Visual Arts — September 8, 2014 14:17 — 0 Comments

Waldron’s Pond (aka Aquarium)

Steve Waldron and Darcy Barry are opening a new, beautiful aquarium in Roosevelt complete with exotic fish, plants and vines. We wanted to chat with Steve about this new beautiful place – enjoy!


What’s going to be in your aquarium?

Our aquarium is filled with beautiful plants and beautiful little fishes from all over the world’s tropical freshwater regions. Plants are very important to our aquarium as they help regulate and moderate environment, just like any eco-system.  Plants provide the backdrop for our fish to live and carry out their lives.  The plants are interesting in their own right too and our style of aquarium keeping is very much focused on the cultivation of plants much like any garden, though in the planted aquarium, you can garden even in the depths of winter.

The fish are always fascinating and create the enchantment that draws the eye to the aquarium.  Each has a story to tell– some are from the Amazon and glide through the canopy of rainforest trees when the river swells with rain; some are from the deep Congo or far New Guinea where a few intrepid fish collectors have braved the dangers of those places to bring ’em back alive; some are extinct in the wild and are now only found in aquariums, with no place in nature to carry on.

We also have the supplies, livestock and inspiration to help people develop their own dream aquarium at home.


How did you acquire the fish and plants, where are they from?

We get our plants and fish from specialized nurseries, fish farms and importers that provide them to the ornamental fish trade. We also cultivate a lot of rare plants and fish that aren’t commercially available. I also try to source as many fish and plants from local fish breeders and plant growers.

How is your place going to be set up? What’s the biggest aquarium?  

My goal, when designing the space – which is located off of Roosevelt Way at 920 NE 64th Street, in between Bol and the Sunlight Café – was to create a sort of alternate universe where the contrast between the chaos of urban street life would juxtapose with the tranquility of the aquatic life held within our space.  The idea was to create a natural sanctuary that is artificial but still resonates with the healing vibes you might associate with a walk in the forest or sitting by a stream.  The space itself is nearly a hundred years old and is loaded with character– exposed brick walls, skylights, old growth Douglas fir exposed beams and hardwood floors.  Not your typical pet shop.

As soon as you walk in off the street and enter the door you are greeted by tropical vegetation spilling out from everywhere– we even have a living wall, a vertical tropical plant garden as one our shop displays.  The aquariums themselves are very unique.  We cater to a style of aquarium keeping that originated in Japan called the “Nature Aquarium” which tries to elevate the aquarium to an art form. The aquariums are purely made of high clarity glass and silicone sealant and the technology required to keep to the life support systems running is kept to a minimum, so your eye is focused on the plants and fish held within these crystalline, levitating glass boxes filled with water and life.

Our largest aquariums are four feet long and hold around seventy gallons.


What is your favorite part of the new building? 

As soon as I walk in the door to Aquarium Zen, I feel pulled in by the vibrancy of the aquariums and I instantly forget my worries.

Do you ever feel regrets keeping the animals in a type of captivity? 

Just the normal guilt and regret of being a human being on a planet of rapidly shrinking natural resources.  The human life, unfortunately, is filled with collateral damage to other species.  The simple act of driving a car pumps greenhouse gases into the air, adds to global warming and now threatens the future of life on earth; eating food, even a vegetarian diet, requires clearing vast wild landscapes to make way for the industrial-scale agriculture to feed a human population of over 7 billion.

With the aquarium, I feel that I have the opportunity to celebrate those non-human life forms that are getting swept aside by the advance of human society.  The animals in our aquariums act as ambassadors of their kind and can serve to educate and inspire the people who see them to care more about the natural world.  The beauty of keeping fish in aquariums is that they are fairly uncomplicated animals and have simple needs, we can easily meet all their needs in the aquarium.  There are no predators in our aquariums, so in some way, the tiny fishes that we keep in captivity can lead less insecure lives than they would in the wild and fully express their nature, happily.

What are some of your favorite fish you’ll have at the shop?

I am really impressed with the minnow-like schooling fishes like tetras, rasboras, barbs.  Though each individual fish is typically only an inch in length or so, they live in these large schools of thousands of individuals that move through the environment like one huge super-organism.  They are in perfect sync with one another and seem to know, by some sixth sense, how to orchestrate their swimming behavior in perfect time with the subtle shifts and changes of the entire group.  Even in a modest aquarium, you can keep a nice school of these fish happy.  It makes for a beautiful display and dazzles the viewer.


What’s unique about your shop compared to any other fish store around? 

I think the most unique aspect of Aquarium Zen is the intention in creating it.  My wife, Darcy Barry, and I wanted to create a space that celebrated nature and our shared love for aquariums and to create an experience for our community.  In my mind, it’s a living art installation disguised as a pet shop.  The aquarium can be a lens into normally unseen realms of nature that are magical.  When executed with an artistic intention, the aquarium can create a transformative experience for the viewer, a timeless space and moment that is not soon forgotten.


Jake Uitti is a founding editor of The Monarch Review.

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