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Aquarium-Store Manager Creates Wild Eel Sanctuary Under His House

To most people, the unused water cistern below Nick Tobler’s garage would just be a dark, damp space to stay away from. But when Nick looked at it, he saw a passion project waiting to happen. This animal lover knew that the man-made cave under his house had the potential to be the perfect environment for one of his favorite weird pets to thrive: his eels. Nick quickly got to work, and the incredible finished product has turned him and his eels into an internet sensation.


Whether you know him by his screen name “cowturtle” or his real name, you may have heard of Nick Tobler. He’s become something of a viral sensation recently for his imaginative use of the space underneath his garage. As you can guess from his screen name, Nick’s an animal-lover by nature, and nothing floats his boat more than marine creatures. 

“Oddball fish”

“My favorite animals are oddball fish,” Nick told website Buzzfeed News in 2022. “The weirder the better. But I also love reptiles and amphibians, and I regularly go on trips looking for things to take pictures of.” Nick lives in Ohio, Kentucky, and he’s a manager at an aquarium store by trade. That’s why he realized he could turn the rainwater cistern he found into something special. 

Creature haven

Now, as a photographer, it was only natural that Nick would share photos of his new project on the internet. It wasn’t long before his TikTok and Instagram accounts went viral, and just as people love to visit aquariums, social-media users couldn’t get enough of watching Nick turn his discovery into a haven for creatures that prefer things moist and dark. 


And from the pictures, Nick’s growing legion of fans assumed he was creating an indoor aquarium in a cellar, but he clears up the misunderstanding on TikTok. “First off, this is not my basement,” he explained. “This is my rainwater cistern… it’s made for just storing rainwater. It hasn’t been used in 20 years, so it was just an empty pit full of water when I got here.”