Fancy fishbowls

Tenecor Inc., a Phoenix-based company, has been building custom aquariums for 23 years, which include varieties of tank shapes and sizes, but assorted standard- and custom-designed aquarium stands. The aquarium furniture is manufactured in Phoenix and at a second shop in Milan, Italy. Tenecor serves both the residential and commercial markets.

"We're probably 50 percent custom, but all of them are handmade," says William Miceli, Tenecor president. "We don't do anything that is mass produced; I don't subcontract anything out or buy things from anywhere else. We have a full cabinet shop in Arizona with a staff of four. We have paint booths, everything."

Designs fall into two categories that are primarily based on European and upscale American trends. The European designs have less of a trim look and favor lighter woods. The American designs have clean lines, are more likely to contain exotic woods or darker woods such as cherry and walnut, although the staple has always been oak because of its strength. The company also adapts their designs by studying current trends in the furniture and cabinetry industries.

Occasionally a larger project comes along, such as the public aquarium at the Eastwood Mall just outside Cleveland.

"It's really what the customer wants and the price point they're willing to pay," Miceli says. "The majority of our stuff is made out of oak. We fully design it with a CAD design and the customer has to sign off on all phases of it, from the wood sample to the wood selection, to what the final CAD looks like. And at that point, we just go ahead and build it and deliver it. There are no returns.

"The stands have an internal skeleton. On the smaller tanks, it's got an entire wood skeleton to hold the weight of the tank, so they're almost cladded, if you will. On our larger tanks, there are actually steel skeletons with wood cladding."

Tenecor's smallest tank, with filtration, lighting and cabinetry, sells for around $1,000. A 10' tank costs about $22,000.