Galt’s goldfish

Sometimes I think that the fact I know what Tyler Cowen thinks of Megan McArdle’s take on Matt Yglesias’s rebuttal to Ezra Klein’s critique of James Joyner is a sign that I have too much time on my hands. Then I read New York Times articles like this:

Her husband, Alan Wilzig, 45, a former banker who collects motorcycles and prides himself on the orange tanning bed in his basement, goes to the James Bond-like control panel in the kitchen, where a touch of a button turns the fish — which are specially bred to be colorless — a vivid blue.


Christopher Stevens, a Manhattan interior designer, said he has worked several giant fish tanks into residential projects at the request of clients. “They have a collection of cars, of motorcycles, of art, they have three dogs,” Mr. Stevens said. “It’s like, ‘What else, what’s the next thing to wow my friends?’….


But all that movement and fluidity comes at a price. Universally, owners of fantasy fish tanks describe them — usually in the same breath — as very relaxing and very expensive. Aquariums like the Wilzigs’ tend to cost a minimum of $50,000, plus at least $1,000 a month for maintenance. And that’s before buying a single fish.

55 replies
  1. 1
    4tehlulz says:

    You know what might wow them? Not acting like a materialist douchebag.

  2. 2
    matoko_chan says:

    how does one deal with being raised that way?
    my parents spent enough raising me to build a school in afghanistan and pay the teachers for 20 years.

  3. 3
    QDC says:

    Collection of motorcycles, collection of expensive art, fish tank that costs as much as a house, and … three dogs? I mean John has two dogs and a cat, would a hedge fund manager’s wife be impressed?

  4. 4
    scav says:

    anyone that prides himself on a tanning bed is a sad, sad, and hollow individual. oh I can’t stop laughing

  5. 5
    Punchy says:

    plus at least $1,000 a month for maintenance

    This seems a bit excessive. Someone needs to ask why maintaining pH and osmo require $33+ a day.

  6. 6
    licensed to kill time says:


    and prides himself on the orange tanning bed in his basement

    Does he let Boehner in his basement?

  7. 7
    Turgidson says:

    This guy also goes by the name Troy McClure.

    You might remember him from such educational videos as Two Minus Three Equals Negative Fun! and, Firecrackers, the Silent Killer

  8. 8
    Colonel Danite says:

    What we need are tax cuts for upper income Americans so that they can afford to buy fish for their aquariums. That will certainly stimulate our economy.

  9. 9
    Cacti says:

    I know, private property, and blah blah blah. But there’s something so completely crass in knowing that while there are people who lack basic daily nutrition, a choice few are able to drop thousands on super-deluxe fish tanks and diamond studded collars for their dogs.

    Makes one wonder how far we ever are from another round of the guillotines.

  10. 10
    Chad S says:

    I can’t help thinking of what Lenin said: when the rich are in trouble, they only have themselves to blame.

  11. 11
    trollhattan says:


    I read that yesterday, and didn’t have my head/desk moment until getting to the bit that some tank owners pay people to come in daily to feed their fucking fish.

    Still have a mild headache, a day later.

    These guys kick my butt if I’m not out there flinging food twice/day.

  12. 12
    Mark S. says:


    Someone needs to ask why maintaining pH and osmo require $33+ a day.

    Something about a fool and his money, etc, etc.

  13. 13
    matoko_chan says:

    i was a teenage anarchist

  14. 14
    wenchacha says:

    I’m guessing it’s okay for Mr. Wilzig, 45, to put his aquarium on a granite countertop if he so wishes.

    Nobody’s likely to pout over that, right?

  15. 15
    J.W. Hamner says:

    Why not have a room full of money to swim in a la Scrooge McDuck? Then you’d at least get some exercise.

  16. 16
    Tonal Crow says:

    @licensed to kill time:

    Does he let Boehner in his basement?

    And do they teabag together?

  17. 17
    Silver says:

    Google image search for the win:

    You’re trying to hard, Alan. She’s fucking the guy who cleans the fishtank.

  18. 18
    suzanne says:

    Damn. The only thing I have to “wow my friends” is a hundred grand in student debt. Doesn’t look as nice as a FUCKING FISHTANK.

    I know I shouldn’t hate. But…

  19. 19
    schrodinger's cat says:

    Don’t you have that proof to work on to get the next Fields’ Medal?

