When Noel Rose first moved to New York City in 2002, he went on a job interview for a television production position and instead of leaving with a job, he left with yet another interview, this time for a position at one of the largest fish tank maintenance companies in America. Three years later, Rose, a Southern transplant who had spent his formative years catching frogs, fish, lizards and bugs with his grandfather, started Anchor Aquarium Service, Inc., a design, installation and maintenance company that does luxury aquariums, terrariums, ponds and more in residential and commercial settings. As well, he often works with artists, collaborating on projects or aiding with aquatic work most aren’t well versed in. “I do more strange, artistic things just because I live in New York City and these kind of opportunities pop up,” Rose said.
And Anchor, which has been unofficially dubbed the “weird hipster fish tank company,” is considered more an artist’s studio than it is just another fish tank cleaning company. “I kind of look at what I do as more of an art,” Rose affirmed. There are a lot of companies working in the same industry as Rose, almost all much larger with twenty-plus employees and hundreds of accounts. But Anchor is different; not only in the style and content of the work Rose does, but also in the size. Rose has a select few clients. He’s always doing a few “normal” projects, like large fish tank installations and regular upkeep, but he’s usually got something “weird in the works.”
Something weird may look like the terrariums he built into furniture for (furniture) architect Andrea Blum when he went to France with her in 2005; or the abstract beaver pond he fabricated for landscape architect Fritz Haeg at the Whitney Biennial in 2008. There was another show with Haeg at Dia:Chelsea a year later, and last summer, Rose made “Aquaponicade,” a miniature golf hole, as part of the FIGMENT Mini-Golf Course on Governor’s Island.
On an everyday basis, Rose does things like takes over existing tanks and revamps them, kind of like a “tank makeover,” or conducts an upgrade for someone. Maybe they have a small tank and they’re ready for something bigger, or perhaps they’re looking to switch from fresh to salt water—Rose will help them with the transition. On extreme occasions, Rose will even go as far as to pack up individual meals for clients to feed their fish every day. “I have [some] people that don’t want to do anything except look at their tank,” Rose said. The more complicated stuff like big water changes, servicing filters, installing and moving around dangerous, heavy equipment is left to Rose.
In fact, save for manufacturing the glass or acrylic the tanks are made of, and catching the fish, Rose pretty much does it all. On top of the design, install, maintenance and aquascaping, Rose is a salesman, as well. He sells everything from the tanks to the livestock. “Basically, the more control I have over the whole situation, the less problems arise, and the happier the client is in general,” Rose said. His regular clients—and there are usually on average about thirty, though with his recent part-time employee he’s been able to bump it up a bit—typically get the full treatment, from having their tank serviced to buying supplies and livestock from Rose.
If you would like to check out Rose’s work for yourself, there are a myriad of places you can go to view it without having to befriend an individual with a tank, or having to get one installed yourself. For instance, he designed the tank in the Emergency Room at Queens Hospital Center on 164 Street in Jamaica; and at Muse Restaurant & Aquatic Lounge in Water Mill, Long Island, he designed and installed maybe “one of [his] coolest tanks.” It’s a bar top tidal pool tank, five inches deep with glass tops so you sit above the tank when you’re having a drink or eating. The owner is a good friend of Rose’s—“he just always wanted to have a bar that was a tank and so I figured out how to make it work, and it worked,” Rose said excitedly.
When Rose isn’t busy designing and installing aquariums and the like, he is instructing others on how to do so. In February and March, he will be teaching a terrarium class at the New York Botanical Garden. You can find more information about it by checking their Web site: nybg.org. As well, Rose has conducted terrarium classes at private garden clubs and plant stores and he’s always open to new opportunities like these. To find out more information on Anchor Aquarium Service, Inc., or to hire Noel Rose to teach a class on terrariums or install your next home aquarium, check out his site here: anchoraquariumservice.com.