APRIL 21, 1997

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Aquariums for the next millennium


Bob Gordon of Flying Fish Aquariums, creator of a new style of aquariums, shows off the Aqua Terra model.
Photo by Deborah Stone/Northwest News.

Flying Fish Aquariums by Deborah Stone
It's not often that our daydreams amount to much, but for one Woodinville man, fantasy has become reality. Bob Gordon had always dreamed about creating unusual, multilevel aquariums with tubes and passageways, but it wasn't until he was laid off from his fund-raiser job that he decided to put his imaginative ideas into motion.
   In November, 1995 he opened Flying Fish Aquariums in Woodinville with the intention of making prototypes of several original aquarium designs using cast acrylic. He knew they'd be difficult to make, but was willing to experiment and take a risk.
   "I've always liked playing around with tools and creating things, and I figured I could do this if I worked at it for awhile," says Gordon.
   It took him almost ten months of trial and error and some guidance from an acrylic fabricator to actually come up with a design that worked correctly, looked good, and was commercially viable. His aquariums are marvelous new age habitats with many levels, tubular passageways, towers, terraces, and turrets. Fish who manage to find themselves in these aquariums will think they've died and gone to heaven.
   Designs are for fresh or salt water fish and range from the massive 130-gallon Aqua Terra, featuring terraces for landscaping with gravel, rock, and plants, to the King Arthur, with its corner towers where fish can stand guard over their domains. The Sentinel features hexagons on top of towers connected by a tube and the Escher, inspired by artist M.C. Escher, contains an underwater terrarium for plants, turtles, or other amphibians.
   All aquariums have separate stands which complement each design. It takes Gordon two to three full days in his shop to make one aquarium. They range in price from $2024 to $3500, excluding stands. They're costly to build because the cast acrylic tubing costs about four times as much as sheet acrylic.
   Gordon is just beginning to market and advertise them and has several on display at Seattle Office Furniture downtown, at Crystal Aquarium in the International District, and at Indoor Ocean on Aurora. He also brought one to the recent "ART...cetera" show, sponsored by the American Society of Interior Designers Washington, to make industry connections.
   Wherever he sets one up, he gets pleasure in observing people as they stop and stare. He says, "It's great fun to watch people's faces when they see one for the first time. They're curious and confused as they try to figure out how a particular fish got up into a tube." Their reactions are exactly what Gordon wants to see.
   He adds, "I want people to get a childlike charge out of my aquariums. That's a big part of the satisfaction that I get from making these." Gordon is now a much happier man pursuing his dreams, even when it means hard work.