chat rooms for people who keep reef aquariums.
He has enhanced his coral collection by trading with people he has met online.
Aquariums also are easier than ever to maintain, Flyzik says. ''The technology
is far advanced compared to what it was 10 years ago. Pumps have come a long
way. Your filtration systems have come a long way and so have your heaters, all
of which makes keeping animals easier than it was in the past.''
Transportation also has improved, which makes it easier for exotic fish to make
their way around the world, Flyzik says. Years ago the fish had to be shipped in
stages from where they were harvested. Now there are more direct flights and a
plethora of over-night delivery services that get the fish to the East Coast
faster and thus healthier, he explains.
Nostalgia is yet another reason for the growing interest in aquariums.
Bauber believes most people who have aquariums are like her: ''I got interested
as a child through my parents. Everybody I've associated with has done it as a
child. It goes full circle. If even you haven't had it for a portion of your
life, when you get older and have children, you get it for them.''
Kenyon's interest was sparked by his father. ''My dad kept them a lot when I was
a kid, only he did fresh water,'' he says. ''After I got my own place, I wanted
my own aquarium, too.''
To your health
Some people also may be looking for the health benefits.
A growing body of scientific research also shows that pets as a whole are good
for people, and fish in particular can help alleviate stress, says Tierra
Griffiths, a spokeswoman for the American Pet Products association. ''Having an
aquarium in your home can be relaxing and provide healing benefits,'' she says.
One of the reasons Kenyon likes his aquarium is ''it's relaxing.''
Bishop, who can't remember a day he didn't have an aquarium, finds most of his
clients are baby boomers in their mid-30s to early 50s. ''I have a ton of young
kids that call me, too,'' he says. ''But they just can't afford it.''
Beth W. Orenstein is a freelance writer.