Why Animal Planet’s Tanked is Everything Right with America


Written by: Jon Finkel

Tanked is a show about fish, only it’s not. It’s about friendships and family.

It’s a show about salt water and fresh water tanks, only that’s not it either. It’s about craftsmanship and creativity.

It’s a show about a business, kind of, but it’s more about entrepreneurs, passion, success, relationships, connections, sales and the real-world management of running a company.

But mainly Tanked is about happiness. It’s a show about two guys who built a business from the ground up by doing what they love, giving people a product they will love and following their dreams. And yeah, that dream was to build kick-ass fish tanks for customers that include some of the biggest celebrities, athletes and clients you can think of.

Shaq has a tank. Tracy Morgan has two, one with sharks in it. Betty White has a tank and so does Marshawn Lynch, Penn & Teller, Howie Mandel, Prince Fielder, the Tampa International Airport, Boyz II Men, barbecue restaurants, museums, RV stores, food courts and more.

They’ve designed tanks shaped like syringes, slot machines, rocket ships, vending machines, big rigs, sharks and whatever the hell else a client can think of.

tracy morgan tank

Tracy Morgan’s “shark” tank

The stars of the show are Wayde King and Brett Raymer, the founders of Acrylic Tank Management (ATM). They’re based out of Las Vegas and their motto is, “If you can dream it, we can build it.”

Wayde is married to Brett’s sister, while his father-in-law, dubbed The General, works in the office and helped Wayde found the business, which is now run out of a 37,000 square foot facility in Vegas. Robbie “Redneck” is the resident eccentric who lives in a trailer out back but is a brilliant engineer, designer, problem solver and technician. There are several other recurring characters that help run ATM, but those are the main players.

Wayde is the cornerstone of the show and the company and he embodies the American Dream, having worked his way up from a job as an aquarium cleaner on Long Island as a teenager to the CEO/owner of the largest aquarium building company in the world.

I recommend this show to people constantly. I probably annoy people about it. My wife and I are kind of obsessed with it. It might be the best thing to ever come out of the entire reality TV era in terms of actual entertainment value and message.

The entertainment value, if you’re into tropical fish and celebrities and restaurants and small businesses, is simple and visual and an easy way to pass 44 minutes.

The message is uncomplicated, but more important, and it can be broken up into three parts:

  1. Hard work pays off.
  2. If you love your work you’ll never actually be working.
  3. The American Dream is alive and well.

Tanked puts this message on full display for anyone to see. The passion and knowledge Wayde, Brett and Redneck have for fish, tanks, tank management, tank construction, art and making clients happy is undeniable. Their continued focus on enjoying work and making customers happy is impressive.

What’s even more impressive is the number of fields of study Wayde in particular needs to have expertise in to be good at his job and run his company effectively: chemistry, engineering, biology, zoology, ecology, finance, computer design and on and on.

And that’s not even including the number of machines he’s demonstrated the ability to use on the show, from his beloved forklifts to excavators, cranes, welding machines, sanding machines, to all manner of plumbing, construction equipment fish pumps and regulators.

He’s a man’s man. He’s a family man. He builds things. He solves problems. He manages people. He gets the best out of them. He works his ass off. He’s proof that with ambition, knowledge and a willingness to learn whatever skills it takes to succeed, people can accomplish anything.

He’s also the antithesis to an entire generation of kids with an abundance of college majors but not enough actual job skills.

This show is real, about a real business, a real trade, real relationships and real success built on real work.

Like I said, Tanked is about fish, but it’s not. Watch it.

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Jon Finkel is the author of Forces of Character with 3x Super Bowl Champion and Fighter Pilot, Chad Hennings, Heart Over Height with 3x NBA Slam Dunk Champion Nate Robinson, as well as Jocks In Chief, the hit fatherhood book, The Dadvantage – Stay in Shape on No Sleep with No Time and No Equipment, and all twelve volumes in the Greatest Stars of the NBA book series for the National Basketball Association, which won several ALA Young Reader Awards.

As a feature writer, he has written for Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, GQ, Details, The New York Times, AskMen.com, ComedyCentral.com, Yahoo! Sports’ ThePostGame.com and many more. His work received a notable mention in the 2015 Best American Sports Writing anthology.




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