Along with partner Brett Raymer, Wayde King runs Las Vegas-based aquarium company Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, which is the subject of the new Animal Planet reality show Tanked (premiering August 19 at 9 p.m.).
How did the show come about?
I started with aquariums when I was very young, and my family did service for aquariums. Growing up, I designed and installed, and that’s where my passion and love came in for doing them. My parents dealt with a manufacturer over in San Diego, so I moved out to California. When I moved out there, we moved immediately to Las Vegas—that’s where the manufacturer originally started. When me and Brett started, in ’97, we used to sit in a small office, and we used to argue. We’re both from New York, we’re both a little thickheaded, and I was always the worker, and Brett was always like, “Make someone else do it.” So we always had arguments all day long, and people came in and they said, “You guys should be on TV.” So I turned to Brett and said, “Hey, Brett, you don’t really do much, so why don’t you see if you can get us on TV?”
When did your business evolve from basic aquarium service to the more elaborate customized work that you guys do now?
We started in ’97, and within five years we became number one in the world in custom shapes. A lot of people approached us and said, “Hey, I’d like this design, or this—can you do it?” And we never said no. We just kept doing what we had to do. It was trial and error. We had some mistakes. We learned about certain things. It took a lot of practice to get it to where we are today. I would say five years after we opened is where the custom stuff started really coming in.
What’s the craziest custom build you guys have ever done?
We’ve done the IBOC [Inspiring Body of Christ] tank, that’s a church in Dallas, with two beautiful tunnels that you walk through. It’s the entrance of the church. We did a tank in Scotland that was four stories tall, which is beautiful. We’ve done a large octagon in Wisconsin that went into a dentist’s office. We had to rip apart the whole wall, the foundation, and kind of crane it in and get it into the basement, and that’s where the whole office was. We’ve done so many tanks all over the world, all different sizes, all different shapes. Each one has its own little story.
Is there a dream tank that you’ve always wished you could build?
When I build, one day, a very nice large house—not too large, but I’d like to have a tank I can actually dive into, at the house. Let’s say I’m having a rough day, and I want to just climb on top of the tank, dive into it, swim with the stingrays and the sharks and the angels and puffers and triggers. Probably like 100,000 gallons, maybe 150,000 gallons, in the house would be wonderful. That’d be a dream tank.
For you, is the business about connecting with the fish as much as it is about the creativity of building tanks?
For me it is, I would say. A lot of people have different things that make them happy here and there. The only thing in the world that ever got my mind off of work would be actually when I’m diving. When I’m underwater and I’m with the octopus or I’m with the stingrays, I’m never thinking about work. I’m just in another world. But anything else I do in the world I’m always constantly thinking about work.