  20. 20
    ruemara says:

    As I contemplate future homelessness and my suicide retirement plan, I hate these people with the fire of thousand suns and then some. Assholes.

  21. 21
    WayneL says:

    Back in the 80’s, Robin Williams said, “Cocaine is God’s way of letting you know you make too much fucking money.”

    He has a lot more ways now.

  22. 22
    licensed to kill time says:

    @Tonal Crow:

    Together they gently steep their bags of orange pekoe until they reach a satisfying shade and a rich aroma.

  23. 23
    Chris says:

    It was after reading this article that Robin Carnahan said, “My god, these are the people who need me to stand up for them in this economy! If they don’t get to keep the Bush tax cuts, they won’t be able to buy fish! Won’t somebody think of the fish?!?!?”

  24. 24
    srv says:

    Doug, you do remember that John Cole himself was going to get a saltwater aquarium a couple of months ago? And he has three pets? And he’s showing them off all the time. And installing a pair of Magnepans…

    Not to mention all his parties and long breaks. Countertops, indeed.

  25. 25

    Think of this guy the next time you see or hear something about the poor and/or unemployed being “unproductive burdens on the rest of society.”

    [How heavy does a guillotine blade have to be?]

  26. 26
    catclub says:

    This is not new.
    “A boat is a hole in the water you pour money into.”

  27. 27
    Persia says:

    I like fish but not that much.

    Mark Collier, who owns Custom Marine Aquaria in Scottsdale, Ariz., once built a 30-foot-long aquarium into the floor of someone’s game room, which contained a pool table, big-screen TV and “water wall” that gave the illusion that water was cascading into the aquarium (it wasn’t). Total installation cost for the aquarium alone: $200,000. To clean the tank, he had to dive into it, wearing a cord around his ankle that his partner could use to pull him out if need be. “I would basically kind of crawl through the aquarium and back myself out again,” Mr. Collier said. The aquarium is no longer in use, he added, as a bank has since foreclosed on the house.

    Shocked, I am. Shocked.

  28. 28
    cyntax says:

    …plus at least $1,000 a month for maintenance.

    Tax cuts for the wealthy–The system works.
    /Homer Simpson voice

  29. 29


    As I contemplate future homelessness and my suicide retirement plan

    I hope you are exaggerating, as a literary device.

    I ask because such things do happen.

    If things are this bad, let us know. Some of us have had experience with what you have to do to get the social network to keep you alive and we would be happy to offer suggestions.


  30. 30
    Svensker says:


    Google image search for the win:

    Judging by the wall art, he’s not getting paid for his aesthetic taste.

  31. 31
    The Moar You Know says:

    Just another member of the parasite class. He sure seems to like putting all his info out there, so here you go folks, it’s granite countertop time. Write him and tell him how you feel about his fucking fishtank:

    From his profile on PanachePrivee:

    Alan Wilzig is an entrepreneur and investor.

    He is a graduate of the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania.

    Son of the late banker Siggi Wilzig, founder of The Trust Company Bank of New Jersey
    Brother of Ivan Wilzig
    Married to Karin Wilzig


    In May of 2004, Mr. Wilzig engineered the merger between Trustcompany Bank, of which he was Chairman and CEO, and North Fork Bank.


    He is a board member of the Rainforest Alliance and the Jewish Community Project of Lower Manhattan, serves as Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of LibertyHealth, is a co-founder of the Chabad of Southampton and is a member of the President’s Circle of the Wharton School of Business.

  32. 32
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @Silver: Everything about that pic was ugly. Yuck. Now I need the brain bleach.

    It should be a crime to spend money in this profligate manner and to have so little to show for it.

  33. 33
    sven says:

    @srv: Don’t forget the trip to exotic Madison, Wisconsin.

  34. 34
    Persia says:

    @asiangrrlMN: At least somebody lower on the chain is benefiting from this; I bet being a 24/7 fish vet pays well.

  35. 35
    cleek says:

    yeah, but does he use Transparent’s Opus MM speaker cables ?

    cause unless he’s spending $33,000 per speaker wire (and $19K per stereo RCA cable), he ain’t impressing anybody.

  36. 36
    Mnemosyne says:


    You know, I was one of the first to speak out against horseplay.

  37. 37
    Mike in NC says:

    Someone needs to ask why maintaining pH and osmo require $33+ a day.

