TANKED: Did We Have Reasonable Expectations in the First Place

by | Sep 1, 2011 | Industry, Opinion, Tanks | 4 comments

My name is Steven Pro and I am the newest contributor to Reefs.com. A little about myself, I have been working full-time in the aquarium industry for the last 16 years. For 13 of those years, I did sales, installation, and service of display aquariums and live fish holding tanks. I was like a very small version of ATM, which is the company that the TV show Tanked is based upon. That show leads me to my first blog entry.

When I first heard about a reality show coming out regarding the marine aquarium hobby, I was excited. Finally, the ornamental aquatics industry will get a much-needed shot in the arm. This show could draw in and inspire a whole new generation of aquarium keepers to take up this hobby that I love.

Steven standing inside a 500 gallon tank

I am cleaning a client's 500-gallon reef tank which is in the process of being moved from where this picture was taken into the owners' new home.

Then, I saw the first few commercials and I was slightly less excited. I was not as concerned about fish being lifted out of the water. By the way, I am not going to be dragged into a debate about whether or not they are doing “the right thing” in their business as I think we are seeing very little of what actually goes on. If anyone wishes to engage in that kind of a debate, there is no shortage of message boards and other blogs to do so with all the energy of the DSB versus BB debates of years past.

My first reaction was concern for it being over-produced when I see them skateboarding in the shop and a wife yelling at her husband about having to get into a shark tank. I got the immediate impression that it would follow the typical reality TV drama of fighting families and the unrealistic situations thrust upon them by TV producers and directors.
I have since watched two episodes and have been trying to understand how I feel about the show. I sat down and reviewed things from the beginning and now I am questioning my base assumption that this show or any marine aquarium reality show would lead to a significant influx of new aquarists.

Did the antics of the Teutel family on American Chopper cause droves of people that have never ridden a motorcycle to suddenly and unexpectedly purchase choppers? Are seafood restaurants overrun with first time crab leg diners immediately after Deadliest Catch? Are new cooking schools opening all across the US to accommodate all the new students who watched Top Chef? Are there tons of hapless chaps wondering the world after the rest of their friends pitched in for one-way airline tickets to exotic locales after viewing a few episodes of An Idiot Abroad?

My guess is not too many of those things occurred in any significant numbers. No matter what they call it, reality TV is not that much like reality and probably has little effect on reality either. I am going to go back to watching Modern Family. That is more like “reality” TV to me.

500-gallon reef in new location

500-gallon reef in new location


  1. MatthewScars

    It’s cool that you got to write for this site. But the article doesn’t really explain anything. Nothing about the show, the positives, the negatives, nor any examples of anything. After reading this article, alI i can take away is the question ‘is this just another family drama reality show’ of which you didn’t even give your opinion about… in an opinion piece. You said you didnt want to get into it, but isnt that the entire point of an article like this?

  2. Steven Pro

    That this is just another family drama reality show was my exact point. I don’t think it is likely to help nor harm the industry/hobby. All the arguing about whether or not the program is educational or accurately represents setting up and cycling an aquarium misses the point of the show. It is about human interactions. The aquariums are almost secondary and this is done by design because the producers are only interested in ratings. In TV, family drama makes for good ratings. Teaching people how to setup an aquarium properly would likely not get good ratings.

    I didn’t want to debate the techniques they employ in installing these aquariums because I assume for the sakes of television we are not seeing the whole story. They might be running the biological filters in the shop prior to installation, seeding them with bacteria, and then feeding them bottles of pure ammonia to make sure they are teaming with beneficial bacteria. But, that would be boring to watch, so we don’t see that. They might be trucking in pre-mixed saltwater, but show the hot tapwater and ice fiasco to create artificial drama. We don’t know. But, a lot of reality TV is very scripted.

    At the end of the day, watch it if you enjoy that kind of TV, but I am not going to get too worked up about it.

  3. ryangrieder

    So, originally you were excited about the show, then saw commercials, and became less excited, then saw the show, and did not like it? Were you expecting it to be a show about fish at the time, or just the tanks? I dont remember exact words, but i do remember when animal planet came out with the first advertisements for tanked, they said something like “a new fun filled tv Hit showing the fascinating mind of Wayde and Brett as they create mind blowing fish tanks for Clients.” what everyone needs to remember is the show has nothing to do with fish. The show is primarily about the tank it’s self. The fish are the main factor why you do a fish tank, but the actual tank is what the show is about. So are you saying you don’t like the show because there tanks are boring and not creative or original? Or that you don’t like the little things that are not the essential part of the show as in fish care?

    For instance, you mentioned the tv hit show “American chopper”. American chopper is about what? The physical frame and hours and hours of hard work put into building the bike? Or the bikes motor? yes the mention what kind of motor they are going to use, then show them installing the motor, but that’s not the main aspect of the show. It’s about the creativity Paulie junior & senior have and amazing choppers they build. Not the physical main part of the bike which would be the motor.

    Tanked is about the amazing and creative fish tanks wayde and Brett come up with and build. Sure they might do things that us marine hobbyists might say is wrong or incorrect, but all of america will not know that, nor care for that matter, because it’s not the point. Yes the water they use might not be correct, or the fish added might be unfit for the tank, but again, thats not what they are advertising and trying to say. I’m sure on other shows like for example American chopper they do not use what all viewers agree on like correct fuel lines or exhaust or transmission, but they will and they do, and the viewers will not judge them on it because that’s not the point of the bike. For tanked, The point is to watch what you may think is impossible, become a reality, for a fish tank. hence the name “tanked”. If it were about the fish it would be called “fish” lol.

    Personally, I’ll be parked in my couch Friday nights enjoying the creativity ATM has just like hundreds of thousands of viewers. I enjoy the show alot.

    Again, this is not directed at anyone in particular, it’s more directed to everyone equally trying to explain the name factor of what the show is and about…

  4. Steven Pro

    “Again, this is not directed at anyone in particular, it’s more directed to everyone equally trying to explain the name factor of what the show is and about…”

    I think you are exactly right. A lot of us (myself and many of the people complaining now) wanted/hoped for the show to be about something else. We wanted something that would educate and inspire the general public to join our ranks. And now some are disappointed, but the problem is that we didn’t wait to see what it was about and instead were placing our predisposed ideas on what the show should be about. That is our fault.


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