The following is a guest contribution from Karl Vankersschaever, owner of Mare Nostrum and a passionate European reef aquarium hobbyist.
Although very common in the US, you can hardly buy an acrylic tank in Belgium, the Netherlands or Luxembourg (BeNeLux). Because in Europe glass is much cheaper than acrylic, most of the tanks over there are constructed from glass. Also the fear of scratching is seen as a major disadvantage. For about the last two years however, reefers in the BeNeLux are able to choose more easy between glass or acrylic. Three years ago Yves Cauberg, a reefer for over 20 years, needed to replace his 17-year-old glass tank. Yves is owner of a company active in the signing and lighting industry, thereby had easy acces to acrylic and working tools to experiment. With this in mind Yves decided to do something rather controversial in Belgium — building his own acrylic reef tank.
“The first reason to start this project was because I tought I could build a new tank much cheaper myself in acrylic than buying a new glass one, boy…was I wrong.” At the end his tank costed about twice the price of a glass version, but during the time of doing reasearch and testing building techniques, he fell in love with the benefits of acrylic. During this process there were also fellow reefers who showed interrests in an acrylic tank.
So, about two years ago Yves started a new division in his company Aqua-Reef-Tech, based in Antwerp. Every tank or sump is custom built, following the wishes of the future owner. The original goal was only to build acrylic reef tanks and sumps. One of his first customers however, was Karl from Mare Nostrum, importer in the BeNeLux of ATB, Coral Shop, Ecotech marine, etc. Yves also shared Karl’s passion for high-quality products and decided to become a distributor of Karl’s products.
The next step in Aqua-Reef-Tech’s growing process were LED lighting. Knowing “something” about lightning techniques, electronics and beeing a reefer, resulted in experimenting with high-power LEDs with great success, but Yves soon realized that buiding LED lights himself was not very price competitive. So he went looking for an existing product that reached his standards, which was found in the LED lights from Pacific Sun. Meanwhile Aqua-Reef-Tech is the exclusive importer of these LED systems for Belgium.
Today Aqua-Reef-Tech is a company that profiles itself as a place where you can buy “high-end reef aquarium solutions.” When you’re living in the BeNeLux and you need a quality product like a skimmer, streamer, pump, lighting, acrylic tank or even just some advice, there’s a place you can go. And it’s still Yves himself who does everything, from building a tank to visiting a customer to explain how to adjust the skimmer. “Aqua-Reef-Tech is not a company for me, it’s an extension of my hobby. People who visit the shop aren’t just customers, they are fellow reefers, some even became friends.”