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'Tanked' shows there's plenty of fishy business in Las Vegas

Las Vegas may not have a river running through it or an ocean nearby, but that doesn't mean people there don't like watching fish. And when those fish need a home, they call Acrylic Tank Manufacturing.

Located in a business park not far from the Las Vegas strip, the family-owned company designs, fabricates, installs, stocks and maintains custom acrylic aquariums.

At 9 p.m. Friday, Animal Planet premieres "Tanked," a six-episode reality series that follows the adventures of New York-born brothers-in-law, business partners and rivals Brett Raymer and Wayde King, along with the other family members who work for the company, as they create aquariums large and really large.

"We do any size," says King, "any shape, anywhere in the world."

In the first episode, ATM is given the job of creating a gangster-themed tank for the Las Vegas Mob Experience attraction at the Tropicana Hotel (for which Raymer wound up sacrificing a pair of shoes so they could be encased in concrete).

While this tank features a lot of mob-themed decorations -- such as Tommy guns, bundles of dynamite that emit bubbles, and TV screens inside showing mob movies -- it's tiny compared to the one ATM did for the Silverton Hotel and Casino. The giant tank, which is right inside the main entrance, is also featured on the front page of the resort's website.

ATM also does other kinds of commercial installations, such as the rectangular trout and catfish (as in 120-pound catfish) tank in the giant Bass Pro Shop attached to the Silverton.

According to Raymer, so many people told the loud and enthusiastic ATM team that it should be featured in a TV show that "I kept saying, with too many people saying this, I've got to try something. Wayde's like, 'You don't work anyway; do something.' I said, 'Fine, I'll do something.' "

The stop-and-start process of getting a TV series and developing "Tanked" took several years, but Raymer and King didn't give up.

"One recommendation we tell people," says King, "if you love it and want it, don't give up, and do it. He did it every day, and I held the business together every day. It was a team, we did it together, and we accepted that."

Of course, a little foresight is also helpful.

"I was like, 'The show's going to be on Animal Planet,' " Raymer says.

King adds, "He said it five years ago."

The partners also took inspiration from another TV family business, the custom motorcycle builders of Discovery Channel's "American Chopper."

"We came up with this crazy idea called themed aquariums," says Raymer, "and that's what our show's about. There are a few aquarium builders in the United States, probably four or five good ones, but we wanted to be different from everybody else.

"Once we started seeing what Orange County Choppers did with motorcycles, then the cake shows started coming out and doing themes, everything seemed to be based upon theming, so we turned around and said, 'Let's do a themed aquarium.' "

There have been epic battles between the elder and younger Teutuls on "American Chopper," but Raymer says not to expect that level of animosity on "Tanked."

"He's more my brother than anybody," Raymer says of King. "In the beginning, it was rough, because we're both from New York. We didn't really know each other. As time went by, we each accepted each other's roles as business partners.

"It's like Felix and Oscar. He's Felix; I'm Oscar. He's the neat, clean one; I'm the messy one. He's the one that doesn't know about sports; I'm a sports fanatic."

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