Q: How much is aquarium maintenance service?

We are a done-for-you service business. Thus, most of our clients want the result of a beautiful aquarium to enjoy, but don’t have either the time or expertise to figure out how to do it all themselves. Most clients pay from $750-$1,500 per month, including labor (1 visit/wk; consumable supplies; and livestock/fish/corals/inverts), which is based on an hourly rate of $125/hr.

Commercial clients in particular tend to prefer an all-inclusive annual contract that makes it easier for them to budget.

Q: What’s included with aquarium maintenance?

Everything that an aquarium needs is what we provide — everything — including all consumables and supplies, livestock (fish, corals, inverts). All you need to do is feed the fish and enjoy the aquarium. Most living reef aquariums need to be serviced weekly, however we are flexible and accommodating to each clients’ personal preferences and different needs.

In addition to our servicing your aquarium for you every week, we provide:

  • Salt
  • Fish food
  • Fish, corals, invertebrates to keep the aquarium always stocked
  • Filter media
  • Water chemistry Test Kits and reagents
  • Glass cleaning magnet, pads, felt, scrapers
  • Chemical filter
  • Bio-pellets (remove nitrates)
  • Phosphate removing media (removes phosphates)
  • Repairs

Q: How long does it take to set up a new aquarium?

Custom aquariums take an average of five months. Building a custom saltwater living coral reef aquarium is not a process that should be rushed. We take the time to get it done right, once. The bulk of the timeline in the installation process is the lead time for custom fabrication (i.e. display tank, steel stand, sump, etc.). Once the tank arrives, it takes about 2 weeks to get it cycled. Then comes the fun part of stocking the tank with fish, corals, anemones, sea stars, hermit crabs, snails, which takes two months as it is done over three stockings spaced three weeks apart.

Q: What happens if we lose power?

Our monitoring system calls us within seconds of a power failure and we come out to connect a backup generator (in case you don’t have backup power, which is highly recommended). Losing power is the #1 cause of most tank failures. It even calls us when the power comes back on, so we can come disconnect the generator (unless you have an automatic backup generator installed).

We also design each aquarium installation knowing that power failure is inevitable and thus our preventative, fail-safe design prevents most problems such a floods or equipment failures that are otherwise normally caused by a power failure.

Q: What do you do to protect against disease or fish loss?

Disease in fishes and corals is preventable with: 1) a properly designed and installed system (just one of our tools in our arsenal is an Ultraviolet Sterilizer installed in the filtration system; we also employ strong water circulation which is crucial); 2) properly selection of fish/corals that have been quarantined and conditioned; 3) we design fail-safes into every aquarium we build, so as to insure it is stable even when things go wrong (such a failed pump).

Q: How much does a custom aquarium cost?

Custom aquariums start at $25,000 for a 100-gallon system and go up from there.

Semi-custom aquariums range between $12,000-$25,000 (70-gallon up to a 180-gallon system).

Q: What’s the difference between custom and semi-custom aquariums?

Custom aquariums are often larger and built in to fit the space and employ custom tank with custom shapes and dimensions, such a tank with a curved front that is built into the wall between the kitchen and the family room (for example). We collaborate with an architect and general contractor, and the finish carpenter to custom fit the tank to the space. And the filtration system is in a separate dedicated room/space.

Semi-custom aquariums are typically smaller than custom, and come in a limited range of standard sizes/dimensions. They are pre-designed off-the-shelf kits that we purchase from Red Sea, and come with a choice of several different cabinet colors. We add a few components and modifications to meet our standards, and also need to design and install a water storage/mixing/delivery system. Thus these systems are mostly pre-designed kits that need some customization.

Q: How often does the aquarium have to be serviced?

Most living reef aquariums need to be serviced weekly, but some systems and clients require twice a week, depending on each client’s situation and needs. We are flexible and accommodating to each clients’ personal preferences and different needs. In the end, the secret to a successful and beautiful living coral reef aquarium is consistent attention. Thus, the enemy is neglect. These are complex ecosystems, and do not last without consistent attention or if neglected.

Q: What is not included with a custom aquarium installation?

Answer:  The following are not included and are provided by the client.  If you don’t have any one of these, we can help recommend a professional for you.

  • Electrical:  A licensed electrician will be needed to install circuits and outlets as per our drawings and specifications
  • City Plumbing:  A licensed plumber will be needed for any alterations to your potable water piping and sewer piping as per our drawings and specifications.  For example, a slop sink or floor drain would need to be installed by a licensed plumber.
  • HVAC:  If required, a licensed HVAC technician will need to install ventilation or in the case of a chiller, they would be needed to connect the chiller barrel at the filtration system to the compressor and condenser outside or on the room.
  • Structural alterations to the building:  An architect and/or General Contractor is sometimes needed to shore up the floor so that it can support the tremendous weight of an aquarium.  For example, a 500 gallon aquarium (7’L x 3’FB x 3’H) weighs about 4,300lbs.
  • Finish Carpenter or Millworker:  A finish carpenter is needed for building the cabinetry around the aquarium, as per the design drawings and specifications we provide them.  Most architects or General Contractors have their own favorite finish carpenter for building the cabinetry around the aquarium.  And if you don’t have one, we can help recommend one for you.

Q: What is included with a custom aquarium installation?


