By Eric Barton
City & Shore Magazine
Think for a minute if you had an aquarium in your home. Something that’s a focal Point. A conversation-stopping piece of art.
Now add something outrageous to your idea, something you’ve simply never seen in any other aquarium.
It can happen. There’s a place in Fort Lauderdale called Living Color Aquariums that builds those kind of fish tanks, things of imagination that you’d probably think impossible.
“Anything you can think of, we try,” says Nick Babb, Living Color’s vice president of marketing. “We specialize in really big.” Like the client who wanted a fish tank installed in a yacht that would not splash, would not rock in rough seas. They made that happen. Or the client who wanted a fireplace underneath a fish tank for a water-meets-fire effect. For six figures, that became a real thing.
Or right now, there’s a new aquarium being installed on a property that backs up to a Florida bay. The acrylic side of the tank will peer right into the open water. “It will be an infinity pool to the max,” Babb says. The owner wants the location kept quiet. It’s like that for many of the company’s projects, the dreams of the ultra-wealthy who would rather not brag about aquariums so big they require a diver to clean them.
About a decade ago, the company became the focus of Nat Geo Wild Channel’s Fish Tank Kings. The show followed the company as it installed projects including a snorkel aquarium full of fish and coral that snaked under a couple’s home in the Keys. In 2011, they moved on from the show to concentrate on top-end aquarium projects. Babb says the company figured out that the super-rich simply don’t watch that much television.
You’ve no doubt seen some of their work since, like the jellyfish aquariums in the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel’s restaurant Steak 954 and at Atlantis on Nassau.
They also have public aquariums as clients, including the Georgia Aquarium and OdySea Aquarium in Phoenix. Their biggest project: a free-standing aquarium for a Guatemala City restaurant that cost more than $1 million; it holds 30,000 gallons – equal to about three tanker trucks.
Living Color’s production facility fabricates the steel frames that hold the aquariums to cabinets cut from exotic woods. The coral section is the most colorful part of the otherwise industrial-looking shop. The polymer pieces are made from casts taken from actual coral. They’ll fade after a few years, and so the tank Living Color installed behind home plate in Marlins Park in 2012 is just about due for an upgrade.
That tank at the ballpark is among the company’s toughest challenges, building a glass structure that can survive repeated impacts from foul balls. Just how that was solved is a company secret. Babb says that’s often how it is.
“If our clients are asking for something outrageous, they know there’s a value to that,” he says.