The boom in demand for high quality aquariums coincided with a shortage of key aquarium building materials like acrylic, Mr. Tiemens said. Grocery stores, restaurants, salons and many other businesses around the world used acrylic in large quantities for sneeze protection during the height of the Covid crisis. Mr Calabrese said the worst delays are over, but deliveries in general are still assured. The construction time for an aquarium has doubled from about three months to six months, he said.
Obtaining the fish has also become a challenge. Some remote tropical islands have cut or restricted trade, Mr Calabrese said, making it difficult to get hold of tropical fish. Yellow tangs, the brightly colored saltwater aquariums native to Hawaii, have risen in price and are much harder to find, he said. (They can now cost more than $ 500 instead of less than $ 100.) More aquaculture farms are emerging to sustainably grow some popular fish, but not every species can be raised.
Keith Poliakoff, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida attorney recently built a 550-gallon tank in a cave area of his home – an upgrade from the 150-gallon tank in his previous home. His saltwater aquarium has live corals, which, according to Poliakoff, are laborious and expensive to grow and maintain, but also rewarding. (He buys captive-grown corals.) Mr. Poliakoff splices small fragments together that eventually grow together into larger corals – a process that can take years. He selected fish that are reef-safe, such as clown fish, that won't eat or hinder coral growth.
"Having an aquarium where you can learn how to grow coral and thrive and thrive in a protected environment," he said, "helps others appreciate the beauty of corals and marine life."
The SeaVisions-designed tank sits in its cave and forms the wall behind a bar area.
For those looking to install an aquarium or build it into a new home, the process ideally starts early. Infinity's Mr. Tiemens was recently out searching for a house in Los Angeles with a couple and their agent.
The couple wanted a house with a living room that could hold a 1,500 gallon tank. In the end, they found a house with an ideal layout for the basin, with a bedroom and a bathroom, which they have since converted into an aquarium filter company, and a separate quarantine basin. He and his team used a forklift to get the aquarium inside and then built the custom cabinets around it.
Putting a high-end tank in a high-rise adds additional complexity. Justin Muir, the owner and chief designer of the New York City Aquarium, said additional structural supports like steel plates to reinforce the floors underneath were a must. But that can add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost. The rules for condominiums and cooperatives often determine how big a customer can be. Still, he said it was possible to build a fairly large aquarium in many taller buildings – 300 to 500 gallons, or 1.8 to 2.4 meters in length.