  • LABOR:
    • AQUARIUM DESIGN:  We design the entire aquarium system, including:
      • tank & stand
      • entire filtration system
      • water storage system
      • lighting system
      • Electrical needs
      • plumbing
      • cabinetry
      • aquascaping and the stocking plan for which animals go into your tank and when.
    • Tank (quarium glass is preferred for reef systems due to durability)
    • Stand – typically custom made steel, epoxy painted
    • lighting system w/ integrated timers & controllers – LED lights are preferred for their efficiency, low heat output and adjustability
    • main system pump & backup:  the pump is the heart of an aquarium, so it is imperative that a backup be on site
    • recirculation pump or wavemaker & backup – moving lots of water is critical to your reef system thriving
    • protein skimmer – this system constantly exports organic waste 24/7 as well as oxygenating the water
    • Sump w/ integrated refugium, lighting, & mechanical filter – the sump is where main system pump draws its water, which is then pumped through all the filters
    • U.V. sterilizer:  a properly sized Ultraviolet Sterilizer provides insurance against disease outbreaks, cloudy or discolored water;  there is disease in every aquarium just waiting for stress levels to be high enough or ideal enough for an outbreak.  The UV sterilizer kills unwanted fish parasite larvae to protect against such an outbreak.
    • Salt water & fresh water storage tanks and reverse osmosis system for purifying tap water,
    • mixing/ delivery pump & backup:  for mixing salt water and pumping it to the aquarium
    • Evaporation replacement pump:  automatically replaces water lost due to evaporation
    • Heaters:  Helps maintain stable temperature by preventing over cooling
    • Chiller:  Helps maintain stable temperature by preventing overheating
    • Calcium Reactor:  uses carbon dioxide to dissolve old coral skeletons into solution so we can grow new corals.  This reactor copies the processes that occur in the deep sand substrate, where anoxic conditions lower the pH enough to dissolve the mineral rich substrate back into solution.
    • Chemical Filter reactors:  for removing nutrients, organics, and medications
    • Emergency monitoring/alert system:  notifies us instantly whenever there is a condition that might threaten the health or safety of the system.  It monitors temperature, water flow, water levels, leaks, sound and power failure.
    • Aquascaping w/ aquacultured live rock
    • Natural coral sand substrate
    • Fish – we like to have a lot of fish in our exhibits of many different colors and species.  Diversity and balance and stability are the keys to a thriving coral ecosystem aquarium.
    • Corals & anemones:  again we find that a diverse population of species an colors and shapes provides the best display.
    • Misc. Invertebrates (snails, seastars, hermit crabs, seacucumbers, cleaner shrimp, etc.)

Q:  Are you on call 24/7 for emergencies?

Answer:  Yes, we do.  In fact, our one of the most common testimonials we get from our customers is about our responsiveness and reliability…BUT.  Let me ask you this question.  Which would you rather have, a) a company that you can call if something goes wrong; or b) a company who designs your aquarium so that IT CALLS THEM whenever something goes wrong.  Here’s what I mean.  What is the point of hiring an aquarium company to take care of your aquarium for you, if the well being of your aquarium is reliant on YOU discovering and recognizing any issues and then call them and to let them know about it so that they can then respond?  This approach goes against the whole point of hiring a company to take care of your aquarium for you.  INSTEAD…what we do is we monitor your aquarium so that you don’t have to.  In fact, the monitoring system we install on our clients’ aquariums calls us whenever there’s an issue that even has the potential to cause a problem.  We often call our clients to let them know there’s an issue and that we are on our way to address it.  The result is we catch most issues BEFORE they can result in any negative consequence.  The phrase “A pound of prevention is worth more than an ounce of cure” is what we live by. Our formula is PREVENT>>PREPARE>>RESPOND.  It’s in everything we do, from system design to installation to routine maintenance.  And it makes all the difference for our clients.

Even though most aquarium companies are on-call 2/47 for emergency response, this usually results in a large surprise invoice for you the customer.

But it’s even worse than that.  Not only do you get billed for this emergency visit, but because the system wasn’t designed with preventing problems, and because there was no monitoring system to catch the issue soon enough, you also have the loss of fish or corals or even damaged equipment, and the emotional disappointment that goes along with that, or worse – a flood in your business or home.  

With Gibbons Aquaria, this doesn’t have to happen.  Not only do we design your system so that most problems are prevented from being even able to happen, but then we take it further than that.  We use a monitoring system that lets us know within 30 seconds of any issue that could lead to a problem.  So we catch most issues instantly, and our customers avoid the unhappy financial surprise of an invoice for an emergency visit.   This empowers us to respond BEFORE any consequences can occur.  Often times our customers don’t even know there was an issue until we tell them that we found it and fixed it, and that everything is ok. 

After all…isn’t this the reason you hire a company to do it all for you in the first place?

Q:  Do you guarantee your fish?

Answer:  Yes we do.  We guarantee our fish…for as long as we are doing business with you…period.  Not for one month or two months.  Again, isn’t the whole point of hiring an aquarium company to do it all for you, to have them be accountable for your aquarium’s success?  We think so.  And since most people want their aquarium to always look amazing and always be fully stocked with lots of colorful fish and corals, we offer our “Always Stocked Guarantee”.  If anything happens to the fish we provide, we will replace them.