Bradenton doctor office features giant needle fish tank

Cooper Family Medical features a 16-foot tall fish tank shaped like a needle

cschelle@bradenton.comMay 17, 2013 

BRADEN RIVER -- There's something fishy inside the 16-foot tall hypodermic needle in Dr. Christopher Cooper's new medical office.

Barracudas, eels and tropical fish swarm around a coral system designed to provide a relaxing experience inside a doctor's office. It's relaxing until you get too close to the coral system and realized it's designed to look like the organ system inside a human body, heart beat to colon.

Something so extreme could only have been built by the crew at Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, which stars on the Animal Planet show "Tanked." Cooper's custom tank will be featured on the show, 9 p.m. Friday.

Cooper ordered the tank as part of an expansion of his medical office set to open Monday at 5123 4th Ave. Circle E, located off of State Road 64 in Braden River.

"People sit in the lobby waiting for the doctor and can get irritated, so we wanted to have something that was soothing, calming for the patients," Cooper told the Herald. "You can sit and watch the tank for hours and not be worrying about the lab results."

Tanked, the Animal Planet show, follows Wayde King and Brett Raymer of the Las Vegas-based ATM company and all of the wacky tanks they've built for all sorts of people, including the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, companies like Dunkin' Donuts, and now,

doctors like Cooper.

The show usually features folks flying out to Las Vegas to pitch ideas for tanks, and only selects eight tanks from 1,000 requests per month. The company was so enthralled with the idea, they flew here to have Cooper share his ideas.

The needle tank, at 10 feet tall and five feet in diameter, holds 1,100 gallons of water. A six-foot needle tops the tanks and is complete with a beveled edge, Cooper said.

As the grouper, hog fish, angel fish make their way around the tank, ghost shrimp, silversides and Mississippi mud minnows stay toward the top for the barracudas and other fish to snack on.

"We feed the fish with minnows at five o'clock each day because it's quite a show," Cooper said, as the predators get fired up to hunt their prey.

Appearing on "Tanked" doesn't mean the production company foots the bill for the tank orgives away free maintenance for life. Cooper had to pay for the specialty tank. The price of the tanks are generally secret and people have to request quotes for each project. For comparison, a much smaller 240-gallon standard tank from ATM costs $2,600 before shipping, according to the company's website.

"Once we realized the cost of the procedure, we said let's call 'Tanked' in Vegas to see if this is something they would want to do," Cooper said.

One of the more complicated and cool features is the coral structure.

"Embedded in the coral structure is a full organ system," Cooper said, colon and all. "The heart actually beats in the aquarium. We just went nuts with this thing."

The show flew the original fish from Los Angeles on a first-class flight and stocked the tank. The production company spent about 20 hours during a week to shoot footage for the 30-minute show, Cooper said.

Eco Reef Corals, 2137 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice has worked with ATM for a little over a year, and will be taking care of the maintenance each week, spending two to four hours cleaning, said Chet Lusk, co-owner of Eco Reef. The store is known for its specialty in dealing with 100 percent saltwater habitats and fish. The stores breeds 95 percent of its fish in tanks and corals in acquaculture environments, lessening the need and impact of ocean habitats.

"We didn't know what the tank was going to look like until they took it out of the box," he said.

The height of the tank proves to be challenging for cleaning, and is more of a two-person job, co-owner Donna Martinek said.

"It doesn't mean we have to climb into the tank," she said. "We could get in, we just couldn't get back out."

The Eco Reef team had to design special cleaning tools to figure out how to clean the tank eight feet deep, Lusk said.

"The hardest part is physically seeing what you're scrubbing," he said.

Eco Reef will host a viewing party for the public on an 12-by-12-foot inflatable screen at the store, complete with popcorn, Martinek said. Fans should show up between 8 to 8:30 p.m. and bring their own chairs, she said.

The Cooper Family Medical office opens to the public Monday, and the practice is accepting new patients, cooper said.

"We're just excited to have a tank like this for our patients because they're the ones sitting in the lobby with us," Cooper said. "It'll be nice for them to chill out in the lobby and have a neat experience."

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095.

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