BETTENDORF, Iowa — For Bettendorf's Coral Haven, business is as good as owner Joseph Eckman's passion is alive; and his passion, is as vibrant as the coral and fish he sells out of his shop every day.
"Coral is my passion just the intricacy how many colors there are variants there are, and just how something so amazing can grow in the ocean and how we can keep them in our tanks at home," said Eckman, whose love for fish tanks started after a vacation to the Caribbean when he was a child.
He's helped get fish tanks set-up in the homes of hundreds of customers, but his business extends into maintaining large tanks throughout the Quad Cities, including Nikulski Financial in Bettendorf.
"It’s a good conversational piece for my clients as well as and their kids when they come in, they always want to look at Dory and all the fish," said Brian Nikulski, President of Nikulski Financial.
He's got about a dozen fish swimming around in a 150-gallon bow-front salt water tank. It's positioned in the corner of of the the office's main hallways.
"Watching them sway with the waves and how they change, they’ll come to life just like the fish, the whole ecosystem is pretty neat and relaxing to watch, in fact I catch myself watching them too much probably," laughed Nikulski, as he motioned at his tank, which includes fox fish and clown fish among others, as well as about 60 different types of coral.
Fish tank enthusiasts rave about how relaxing it can be to watch their fish. Their vibrant colors, the way they swim through the water at different paces, and how they interact with their habitat inside the tank can be mesmerizing.
The fish and coral at Coral Haven have price tags ranging from around $20 to thousands of dollars, but Eckman says for the people who love having a fish tank, it isn't about the money.
"When you’re spending that much on an animal it’s not so much for the pride or the bragging rights of having it, it’s because you really do enjoy what it is – the uniqueness of it, and so you put a lot of heart into it," said Eckman, adding that fish lovers and just 'down to earth, cool people'.
"I just enjoy it, when I sit down here I mean, like I said you could sit down here for hours just watching," said Bryan Buhman, who has a 180 gallon salt water tank in the basement of his home in Bettendorf.
The tank is full of dozens of different types of fish and coral; Buhman's favorite fish that can be found swimming around the tank's rocks is his school of five flame angels.
"I just like the bright red in the tank it's one of my favorite colors to have in the tank," said Buhman, who takes pride in maintaining his tank himself.
The tank at Nikulski Financial is one of the tanks that Eckman stops by to service every other week. He checks on the filter system, hidden in the custom cherry wood cabinet in which the tank is set and wipes the glass clean.
Eckman also goes to the Bettendorf Public Library, where there's a tank set-up in the kids reading zone.
"The kids love that tank, every time I’m there they’re like, 'Nemo... Dory!'," said Eckman.
"We have demographics across the board. I don’t think it matters who you are people just find fascination about being able to keep a piece of the ocean in their tanks at home," said Eckman.
Eckman says the average price to set-up a nice 10-gallon starter tank is about $300.