Simon Kearney, owner of McSorley’s Beach Pub, once dreamed of a serpentine aquarium snaking more than 300 feet through his oceanfront Fort Lauderdale tavern. For now, he’s settled for an eel.
The 30-inch zebra eel will make its national television debut Wednesday night on “Fish Tank Kings,” the Nat Geo Wild reality show that profiles the work of Fort Lauderdale-based Living Color Aquariums. The firm has created fish tanks in celebrity homes and high-profile locales all over the county, most famously in the backstop at Marlins Park.
Kearney says he wanted an aquarium to remind pub visitors of the rich beauty to be found just across A1A from McSorley’s. The eel is a tip of the cap to his youth, when he caught river eels in County Carlow, Ireland.
“They were up to a few feet in length. We used to eat them,” Kearney says with a laugh.
But, remember, no matter how much you’ve had to drink, no eating this eel: It comes from Indo-Pacific waters and retails for $300.
For Living Color president and COO Mat Roy, the challenge was creating a signature theme for the 300-gallon aquarium, so the eel will live in cave that looks like an Irish whisky barrel, topped with a tap created from a mold of a tap straight from behind the McSorley’s bar.
“It’s an exact replica of what you’ll see on the bar. That aquarium could only fit there. That’s a McSorley’s aquarium,” Roy says.
The original idea that Roy and Kearney dreamed up for the serpentine aquarium at McSorley's became cost-prohibitive after factoring in the upgrades necessary to the exisiting building, says Kearney, who also owns Stout in Oakland Park. But he hasn't ruled it out.
"Some day in the future, I think," he says.
More than two years after the much-publicized aquariums at Marlins Park made their debut, Roy says the fish have adapted well. Living Color staffers visit the stadium more than 90 times per year to maintain the tanks.
"They're in great condition," Roy says, acknowledging some fish losses, but at a rate typical for any aquarium.
You can check out McSorley's tank during a Wednesday watch party for the 10 p.m. episode of "Fish Tank Kings" at the pub (837 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.), with Kearney knocking 25 percent off your check beginning at 8 p.m. Call 954-565-4446 or go to McSorleysBeachPub.com.