Like many hobbyists, I decided to check out the Animal Planet reality series, “Tanked” last night. Rather than getting caught up in the negative “pre-smack talk” about the show, I decided to actually watch it before rendering an opinion. So, …Okay, well, where do I begin? First, as a hardcore reef hobbyist, I knew that the show had to be a bit “dumbed down” for the non-hobbyist masses. I overlooked that. I knew that many of the details of what the guys do each day would be glossed over because it probably doesn’t making compelling television to watch guys perform a pH test. I overlooked that. I knew that wacky antics and lots of yelling and reality-show absurdity would be included to provide entertainment value. The “stars” of the show already have their own GEICO ad. I overlooked that.
Let’s face it. Wayde King and Brett Raymer of ATM are incredibly talented individuals that have built a great business giving their clientele the aquariums of their dreams. Bravo to these guys! They get their livestock from my man, Justin Credible, which is a big plus! They produce aquarium displays that are unique, well-built, and perfect for their customers (I mean, not everyone wants an aquarium in a telephone booth…). Sure, most of these aquariums would leave a serious hobbyist scratching their heads, but I don’t think that we’re their target market.
What disturbed me was not anything that I saw the guys do (okay, provoking a puffer fish or lifting a tang out of the water is lame- I don’t care who you are). It was what they did NOT appear to do. It’s the way their work was portrayed by the producers and editors. When the show portrays a complicated tank build being done in what appears to be a matter of hours, and then being filled with tap water, salt mix and…in one instance, ice cubes , then stocked to the max with crazy assortment of fishes right away, I have to wonder. Were the producers trying to raise the blood pressure for every serious aquarium hobbyist in the world?
The impression that this portrayal of the aquarium world leaves on the general public or the inexperienced hobbyist is that you can have an “instant aquarium”, filled with a large population of fishes right from day one. Fish are fun and easy! Nitrogen cycle? What nitrogen cycle? The guys’ concern that “the fishes can only be in the bags another few hours” while installing a very expensive aquarium only begs the question as to why in the hell anyone would bring out the fishes before the aquarium build was completed in the first place?
What responsible aquarist fills an aquarium with tap water, mixes the salt, then throws the fishes right in? Yikes! I’d love to see the stats on how many of those fishes actually made it through the first week. This “practice” is even more amazing when you think about these systems having very little in the way of visible biological support (no live rock or live sand).
Although I commend the guys for indulging a client and building a (permanent) quarantine system, I can’t help but think that this installation was just to give the wealthy client another big group of fishes to look at. So little time was spent explaining the design or merits of a quarantine system or process that it just felt “unclean” to me.
Okay, let’s face it- a lot of the things we hardcore hobbyists do are probably not all that interesting to the rest of the world… Tweaking calcium reactors and playing with our electronic controllers…Maybe we’d make for dull television. However, portraying aquariums as eye-popping wonders requiring no understanding or patience on the part of the consumer is just not responsible. As an aquarium professional, the hardest thing for me to reconcile is my own values versus the clients’ perception of the aquarium as a piece of “kinetic art”. This show did little to dispel that thinking, unfortunately.
So, to summarize. Really talented aquarium fabricators. Annoying clients. Staged hilarity and hijinx. Little emphesis on technique. Producers and editors portrayed the guys as a bit too much into “the big idea” and not enough into the art of aquaristics. Missed opportunities. “Tanked”, ahem– tanked.
On the plus side- I learned that Goldfish have no stomach!
Best part- Justin! Hope they let him say more. In addition to having the coolest hair, he’s the most talented person on the show. Hell- give Justin his own show!
I’m outta here. The next episode of “Animal Hoarders” is on now, followed by “Hillbilly Hand Fishing” and “American Chopper”. Where are the chips and dip?
Until next time…