Have they gone too far..?

by | Oct 19, 2015 | Conservation, Science | 13 comments

8283056Recently a news report from the U.K. was circling around social media, detailing how a man sent his wife and son on vacation while he installed a massive aquarium in their home. Since the enormous tank would cripple their existing home, Martin Lakin had to demolish the house and build it around the fish tank. The price for the tank alone was 50,000 pounds, which equates to $ 77,372 US. The report went on to say that over 100,000 pounds ($154,000 US) worth of coral was added to the tank. When asked what his goals with the aquarium upgrade were, Lakin commented, “I wanted a tank large enough for my 15 year old son to swim in.” 

Public vs. Private:

wrasse0202_468x350Obviously Lankin has some money, and he invested quite a lot of it into computer and control systems for the entire tank, including an automated sun-roof. While Lankin’s wife Kay resisted the idea of an even larger aquarium, a close friend of Martin’s revealed the current monster aquarium is just a temporary holding tank until he builds his ginormous dream tank. Often on reef blogs or magazines we see a massive tank posted, the envy of all aquarists. While these tanks are marvels of aquatic engineering one must ask, is it going too far?

I’ve seen the argument on aquarium forums that massive private aquariums pale in comparison to public aquariums. While this may be true, public aquariums are open to the public, and educational programs offered through these facilities help open people’s eyes to the wonders of oceanic ecosystems. They reach millions, and many public aquariums have active conservation programs which protect wild reefs. Those with massive private aquariums are doing so for their own personal enjoyment, and it’s arguable if they’re giving anything back to protect wild ecosystems. With reefs quickly disappearing and the live animal trade getting less than stellar feedback from conservation outlets, perhaps aquarists should take environmental responsibility into account when building monster systems, or deciding on what size tank to set up.


Photo0555Massive private aquariums don’t just consume a lot of corals, fish and other marine wildlife. They take an abundant amount of electricity, manpower and equipment to build, move, and put in place. In the case of Lakin’s tank, his entire home needed to be totally re-built, wrapping around the huge aquarium. There’s simply no carbon free way to look at it; power tools require either electric, gas, or lithium. We often don’t realize that the lithium powering our smart phones, tools, etc is actually mined from the Earth, and presents an environmental crisis in and of itself.

It was reported that Martin Lakin’s tank uses 200 pounds ($309.50 US) worth of electricity per month. The average cost of power in the U.S. is 12 cents per kilowatt hour, meaning Lankin’s aquarium uses 2,575 kilowatt hours of power monthly. Considering that it requires 1.05 pounds of coal to generate 1 kilowatt hour of power, the aquarium is burning 2,703.7 pounds of coal per month and releasing 5,330.2 pounds of co2. In only one year Lakin’s tank has released around 63,963 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. To put that in perspective an average sized home uses around 800 kilowatt hours per month, burning 918.7 pounds of coal. Over the course of the year it releases 22,821.7 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. Martin Lakin’s aquarium is releasing as much CO2 yearly as nearly three average sized family homes.


noaaIt’s interesting that in both the U.S. and Europe regulations exist for the amount of pollution motor vehicles can release. Power plants, manufacturing, and other heavy polluters are regulated as well. Various programs have been proposed to cut carbon emissions, (cap and trade, carbon fines, etc). Yet one aquarium is allowed to release as much CO2 as three average sized family homes? It’s without a doubt that Martin Lakin and other monster tank owners have a beautiful captive aquatic ecosystem, yet their personal tank offers a heavy toll on the planet. Considering that much of the excess CO2 generated by human beings ends up in the ocean, collectively these tanks are poisoning the very reefs they are trying to showcase.

In an age where nearly all climatologists are united in accepting the reality of climate change, and also united in the belief that the phenomena is human caused, should there be a toll on heavy carbon dioxide generators? Is it really necessary for one person to have an aquarium that requires the resources of three homes to power? More importantly, if some sort of toll existed on carbon polluters would it force monster tank owners to re-consider their aquarium size, or perhaps invest heavily in carbon free power sources?

What about personal liberty?
giant-reef-tankIn the United States and parts of Europe, we often live by a “If you can afford it, do it” attitude. If someone wants to pay for 2,703 pounds of coal generated power monthly, then let them have it. This is an interesting take by a people already heavily governed by regulation. Most home owners associations and townships have property regulations that greatly exceed those permitted by state and local governments. All people must adhere to zoning regulations, and sensitive watersheds or public lands pack their own legally enforceable rules. Some home sites don’t allow wood burning fireplaces or charcoal grills. Having one item in your home that releases more CO2 than three families’ homes seems like it would raise a red flag.

Keeping the government out of it:

Regulation usually steps in when industries, people, or social groups fail to regulate themselves. When drunk driving was claiming thousands of lives, united citizens and various governments stepped up to pass stringent laws against it. When the trade in exotic animal parts and wildlife poaching were threatening entire species we got the Endangered Species Act, along with entire enforcement bodies to uphold it. When natural resources are in peril, often the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) steps in and forces a management plan that conforms to federal standards. As the number of mega-tanks in the homes of the wealthy rises, it could cost all aquarists dearly in regulation. If suddenly the government felt that huge aquarium owners were greatly adding to environmental decline, regulation may be passed that applies to all of us. What if a typical home used more than 800 pounds of coal for power each month, the additional amount was heavily taxed and fined?

