LEXINGTON, Ky. — For dedicated aquarium lovers, the creation and maintenance of their own underwatermicrocosms is not just a hobby but a beautiful and compelling obsession.
Even for casual observers, a surprising otherworldly encounter with an aquarium offering a window into the world of water creatures is mesmerizing. Brightly colored fish cruise back and forth; exotic coral structures form contorted, hide-and-seek caves and tunnels; and plants sway gently with the flow of otherwise undetectable currents.
Besides that, aquariums offer a cool patch of living greenery when outdoor temperatures rise, a mind-massaging hideaway when life gets stressful and a natural source for maintaining humidity in the home.
Bryan Jones has designed, installed and maintained aquariums for homes and businesses settings in Kentucky for more than 26 years through his business Rent-a-Fish. He has been involved with aquariums most of his life. “It becomes a big part of your life and who you are," he says. “This is what I use to share my art, creating aquarium systems and designs. People 'ooh' and 'aah' about them."
Jones stresses to his clients that he thinks fish should not just exist but thrive in their new home. The system has to fit the needs and personality of its keeper: Do you want a freshwater or saltwater system? What kinds of fish do you want, and do they suit your personal style — from flashy and energetic to relaxed and laid-back — and are they also compatible with each other by personality and habitat needs?
Another aquarium keeper, Mark King, just graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry and is starting a periodontal practice, and plans to move one of his four home tanks to his new office.
King's first tank was a birthday gift when he was about 5 years old. By high school, he was working part-time at Waters of the World, a fish shop in Evansville, Ind.
Among the skills he learned was keeping coral, which he raised in saltwater reef tanks. His arrangement of corals is breathtaking, forming a cave and tunnel-filled cliff-scape along the back of his tank.
“I don't watch television," he says. “I play with the fish tank."