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Paradise Reefs provides moving art

Aquariums' tranquility is calming

Brian Bouteller spends his days creating moving art for his clients.

His medium isn't oil or pastel. It's the watery world of the custom aquarium and the fluid, rainbow spectrum of exotic fish.

Surrounded by buckets, hoses and towels, Bouteller transports the calming sounds and motion of a salt water coral reef into homes and offices throughout the Rogue Valley.

— Business card:

Name

: Pacific Reefs

Location

: White City, serving the Rogue Valley

Phone

number

: 770-7142

Web

site

:

Owners

: Brian and Cassie Bouteller

Business

: Custom commercial aquarium leasing and maintenance "It can create a sense of tranquillity in an otherwise hectic lifestyle," Bouteller said.

Bouteller bought Paradise Reefs a year ago from the original owner, who started the business 10 years ago. Leaving behind a job in janitorial product sales, he turned his 15-year interest in aquariums and fish breeding into a full-time job.

In addition to his amateur background in aquariums and fish breeding, Bouteller said a high school organic chemistry class has been extremely helpful in his new vocation.

"When I first took the class, I didn't take it that seriously," he said. "I really just goofed off. But, I have to say, that class is probably the single most helpful thing I ever did that's helped me with this business."

Niger triggers, Annularis angels and flame hawks move slowly out of Bouteller's way while he vacuums debris from their tank floor, wipes clean their window to the outside world and adjusts their coral and stone surroundings.

"I think it's a really smart thing on the part of an executive or a doctor, to have a salt-water tank in the office," Bouteller said. "It does something to calm people and provide a relaxing atmosphere. There's a real wisdom in that, especially for dentists and pediatricians - places of high anxiety."

Paradise Reefs' contemporary aquariums are eons removed from the mineral- and rust-encrusted glass boxes of the past.

"People think they want to get an aquarium and then ... they just become overwhelmed (with the maintenance)," Bouteller said.

Constructed out of either glass or Plexiglas, most Paradise Reef aquariums - which average 100 gallons in size - are purchased from California manufacturer Advanced Aquariums. The tanks are surrounded by custom cabinetry.

"It's not like the old aquariums sitting on a metal aquarium stand where you have to dodge the wires and hoses," Bouteller said.

He currently maintains 65 tanks with the largest a 500-gallon giant at Dental Prevention Diagnostic & Treatment Center in the Rogue Valley Mall.

Customer relations depend greatly on the mortality of fish, Bouteller said.

"When a fish in a client's tank dies, I'm nobody's friend, he said. "But when I take a sick fish away and bring it back healthy, I'm everybody's friend."

That may be because of a "warm-fuzzy" relationship that clients develop with their fish. Or it could be the price tag - some species can cost hundreds of dollars.

"Salt-water fish really develop a character and a personality," Bouteller adds. "Like the puffer who comes out and follows you around like a puppy wagging its tail."

Shortly after acquiring Paradise Reefs, Bouteller invested in quarantine tanks where new fish are held and medicated to make sure they don't carry parasites or disease. Using a copper sulfate, broad-spectrum anti-fungal, anti-parasitic solution in the quarantine tanks, Bouteller is able to keep medication in client's aquariums minimal and fish healthier.

Bouteller services the tanks twice monthly, replacing 10 to 15 percent of the water, examining the fish, and fine tuning the filters and pumps. Clients are charged about 95 cents per gallon per month for the service. Most monthly bills average about $100 for rental, plus additional costs for fish and food.

Most of the fish living in Paradise Reef aquariums were caught in the wild. But Bouteller said captive breeding programs for exotic fish and propagation methods for coral mean wild species will be less impacted in the future.

"The thing is, if we hadn't have been able to study them in captivity, we wouldn't know how to breed them now," he said.

Reach reporter Shari Downhill at 776-4463, or e-mail

Paradise Reefs provides moving art