Elburn’s ‘aqua man’
Photo: Zero Edge Aquariums and Water Features in Elburn is the designer and manufacturer of some of the most unique and stunning acrylic aquariums. Their goal is to create aquatic attractions and elements that stretch the imagination. Their products are displayed globally in residential, commercial aquariums, hotels, resorts, spas, zoological and educational settings. Above is an aquarium from the Zero Edge Classic series. Courtesy Photo
by Cheryl Borrowdale
ELBURN—Brett Perry’s 20-year obsession with coral reefs spawned his invention of the world’s only rimless, overflowing aquariums, as well as a thriving local business that sells them to everyone from enthusiasts to the queen of Thailand.
Zero Edge Aquariums, located at 810 E. North St., is new to Elburn (the business moved to town from St. Charles this past November). Perry, however, is not.
He first developed his patented rimless design here in 2002, when he owned a downtown aquatics store, A Splash of Life, which sold corals he farmed in his basement in Elgin.
“In the beginning, I was kind of a hobbyist gone crazy,” he said. “I just got infatuated with corals and growing corals.”
That infatuation led Perry to take his corals to trade shows. But since standard aquarium designs didn’t show off his corals to the best advantage, Perry decided to build his own.
He wanted one without a lid or visible rim, so that buyers could look straight down into the water and see the corals from all directions. And he thought that making the aquarium overflow would help attract attention.
“It was just a snazzy tank to sell my corals,” Perry said. “The first one was kind of lucky, and at the beginning, I didn’t realize what I had.”
But when Perry’s aquarium attracted more attention at the trade shows than the corals, he realized he was onto something. He spent five years perfecting and patenting the design, and launched Zero Edge Aquariums in 2006.
Since then, the business has relocated three times—from Bloomingdale to St. Charles to Elburn—seeking more space. His wife, Denise, joined the company in 2008, and the couple hired three employees as the business grew.
“It’s going really well,” Brett said. “We’ve been doubling every year. It’s not huge numbers, but this year, from what we can see already, we’re going to be doing twice the amount of work as last year.”
Zero Edge sells a line of standard aquariums, but the rimless variety is their specialty.
“The zero edge aquarium just flows over like an infinity pool, so that’s our signature,” Brett said. “If you think of the typical tank that has a plastic black bracing on the top, the rimless tanks don’t have anything. They’re more open and elegant and beautiful.”
That elegance has attracted customers from all over the world—Spain, Germany, Japan, Brazil—including some high-profile customers, like Queen Sirikit of Thailand, who purchased a Zero Edge aquarium to display in her bedroom. Pitbull, a rapper and host of the Spanish-language television show “La Esquina,” has one of the overflowing tanks at his home in Miami.
Though the Perrys have done very little marketing so far—the focus has been on putting the processes in place, setting up machinery and developing the product line—they’ve been doing a number of large custom orders for businesses.
“We can do custom shaping, custom forming, curved panels, any kind of shape you can come up with,” Brett said.
Among the most interesting examples, he said, is a hexagonal touch pool built for the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on Hawaii’s “big island.” The tank, which features sea cucumbers, starfish and crabs, was designed be an outdoor attraction on the beach, and had to be rebuilt when a tropical storm wiped it out.
Zero Edge doesn’t have a showroom open to the public yet, but the company website, zeroedgeaquarium.com, has an online store that offers several different tanks. Denise said that they are looking to expand the types of tanks sold online.
“We have a new line of little desktop tanks,” Denise said. “People think of Zero Edge as overflowing aquariums, but we’ve broadened our line. We have a lot of new types of aquariums that we are starting to put into the business so people can purchase them.”
The rimless aquariums might be more beautiful, but they are suited only for certain types of fish. According to Brett, many fish need a lidded aquarium, or they will jump out of the tank. That’s one reason why Zero Edge makes several types of aquariums, suited to different kinds of fish, and is expanding its product line.
Among the planned additions are specialty jellyfish and seahorse tanks, both of which should be available in the next six months, Denise said.