Getting Tanked

Custom fish-tank creators to star in reality-show pilot for Animal Planet

Walking into Acrylic Tank Manufacturers is something like Finding Nemo meets How It’s Made meets The Dukes of Hazzard. The custom fish-tank creator’s facility houses a 1,100-gallon tank teeming with mineral-blue water, winding coral and tropical fish. Behind the scenes, there’s a full manufacturing shop. Then there are the employees—unlikely characters with names such as “The General” and “Redneck Rob.” The obvious product of this equation is a television reality show.

Animal Planet will film a pilot on May 10 for Tanked, a program that will document the 13-year-old Las Vegas-based company’s work, creating underwater landscapes of at least 50 gallons. An airdate is not yet set.

ATM, the top custom fish-tank seller worldwide, specializes in anything from regular home setup to one of its self-proclaimed “strangest” projects: installing an arched tank with a built-in 60-inch plasma TV over the bed of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. “We’ll do anything from a little fish bowl all the way up to the sea,” says CEO Wayde King, who got his start in the industry 30 years ago cleaning aquariums in New York City with his stepfather.

It was through a friend that King and COO Brett Raymer recently connected with the Philadelphia bureau of Nancy Glass Productions, which produces content for Discover Communications. Raymer says the TV production company was drawn to the family aspect and the creative process of tank construction. King and Raymer are brothers-in-law, both from New York. The show will focus on their good-humored relationship as family and business partners. “I’ll call him bald; he’ll call me fat,” King says.

Discovery Communications, which is affiliated with Animal Planet, handpicked four other employees for the show as well. Overseeing the operation is Irwin Raymer, Brett’s father and the corporate manager, dubbed “The General.” He’s the front-door gatekeeper and provided much of the original funding for ATM. “Redneck Rob,” the installation manager, actually lives outside the office in a trailer during the week and travels home to Colorado on weekends to visit his family. King calls him the “MacGyver of the company” and says he got his name because of his love for hunting and fishing. He oversees the fabrication shop, which houses a saw that can cut through six inches of acrylic and a garage-size oven that can reach 500 degrees in order to bend the tank materials. Then there’s Agnes, the estimator, a spunky Polish blonde, and Heather, the outspoken New Yorker who’s King’s wife and Brett Raymer’s sister.

“One way or another, there’s going to be arguing. Everybody thinks they know what they’re doing and none of them do,” King jokes.

ATM, located inside Beltway Business Park at 6975 S. Decatur Blvd., Suite 130, just south of Interstate 215, guides customers through the initial design of the tank, selecting coral inserts and fish, and installs the entire exotic creation. The company orders fish from places such as Australia and the Philippines, and partners with local companies for the engineering and cabinetry work and a California company for the coral.

ATM’s tall orders have come from a wide range of venues. It installed the acrylic panels at the Palms’ Playboy Club, and created a gaping stone archway tank that serves as a vestibule into a Texas church sanctuary. They’ve done work in countries such as Colombia and Scotland, and have offices in Hong Kong and Seoul.

ATM’s clients are typically creative and “somebody that wants to be unique,” says Brett, who works to personalize each design. Besides the aesthetic value of the creations, they also provide therapeutic qualities to many customers.

“I love the live fish, the colors, the movement, the shapes. It’s just all very relaxing,” says ATM client Rocky Bocarsky, who finds the tank to be a reprieve from the daily flood of phone calls and e-mails. The company installed a 375-gallon saltwater tank in his home office in Henderson. “It’s the nicest thing other than my family that I enjoy every day,” he says.

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