For dedicated aquarium lovers, the creation and maintenance of their own underwater microcosms 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.
Bryan Jones has designed, installed and maintained aquariums for homes and businesses settings in central Kentucky for more than 26 years through his business, Rent-a-Fish (Rentafishky.com, 859-536-5749). He has been involved with aquariums most of his life.
“I got my first 10-gallon tank, with black mollies and a cory catfish, when I was 5 years old,” he says.
By the mid-1980s, his aquarium count was up to nine. After pursuing degrees in biology and art from the University of Kentucky, he managed and eventually owned Regency Pet Center in the Southland area; it eventually closed, he says, mainly because of strong competition from Internet sales in a struggling economy.
Jones then found a niche in service.
“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?
Results vary widely. In one set-up at client Cooper Hartley’s Pine Mountain Lumber office in Lexington, Jones created a calming freshwater “community tank” that brings together fish from around the world that are not aggressive with one another and can live harmoniously. They include Boeseman’s rainbowfish from Oceania, Congo tetras from Africa, neon tetras from South America and cherry barbs from Asia. They coexist peacefully in a forest of teardrop rotala plants, which look like an underwater jungle of long, narrow, green bottle brushes.
In another tank at Hartley’s home, they decided on different freshwater varieties of flashy, energetic African cichlids.
“Keeping an aquarium teaches you so much about your environment, for instance being responsible about water quality and aware of the delicate nature of the world we live in,” Jones says.