By Mark Steingraeber
Remember the old adage “Be careful what you wish for”?
About a year ago, members of our friends group (Friends of the Upper Mississippi Fishery Services – aka, FUMFS) and I wished for a large, attractive aquarium to serve as the focal exhibit for visitors (especially children) here at our recently refurbished office building in Onalaska.
Then late in December of 2011, like children looking for presents under a Christmas tree, we were excited to find our wish come true when FUMFS received a generous grant from the Paul E. Stry Foundation to purchase and set-up a new, 720-gallon, acrylic display aquarium.
Thus in June 2012, I made a 600-mile roundtrip drive to Starbuck, Minnesota. Here I took delivery of a new aquarium, stand, filter system, and cabinet, all fabricated to our specifications by Chris Boelke, owner of Midwest Custom Aquarium.
Like a mid-summer Santa Claus whose sleigh was full, I departed for home with a heavily loaded truck and trailer, but not before Chris versed me in the planned design of the aquarium, made several wise suggestions, and gave me a pencil sketch for the yet to be completed plumbing system. After all, like most really good Christmas presents, additional assembly was required.
By mid-November, after a team of professionals moved the mammoth structure into the visitor center without incident, the real work of assembling this 202 cubic-foot jig saw puzzle of an aquarium (with several missing pieces) was about to begin for me.
Between then and now, when I wasn’t on holiday, most of my time at work (and some of it at home) was spent much like an elf in Santa’s workshop, planning and building a subfloor that now anchors three pumps, four filtration systems, and 40+ feet of PVC plumbing into a compact space.
Yet to come, before fish call the aquarium home, is setting up the interior with suitable substrates, as well as testing the mechanical systems. And while I’m not too fond of assembling gifts, this has been one challenging present that I’ve really enjoyed putting together!