When Keith Overton of TradeWinds Island Resort partnered with world-famous artist and marine conservationist Guy Harvey on the new Guy Harvey Outpost Resort, they turned to the stars of Animal Planet’s “Tanked” to create an over-the-top, exotic marine aquarium experience for visitors.
And they certainly have. A 33,500 gallon saltwater aquarium is filled with some 30 different species of Gulf of Mexico sport fish. It covers one entire wall at RumFish Grill, the themed restaurant at the new resort.
The tank holds about 130 fish and is 42-foot-long, 12-foot deep, big enough that cleaning it takes two scuba divers about an hour-and-half every week, says Zach Ostroff, curator of Secrets of the Sea, the marine education and conservation organization overseeing the aquarium operation.
There are actually five saltwater aquariums at the resort. A smaller “juvenile” tank filled with colorful blue tangs, angel fish and parrot fish is also located in the restaurant. In the bar, you’ll find the predator tank with tiger fish, puffers and lionfish, the beautiful foreign invasive species with the bad reputation.
Across the way in the gift shop area are two additional tanks, a “middle school” tank with mid-sized red drum and other natives, and a touch tank with critters like sea urchins, chocolate chip sea stars and a green brittle star with long spindly legs.
But the big tank takes center stage. A massive acrylic display window is 30 feet long, 10 feet tall and six inches thick. Diners watch as redfish, black drum, snook, grouper, tarpon, and snapper swim back and forth in a realistic marine environment that includes hand-made coral and mangroves. A six-foot reclusive green moray eel slinks in the corner.
Building the aquarium was one of the largest and most challenging projects that Acrylic Tank Manufacturing has undertaken. On one side of the tank, a unique “J” panel curves up and overhead to form a “see-through ceiling. It’s uncanny to look up to see fish swimming above your head.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO MAINTAIN AN AQUARIUM THIS SIZE?
“We use about 2,500 gallons of water a week,” says Ostroff. “We purify the tap water in a reverse osmosis process and then use artificial sea salt to create saltwater. “ Two big storage vats, one for salt water, one fresh water, each holds 3,000 gallons of water.
Upstairs in an area just off the parking garage, is the behind-the-scenes life support system. There’s a backup generator in case of a power outage, a heat pump to maintain aquarium temperatures at a constant 77°F, and a filtration system, which moves up to 36,000 gallons of water per hour. A protein fractionator injects air into the water and a bio-tower gets rid of ammonia buildup.
This is also the first stop for wild fish. They’re quarantined and treated prophylactically for disease and acclimated to life inside a big tank. “We get everyone ready to live together comfortably,” says Ostroff. It’s the ultimate meet and greets.
RumFish Grill Aquarium | 6000 Gulf Boulevard St. Pete Beach | 727-329-1428 | www.rumfishgrill.com