Reality show puts former Evanston man in the fishbowl
Nic Tiemens, formerly of Evanston, and South Side Chicago native Joe Pineda will make their TV debut Oct. 12 when reality show “Ultimate Aquariums” premieres on HGTV. | Contributed photo
Updated: October 10, 2012 2:45PM
EVANSTON — What started as a hobby building aquariums has exploded into a career designing high-end fish tanks for celebrities in Los Angeles for Evanston native Nic Tiemens, who will make his TV debut at noon Oct. 12 when his new reality show, “Ultimate Aquariums,” premieres.
The show will showcase celebrity homes and follow Tiemens and his business partner, South Side Chicago native Joe Pineda, as they work with celebrity clients like Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker to design the perfect upscale aquariums suited for to meet the high expectations of the rich and famous.
Now 32-years-old, Tiemens left Evanston for Los Angeles at the age of 24 to pursue his dream of designing and building aquariums for celebrities.
“I thought ‘Chicago’s great,’ but I was itching to experience life in another part of the country,” said Tiemens, a 1998 graduate of Evanston Township High School.
With $500 in his pocket Tiemens hopped in his grandparent’s car and headed for southern California. A year later Tiemens caught his lucky break when the owner of an L.A.-based aquarium company offered to let him manage the business for a year while he moved to Las Vegas.
“After managing it for a year, he gave the company to me, and suddenly I had my own aquarium business,” Tiemens said.
But at 25, Tiemens quickly found that potential clients were hesitant to hand over thousands of dollars to a guy in his mid-20s.
So he called his friend and former boss Pineda, back in Evanston, with a business proposition. Pineda had given Tiemens his first job cleaning aquariums at Aquarium Professionals Group, and later became his mentor in the aquarium industry, teaching him everything he needed to know about the business.
Pineda agreed to relocate from Chicago and move to L.A. to go into business with Tiemens, and six months later Infinity Aquarium Design was ready for success.
“We launched our website and suddenly had this attitude that we were going to be the big guys in town,” Tiemens said. “We kept that attitude for the past nine years, and now here we are today, doing every big job for movie stars, celebrities and movie sets that comes our way.”
Though nondisclosure agreements prevent Tiemens from discussing the names of most celebrities and movie sets Infinity Aquarium Design has provided aquariums for, Tiemens reveals that he worked with David and Victoria Beckham to design their home aquarium when the couple moved to L.A., and he has also worked on designs for “The Price Is Right” set and for a big-screen movie featuring Ben Affleck.
Their big reality-TV break came after Tiemens began posting videos of himself and Pineda in action working with celebrities to design aquariums. A production company in L.A. noticed the videos and made a teaser for a TV show, and HGTV picked up the show for a pilot episode.
“It’s unlike everything you’ve already seen on TV,” Tiemens said. “We’re bringing people into celebrity homes you only see on TV and in the movies.”
HGTV producers agreed to run a pilot episode of the show, and the ratings will determine whether it gets picked up for more episodes.
Tiemens has had a love of fish and aquariums since he was 4-years-old when he kept pet goldfish in a bowl. At 21 he got his start in the industry when Pineda hired him to clean tanks, and through that job he was later hired to install an aquarium in Michael Jordan’s Highland Park home during the 1990s.
“Imagine how cool it was to be inside Michael Jordan’s house as a kid growing up in Chicago during the 1990s,” Tiemens said. “That was what really sparked me to start thinking about making a living building lavish aquariums for the rich and famous.”
A decade later Tiemens is living the good life in L.A. with a successful business and a reality show on the way.
Living on the West Coast has given Tiemens an edge in getting the best fish in the world for his clients. L.A. is a hub for the aquarium industry, meaning the exotic fish from places like Indonesia, Australia and Hawaii arrive there before being shipped to other places in the United States.
“We get first crack at getting the most beautiful fish in the world,” Tiemens said. “It’s important because for our clients we want only the most major, show-stopping fish to be seen in their aquariums.”
Most fish added to aquariums installed by Infinity Aquarium Design cost between $50 and $5,000, and total cost for design and installation can run as much as $50,000.