April 25, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Drive past the Sloan residence in Elkhorn and—if your eyes catch a glimpse of the front window, especially in the evening hours—there is a good chance you’ll slow your vehicle or feel compelled to stop and stare awhile.

Your lingering gaze won’t be because the house itself is impressive (though it is), but because of the massive saltwater aquarium visible through the window. Stewart and Diane Sloan admit they’ve witnessed more than one vehicle parked outside their home while the passengers watch the aquarium.

Situated in the kitchen and viewable from both sides, this 300-gallon aquarium was a collaborative effort between the Sloans, Wood Specialties, homebuilder Curt Hofer & Associates, and Scott Ruff of Ruff Waters Inc. “This was something that has not been done in Omaha to this level,” says Ruff, explaining that a functioning aquarium of this size is extremely rare in residential settings.

Four thousand gallons of saltwater run through the house hourly to keep the aquarium running and the fish healthy. A small mechanical room in the lower level of the home is dedicated to the pumps and filtering system. “A lot of details went into this aquarium,” Ruff says. “The last thing you’d want is for something like this to fail in a home.”Guy from Ruff cleaning saltwater aquarium

Surprisingly, this is the first aquarium for the Sloans. Stewart says that the aquariums at Kona Grill were an inspiration for him. They all laugh when they remember a lunch meeting at Kona to start planning the aquarium. “Do you know what Scott ordered?” asks Diane, laughing. “Sushi!” The irony of an aquarium specialist ordering fish for lunch was not lost on them.

Though Stewart had some ideas for what he wanted the aquarium to be, he and Diane had one important rule: “I did not want to be the one maintaining it,” Stewart says. “We couldn’t maintain this,” Diane says, to which Stewart laughs and adds, “We can’t maintain ourselves!”

All they have to do is feed the fish and enjoy the view. A Ruff Waters technician takes care of the cleaning and maintenance. “The fish don’t like Travis [Bartman],” Diane says. She claims that the fish remember faces, so while they’ll gather at the glass when she approaches, they’ll all hide when Bartman comes around with his cleaning tools.

Diane runs a tight ship with the fish in her aquarium. “Diane taps on the glass when the fish get naughty,” Stewart says. She enjoys giving visitors a tour of the tank, using a flashlight to point out the different fish and the anemones. Each fish has a story—and a name. “They all have different personalities,” Diane says. And while Stewart says the “clownfish are always a favorite,” they both agree that Popeye the shrimp is their very favorite aquarium resident.

The aquarium turned out “better than I envisioned,” Diane says. The people in cars coming to a screeching halt outside their house would probably agree.


Visit ruffwaters.com for more information.

This article was printed in the May 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.