Living life in a fishbowl

Barry C Chung

Reality show about aquarium-making firm is fishing for viewers

Barry C Chung |

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Wayde King (left) and Brett Raymer of Acrylic Tank Manufacturing (ATM)
Marriage brought Wayde King and Brett Raymer together - well, sort of. They're brothers-in-law: King is married to Raymer's sister, Heather. The two men are best known as the outrageous duo in the reality television series, Tanked, showing the day-to-day activities of a company that makes aquariums.

The series focuses on King's company, Acrylic Tank Manufacturing (ATM). King, the founder and chief executive, brought Raymer on board as chief operations officer, to help run the company.

ATM is known for extravagant, custom-made designs of all shapes and sizes. Its creations, involving the design, manufacturing and installation, are the most over-the-top, and showy creations you'll ever see - even on television.

"[Some] people want to put aquariums in the centre of their pool or underneath the bottom of their pool," King tells Young Post over the phone.

"We made cars into aquariums, we made buses into aquariums, we're getting requests now to possibly do a helicopter. People come up with a lot of different ideas and designs."

Yet as fascinating and over the top as these things sound, they pale in comparison to the company's most ambitious project to date: the creation of a 27m long by 3m wide aquarium, with two archways so people can walk underneath, built for the Inspiring Body of Christ Church in Dallas, Texas.

"We took two and a half years to build it," King says. "We had to build the tank first and then [they] built the church around the tank. All the engineering - civil engineering, plumbing, life support and filtration and electrical [work] - took a lot of years of planning and designing. I think that would probably be one of the most challenging tanks we ever did."

ATM, based in Las Vegas, is a family business. Heather is in charge of the accounts, and her and Brett's father, Irwin "The General", is the office manager.

Yet this is not a typical "mom-and-pop" operation. ATM has built thousands of aquariums around the world, with some taking many hundreds of litres. An aquarium, including installation, can cost more than US$1 million.

Its clients have included luxury hotels, zoos, museums, airports, leading American companies, and celebrities, such as NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant and American singer Usher.

King says his show, while entertaining, also offers real educational value, which is important when dealing with live animals. Proper maintenance, for example, is the most neglected and least understood part of having an aquarium, he says.

"The main thing we want to teach everybody ... is that [an] aquarium, it's [just like] a pet; you have to take care of it, you have to service it, you have to make sure if the fish are sick you have to medicate," King says.

"You can't just take a fish and put it into an aquarium and think that you're going to have a fish tank."

After all the aquariums ATM has made over the years, the pair still dream that that one day they can make one for the United States President.

"[Making] one for the White House - that would be great for us to do," King says.

Season One of Tanked is shown on Animal Planet every Friday at 9pm

Other works by ATM ...