Marine aquariums are already in both government and conservation group’s crosshairs. Not only are wild animals being removed from their environment under sometimes shady circumstances, their captive habitats are burning lots of natural resources. If each and every aquarist acted with restraint and in an environmentally conscious manner, the fear of CO2 release regulation would likely be unfounded. At the end of the day, does a 15 year old kid really need a massive reef aquarium to go swimming in?

  • Jeremy Gosnell

    Jeremy Gosnell has been an aquarist for nearly all of his life. While studying sociology in college, he began writing for Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine, moving over to Fish Channel and Aquarium Fish International in 2005. In 2008 he began composing feature articles for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, and today serves as TFH's monthly saltwater Q&A writer, and is a member of the peer review content editorial board.After becoming a PADI certified dive master and specialty instructor, Jeremy trained with the Beautiful Oceans Academy as a science diver, specializing in coral reef biology, ecosystems and food chain hierarchies. He worked with Beautiful Oceans to promote scientific diving and underwater GPS coral reef mapping and bio-diversity studies for both scientific study and recreational dive charters.He holds various scuba related certifications including PADI master scuba diver, dive master, specialty instructor, DAN dive emergency specialist, marine wildlife injury specialist and several TECH REC technical certifications, including deep water diving, re-breather diving and cave diving.In his spare time Jeremy is a science fiction writer, and his debut novel Neptune's Garden was released in 2010. His second novel is being released later in 2015. Both books are oceanic in nature, exploring the existence of the mythical kingdom of Atlantis, from a scientific viewpoint.

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  1. Ben Johnson

    This photo is an old stock photo from Living Color.

  2. Steve Miller

    Wow, that was a horrible article that intentionally misleads and makes nonexistent points. Jeremy should stick to science fiction.

  3. Darryl McCoy

    The tank pictured isn’t even the one written about here

  4. Jeremy Gosnell

    Steve Miller I am curious to what about the article you find misleading. The information used to generate the totals came from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and the average cost of electricity per kilowatt hour came from National Public Radio’s reporting on power costs in the U.S. Both are reputable sources. Using the information provided in the source article, which is linked in mine, I was able to calculate the amount of coal and CO2 release a tank that costs 200 pounds to power creates. I then used Potomac Edison’s reporting of average home energy consumption to show that this aquarium uses nearly as much power as three average size family homes. That’s no misleading. Nor is the fact that carbon pollution, and how to reduce it, is in the crosshairs of government regulators these days. Here is Maryland a rain tax was issued several years ago as a means of environmental protection. It taxed home owners on the amount of run-off water their homes produced. You could pay the tax, or invest in rain water collection systems that reduced your run-off and thus reduced your tax. If a rain tax can be issued to control run-off then it’s feasible that at some point a carbon tax could be implemented to control carbon pollution.

  5. Steve Miller

    I’m not in the habit of arguing with offended authors on the internet, so I’ll only say this. Your totals may be accurate relative to the content in their published material, but the way that you’re applying them across the board is misleading. You have nothing to base costs on but an offhand energy cost comment in an interview you did not perform (costs from a different country than where your statistics originated), and then you make sweeping generalizations while trying to induce fear. Carbon emissions are indeed a global issue, but the way you justified applying blame to the aquarium industry is reaching.

    • Jeremy Gosnell

      I was simply moving the information over to American terms, and I am sure many, many similar tanks exist in America. In the U.S. coal is still the major source of electrical energy (39% of all power). England is in a very similar situation – with coal generating 34% of power. For most people, it’s very likely they are getting their electrical power from a coal fired power plant, since it’s often the cheapest option per kilowatt hour. Natural gas is gaining popularity – and to be fair is more popular in England than in the U.S. I am not blaming the aquarium industry for anything. I am pointing out that it uses a lot of resources, from the fuel used in aircrafts to ship fish around the world, down to resources used to power all a tank’s peripherals and that with sustainable technology aquariums can be far more efficient and easier on the environment. It would be nice if when people decide to spend a quarter million dollars on an aquarium (or anything) they would take environmental sustainability into account. I don’t know about you, but I would like coral reefs to exist in nature in 30 years, not just behind glass or acrylic.

  6. Jacob Stacey

    Seems this entire article was a soap box for environmentalist drone circle jerk and hand wringing. I’m going to burn a damn tire in my back yard in tribute to that tank. I suppose that the end goal is government regulation of nano only captive systems with licensed aquaculture only specimens being kept. How about, fuck off. No one cares about your world ending carbon footprint fantasies other than other people dumb enough to believe the “evidence” and people that stand to profit from it’s proliferation.

  7. Jeremy Gosnell

    Jacob, over 90% of the international scientific community agree that global warming/climate change is human caused, and that the planet is experiencing a climate crisis. The goal is not government regulation of anything, but an industry and hobbyists that show restraint and act environmentally conscious when setting up and maintaining marine aquariums. This type of behavior would make the need for regulation mute. It won’t be as simple as “fuck-off” if regulations are imposed on the hobby. Already the Bangaii cardinalfish will soon be listed as “threatened” under the ESA. Will more species follow? As for your view on global warming/climate change, you’re entitled to believe whatever you want. However, your (and many others’) personal beliefs won’t prevent the government from acting on the guidance of climatologists, who may see the science very differently.


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