We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Shane Deuben, our Lead Aquarist at Alabama Aquarium & Pond Services. Shane takes care of the livestock, ordering, maintenance, fish health, and client satisfaction. Read on to learn more about Shane and his career!
Before working at AAPS, what kind of work did you do?
I graduated from Maine College of Art but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do from there. I worked in construction for a while, then painting for a number of years. I later decided to break into radio through voiceover work, recording local commercials. One day, though, I was driving and saw an aquarium truck in front of me. It was like lightning struck—I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do.
How did you learn about AAPS?
I worked as an aquarist with my former company for about 10 years. I started in freshwater and ventured into saltwater after a few years. I had started using Instagram as it gained popularity and decided to post a picture of a reef tank I was making that came down with a parasite. In the post caption, I talked about medication I was using to cure the tank and later received a direct message from Phillip at Alabama Aquarium, which started our relationship. We kept in contact over the years and checked in with each other periodically. Later down the road, when AAPS was interested in having me on their team, I knew it would be a great fit and I took the leap down to Alabama.
What attracted you to AAPS?
I didn’t feel that I was growing as an aquarist up north. I had reached a point in my career where I felt stagnant, and I was ready for a change. Also, I would regularly see Phillip and Kyle at conferences and always had a high level of respect for their work and their company. The people at AAPS and the quality of the work are really what attracted me here. And I could not have made this career move without the incredible support and trust of my wife. We are happy to call Alabama home now.
How would you describe AAPS as a company?
The first descriptor that comes to mind when thinking of AAPS is “utmost professionalism.” Down to the smallest details, everything is done on a professional level. Every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed, because we hold ourselves and our employees to the highest standards. We also have an incredible support system within the company that allows us to do our best work. I feel that my strengths and specialties are utilized—I have a specific skill set that I bring to the team, but I can rely on other team members to complement my work with skills I may not be as proficient in. And it may sound impossible, but we have achieved a highly professional environment that still feels relaxed.
What does your day-to-day work look like?
As the Lead Aquarist on staff, I typically go into the office in the mornings, check the quarantine systems to make sure they look healthy and that they have everything they need, and then I prepare to visit accounts. I will load up the materials I need into the van and then head to my accounts to perform regular maintenance and take notes on the systems. I visit anywhere from 6-9 accounts per day usually, and no two accounts are the same. In addition to visiting and servicing my accounts, I also take care of ordering livestock, meeting with clients to review their plans for new aquariums, make suggestions and recommendations, and more.
What has been your favorite project with AAPS and why?
They are all so different! I couldn’t narrow it down to one. The first that comes to mind is a 450 gallon freshwater system I did for a residential client that was originally a saltwater tank. The tank had some issues, which is why we made the switch to freshwater. I visit this couple once a week, and now that I have been able to solve the tank issues, they are just beaming with joy every time I see them. They love the aquarium and have talked at length about how it has made their lives better.
Another favorite was the installation of a tank with speciality African fish, the African Tanganyikan. The project was super unique, something I could really pour myself into. You have your “bread and butters,” your regular fish and setups that you rely on, so having the chance to partake in a rare project like this one was exciting.
The third that comes to mind is a new client I am preparing to meet. We are creating a tank for a boy with an extremely rare genetic disorder, and we got the entire project donated, all the way down to the fish. This project has so much emotion behind it because of the incredible impact it has the power to make. I know it’s going to be something that I won’t be able to express with words.
What is the most challenging part of your work with AAPS? The most rewarding?
As for the most challenging aspect of my work, I wish I could be at more than one place at a time. We service so many clients, and sometimes keeping up with the workload becomes difficult.
And the most rewarding part of my work has to be arriving at an account, talking with the owners, and learning how much the aquariums mean to them. The connection that people make with their fish and their aquascapes is inspiring. Aquariums become part of your lifestyle, and knowing that I play a role in helping our clients relax from their day-to-day makes a real impact. The client’s joy makes my day!
What do you like to do outside of work?
My family and I love to explore Alabama. We are avid outdoorsy people, and you’ll find us kayaking, walking, or hiking almost every weekend. We also have two dogs and some chickens that keep us busy.
Also, being relatively new to Alabama and Birmingham, we are always finding new, exciting pockets to check out. We love Barons games and different festivals like the Woodlawn Festival and the Moss Rock Festival in the fall. I get the sense that Birmingham is really on the cusp of something great, and I really get a charge out of seeing the growth and progression here.
What is the biggest career lesson you have learned thus far?
You know, I’ve learned a lot across more than a decade of this work. One of my top day-to-day lessons would be not to top a saltwater tank off with salt water. I’ve made that mistake once and almost destroyed an entire system!
As for the industry, I’ve learned to adapt and stay open-minded. The clientele is so diverse, and you have to be able to shift and bend to meet their needs and wants.
Alabama Aquarium and Pond Services employs an all-star team to create and service your aquariums. Contact us for more information or to get a quote!