Dave Lackland’s write up on his unique 100 gallon reef bowls four years ago has been one of our most popular stories since it was first shared more than four years ago. We have recently learned that Dave is relocating to the Caribbean and had to let go of his supersized reef bowls.
It was just in time too because they were beginning to warp from the pressure and generally aged from the harsh environment of a reef aquarium and natural sunlight. This lead image of the 70’s chair-turned-reef-aquarium being picked up by trash collection is a beautiful reminder that reef tanks don’t last forever, but they can bring us great joy and fascination during their lifetimes.
Hi! My name is Dave Lackland and I was raised and educated as an artist. I have 30 years experience creating and maintaining marine aquaria so when it came time for a show case system in my own living room, it had to be something different, something that would make friends and visitors smile and /or laugh. Living in the subtropics of the Florida Keys, I was eager to employ natural sunlight as the primary light source for the project, yet was indecisive as to what shape, form or size. Rectangular and square systems are the norm, I had set up my share of those, I’d seen many well done cylinders, so that was out. The tongue-in-cheek humor of a giant fish bowl filled with marine invertebrates and fish just kept popping into my head.
I knew the bowl was out there, the vessel itself, something pre-made for a different application. Not sure where to start, I began looking into and even purchasing a couple large light-globes for giant event-style parking lot lighting fixtures. One held 36 gallons, but was smoke-y; the other had an exaggerated “seam” and was gray in color. One night in bed I woke up and it just hit me, Aarnio Eerro’s “Bubble Chair”! A clear acrylic hanging ball chair designed by Italian artist/designer Aarnio Eerro that has appeared in hundreds of commercials and advertising photo-adds since it’s creation in 1968.
I contacted the manufacturing company and explained what I wanted. I placed a special ordered; the chair was fabricated without the steel ring, chain, or cushions. I had already purchased the base, a 24″ schedule 40 slip fitting, when the bowl showed up. It was incredibly scratched and “crazed”, (small spider-web like cracks throughout the surface). I contacted the manufacturer, who immediately apologized and sent a second chair within days. The replacement arrived in worse condition than the first. I was out of luck unless I learned how to buff and re-finish acrylic. Sixty+ hours later, I had two crystal clear bowls. They didn’t want the first one back, so I ordered another PVC coupling-stand and re-worked the design to include the second bowl.Both vessels were set in place, dry and unplumbed, for months until I was done installing the 21″ tubular skylight, (that illuminates the central bowl), the sump, skimmer, supplemental HQI pendant for second bowl and other life-support equipment. The second bowl is positioned in the corner of the same room, receives natural sunlight as the sun is rising through a set of sliding glass doors that face SE (from 7AM-10AM depending on the time of year), 4-5 hours of just ambient room light and then a second 8 hour photo-period with a single 150 10K HQI pendant from 3-10pm.
Now that everything was in place, it was time to add water and test the structural integrity of the bowls. I filled both one evening; the bowls looked great, felt stable, and solid. I went to bed. The next morning I awoke abruptly to the sound of our fire alarm and the smell of smoke. This was not just any smoke; it reminded me of burning leaves with a magnifying glass as a child. As I rounded the corner into the living room, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at:
My company, Atlantic Reef Aquaculture, is currently in contract to install our first residential bowl in a client’s Key West home this coming spring.
Happy reefing everyone, think outside the box