On the hit Animal Planet reality show “Tanked,” Brett Raymer may come across to viewers as a brash, no-nonsense New Yorker, but one of the world’s foremost builders of custom exotic fish aquariums has a soft spot for his scaly friends.
“Fish have personalities–absolutely,” Raymer, the co-owner of Las Vegas’ Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, told FOX 411. “Pufferfish, for example, have an almost human-like personality. They become very attached. They’re definitely personable. They come up to the aquarium; they’ll follow your finger.”
Raymer’s business partner and brother-in-law, Wayde King, is also fond of the gilled creatures.
“Wayde once had a pufferfish that he used to throw ping-pong balls to,” Raymer explained. “The ball would float and the puffer would take it, dive down to the bottom of the tank and let it float back up, playing around with it. They get used to you coming over to the tank, seeing you outside of the tank. I don’t know if it’s feelings, but they can sense that you’re at the tank and see you there. They have personality.”
Raymer and King recently helped “Jackass” co-creator Jeffrey Tremaine select a pufferfish–along with almost $4000 worth of other exotic fish–at Exotic Reef Imports, a wholesaler just south of LAX in El Segundo, Calif.
“Jeff was really excited. He likes all of the really gnarly stuff,” Raymer said of Tremaine’s visit to the 100,000 gallon facility, which was documented by the “Tanked” crew for the show’s season premiere. “He was excited to come down and shop for the fish. As busy as he is with all of the stuff he does, he didn’t mind taking the extra time to go down and pick out his own fish.”
Tremaine commissioned Raymer and King to design a custom tank for his Hollywood Hills home to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the first “Jackass” film.
“I always had fish tanks growing up, but when I got married, I kind of just let it go,” Tremaine explained to Raymer and King during the episode. “Now, it’s time to go big.”
Go big he did. Tremaine ordered an 11,050 gallon tank for his “man room”–including a custom 3-D skull and crutches based on the “Jackass” logo.
Back in Las Vegas, Raymer and King assigned marine technician and plumber Robert "Robbie Redneck" Christlieb with the chore of building and designing the skull.
At first, the skull, which featured a pair of eel holes for eyes, didn’t meet Tremain’s exacting specifications and needed to be redone.
Christlieb, who had spent a considerable amount of time project, was not pleased. He glared at Raymer and King as he clenched his jaw in anger.
Nevertheless, the modifications were made and Raymer and King delivered the two-ton salt water tank to Hollywood, to the delight of Tremaine, his family–and a few jackasses.
“They were great,” said Raymer of the “Jackass” stars’ reaction to the tank. “We didn’t know that Johnny Knoxville was even coming–that was a surprise to us.”
Fellow “Jackass” stars Jason “Wee Man” Acuna and Chris Pontius were also on hand for the big reveal. “Those guys are very friendly, they were real open to talk to,” explained Raymer. “They thought the aquarium was great–they loved it. They liked the fact that we’re a bunch of pranksters. We pranked them back, so they thought that was cool.”
Tremaine was pleased with the revised skull and crutches. “He definitely liked the eels and he was happy that there were eel holes inside the skull,” said Raymer.
Besides wrangling eels and pufferfish for Tremaine, Raymer and King have plenty of adventures in store for the new season of “Tanked.”
“We’ve moved into a brand-new 34,000 sq. ft state of the art facility, which is about two and a half times the size of what we were in,” revealed Raymer. “There are a lot of new dynamics–we have a game room, we have a conference room, we have a drafting table area and new equipment.”
And Raymer–whose sister, Heather, is married to King–continues to confronts the challenges that come with running a family business.
“It definetly complicates things,” admits Raymer. “You can’t step off from your family, so sometimes when things go on; everybody expects a little bit more of you. And you have to see them every day, and that’s not always the easiest thing in the world, but we make it work.”
"Tanked" airs Fridays at 9 p.m. EST on Animal Planet.