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Thursday, March 24, 2011

A plaice of his own: Fish fan turns cellar into Britain's biggest home aquarium

By Daily Mail Reporter

Wet room: Jack Heathcote shows off the largest domestic aquarium in the UK at his home in Nottingham

When Jack Heathcote says his house is a bit of a dive, he couldn’t be prouder.

That's because he has converted the cellar of his five-bedroom house into Britain’s biggest domestic aquarium.

The 37-year-old, who lives in the Carlton district of Nottingham, has created a private underwater world in the basement of his five-bedroom home, filled with exotic species usually only seen in such far-flung corners of the world as the Amazon and Congo.

The tropical haven, complete with viewing window, lies directly underneath the living room of Jack's red-brick Edwardian property. And at 12ft 6in x 12ft 8in x 7ft, it is the same size as the room above.

Something's fishy: The 'aquarium' in the cellar of Mr Heathcote's house, features a collection of tropical sea life

It is so large - arguably the largest privately owned aquarium in Britain - that Jack has to dive in himself once a fortnight to clean it.

And the salsa teacher has admitted he does not own a TV, claiming he doesn't need one as he prefers to watch the sea creatures swimming instead.

Jack, who has been fascinated by fish since a trip to a Blackpool aquarium when he was ten years old, said, 'My hobby's not only taken over my life, it's taken over my home. But I love it!'

It is not the first time he has added an aquatic feature to his living quarters. In his previous home, he built an indoor tropical pond which he filled with 12 stingrays.

In the swim: The tank is accessed via a hole in the living room of Mr Heathcote's five-bedroom home

When it came time to selling the house, two estate agents felt that the pond would hinder sales, but a third disagreed - and using the pond as a feature, the property was sold.

Jack and his former girlfriend bought his present home with the intention of turning the cellar into one massive fish tank.

Three of the walls of the tank are the foundation walls of the house and a large section of floor was removed by the bay window to allow access. Downstairs a wall of glass has replaced the brick wall, and behind it are some of the largest fish kept in captivity.

Swimming with sharks: The tank is so large that Jack has to dive in himself to clean it

The water's lovely: The heated tank is almost 13ft by 13ft by 7ft and contains 4,800 gallons of water

'I had to do some pretty accurate calculations, especially when you consider the amount of water behind the glass,' Jack said.

'When it's full there's around 4,800 gallons in the tank and I'm on a meter! Each water change sees up to 1,200 gallons being taken out and then replace and even with my high pressure hose, it takes six hours to re-fill.'

Jack paid just £700 for the glass panels and £800 for the fibreglass lining, adding that the tank cost him £5,000 in total to build. He has also stuck to simple decoration in the tank, which includes large, smooth boulders along with the branches of a damson tree which he chopped in half.

The tank is an L-shape from front to back, meaning that the space immediately behind the bay window is 7ft deep, while the rest of the floor space is subdivided by a ledge that used to be the foundation for the window.

Big expense: Jack, who lives in Nottingham, said that he spent around £5,000 building and filling the tank

And the collection in the tank - which includes some valuable species - consists of two chainsaw doradids, three 2ft long Pacus, some Pangasius, a Red tail hybrid catfish, two alligator gars, eight enormous stingrays and two Fly River turtles.

They will soon be joined by two silver arowanas, which are more commonly found in the Amazon River Basin.

'When I bought the house I knew exactly what I wanted to do in the cellar and the work really didn't take that long,' said Jack.

Fish fascination: Jack claims that he first became interested in sea life when he was 10 years old after a visit to a Blackpool aquarium

'There's obviously a bit of work cleaning the tank and changing the water. Then there's feeding the fish, but that only takes about 30 minutes every two or three days. They eat anything from trout to mussels.

'It does cost a bit for the upkeep, and most people would not want to see my electricity bill, but I make some money selling some of the fish I breed.

'There's too much red tape to even consider opening up to the public, but to have the UK's biggest private aquarium, is something I am very proud of.'

Admiring the view: Jack said that he does not own a TV in his Nottingham home as he watches the fish tank instead

The former council officer now lives alone after splitting up with his girlfriend, and has said that any future partners would have to accept his unusual hobby - but added that the aquatic activity was largely confined to the cellar.

'To be honest, apart from the big tank I've got a couple of other smaller tanks down in the cellar and some breeding tanks out in the shed at the back,' he added. The rest of the house is fairly fish free!'

Jack admitted that in the event of any future house moves, he would probably drain the tank and sell it as a wet room, but at the moment he has no plans to sell up.

'I'm very happy here with my very own underwater world and there's not many houses around here that have their own swimming pool,' he said.

Not so fishy: Apart from the cellar Jack describes the remainder of his five-bedroom house as 'fish free'



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