    As another rich dude once famously said, “If you have to ask how much it costs, you really can’t afford it”.

  38. 38
    DougJ says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Honestly, I do not support harassing someone because they have an expensive fish tank. Leave that for Michelle Malkin.

  39. 39
    Joel says:

    50 grand for a GFP-expressing fish and a blacklight? I’m in the wrong business.

  40. 40
    The Moar You Know says:

    @DougJ: Fight fire with fire.

    Or you can just let the bullies kick the shit out of you a while longer. Most Democrats seem to be into that sort of thing anyway.

  41. 41
    DougJ says:


    That was my reaction too. Not a bad scam, huh?

  42. 42
    Cacti says:

    Son of the late banker Siggi Wilzig, founder of The Trust Company Bank of New Jersey

    Another member of our national meritocracy.

  43. 43
    DougJ says:


    I just emailed that picture to my friends — we know a guy who is headed down that path. Already has the funky two button shirts and the crazy “art work”.

  44. 44
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @The Moar You Know: If you are still here, another commenter, SadieSue has been frantic to find you because she would like to adopt your elderly cat. Just FYI.

  45. 45
    Mark S. says:


    I wonder how much that stuffed animal on a rock cost. $450,000?

  46. 46
    JohnR says:

    Reminds me of the first time I wandered around Newport RI and began to understand the early days of the last century. It was all a game – how much more can you spend than your neighbors. It’s nice to know that we’re reliving the Gilded Age (sort of).

  47. 47
    ksmiami says:

    And this is the inherent trouble about the tax debate esp. “death taxes”. Without them, people just spend money on silly things like drugs and funky fishbowls and naked sushi bars while children go without basic nutrition and roads fall apart. Hey morons TAXES are patriotic and they protect your sorry ass from the pitchfork crowd.


    member of the 1% class who gets it. DUH.

    PS: consumerism is for fools.

  48. 48
    Mnemosyne says:


    My new question for the “freedom isn’t free” crowd is, “So why are you bitching so much about your taxes? Freedom isn’t free, so pay up.”

  49. 49
    Atreju says:

    I am all for for top marginal tax rates of 90 percent. But it is wonderful that these riche folks are blowing loads of money on fish tanks. If they dont fish tank guy is out of a job and juniors perpetual dynastic trust is that much bigger. I hope these folks spend all their money on fish tanks and motorcycles and that their kids and grandkids have to get real jobs…

  50. 50
    ksmiami says:

    @Mnemosyne: Actually, I would like to see a huge luxury tax on expensive and stupid purchases like Hermes ties, Range Rovers and more. Stupid rich people would still buy that crap, but maybe others would end up donating more or loaning more to start businesses… The problem in this country is that on a fundamental level, money is badly allocated. In Hong Kong, if you want to drive, you pay a luxury tax on the vehicle that covers your portion of the road use, you also pay for environmental damage and space.

  51. 51
    celticdragonchick says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Most Democrats seem to be into that sort of thing anyway.

    Paid professionals with whips and restraints are safer and more discrete. Just agree on a “safe word” beforehand.

  52. 52
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    Sometimes I think that the fact I know what Tyler Cowen thinks of Megan McArdle’s take on Matt Yglesias’s rebuttal to Ezra Klein’s critique of James Joyner is a sign that I have too much time on my hands.

    Or that you’re spending it at Andrew Sullivan’s site or developing an ulcer over some dumb-ass rich guy’s uber-fish tank.

  53. 53
    EJ says:

    Haven’t huge-ass saltwater tanks been a standard rich people accessory since, like, the 1970s? This is really a trend?

    Never understood the appeal myself. I mean, I’m sorta guilty of conspicuous fishtank consumption, I’ve dropped probably about $5K in the last couple of years on my 3 tanks – and that’s for freshwater. But why would you want a tank you can’t tinker with? That’s half the fun.

    Though building big tanks for rich people sounds like a pretty sweet gig if you can get it.

  54. 54
    ksmiami says:

    @EJ: I seem to remember a lot of 70s/80s Bond films with huge ass fish tanks… or were they shark tanks?

  55. 55
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    To Arms Citizens!!!!
    Form Your Battalions
    Let’s march Let’s march
    So Rich Guy Blood
    Waters our Furrows!!!

    Liberté, égalité, fraternité,

    Where’s my Sans Culottes, it’s Jean Paul Marat time baby!

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