Home Fish Tanks May Be Key To Cleaning Canals





The answer to cleaning our waterways may lie in your fish tank. 

Fort Lauderdale is currently testing a technology used in aquariums and fish farms to clean a canal near Las Olas Boulevard.

The city needs the test to be successful. Fort Lauderdale’s once crystal-clear web of waterways today are filled with filth. 

Some of the slime comes from the highly publicized, very visible and smelly sewer line ruptures over the past few years. Some of it is runoff from streets and buildings. Some of it is vegetation, including cuttings dumped into canals by polluting landscapers. Other gunk and garbage ends up in the water.

Fort Lauderdale native John Loos watched in dismay the deterioration over decades. But he didn’t just sit around and complain.

He had an idea:


John Loos


Why can’t the same process used to keep large aquariums healthy be used to clean the waterways?

Serious aquariums and fish farms use protein skimmers, which create tiny bubbles to bind with pollution through an electrical process. The bubbles are then removed along with the waste.

“There are no chemicals used,” Loos says. 

The process needs just air and water.

Filters are not used, either. 

It gets the pollution, but leaves the plankton, which feeds other aquatic life.

Loos talked to some aquatic experts and they agreed the idea had merit. So he put together a team to prove it could work. 

“I kept pushing and pushing,” Loos says. “I’m very passionate about this.”

Loos brought in his friend Miles Forman, a member of the pioneer Broward family that made a fortune in real estate. He got veteran Fort Lauderdale lawyer/lobbyist John Milledge to join the effort. He even got Charles Gregory, a veterinarian who specializes in marine organisms, aboard along with several other aquatic experts. 


Jack Loos (blue shirt on left), Mayor Dean Trantalis and Miles Forman (on right) next to Clean Waterways’ barge.



Clean Waterways LLC was born. 

The company now has a 30-foot barge floating on the Himmarshee Canal just north of east Las Olas Boulevard. On its deck are three custom-made tanks — protein skimmers on steroids. 

Dirty water goes in. 

Clean water comes out. 




Clean Waterways’ barge with three huge protein skimmers in the Himmarshee Canal


Along with the clean water, there is another benefit. 

The barge’s computers that profile water quality can also pinpoint the sources of pollution. Theoretically, the data could be used to prosecute polluters.  

Mayor Trantalis, who has vowed to clean the waterways, is excited by the potential of the technology.

Loos is convinced. He is a True Believer.

Protein skimming is the key. The future. The way to have children swim again in the New River like they did years ago.

“I want future generations to enjoy these waterways like I did,” he says.

But every journey starts with the first small step.  

In this battle against waterway pollution, Loos’ first step is a single barge on the Himmarshee Canal. 




5 Responses to “Home Fish Tanks May Be Key To Cleaning Canals”

  1. Question on cost says:

    Buddy, Mayor Trantalis tweeted on June 21st that this would be “no cost to @FTLCityNews” but on June 1st he voted to approve $350,000 for the pilot program. Which is it?

    Its great to see the effort by the private sector to clean the waterways.

    Fort Lauderdale holds the record for worst polluter in Florida after spilling 248 MILLION gallons of raw sewage into roads, homes and waterways. (Deepwater Horizon oil spill was 210 MILLION gallons)

  2. A Question says:

    It sounds expensive. How much is the difference between this and the vacuuming up the bottom?

  3. Squid says:

    “The barge’s computers that profile water quality can also pinpoint the sources of pollution. Theoretically, the data could be used to prosecute polluters. ”
    This is one fantastic idea, The City of Fort Lauderdale is one of the largest polluters through runoff from streets and spilled poop, The taxpayer can pay for for the cleanup and the city’s fines at the same time. A win-win for the sons of families who have contributed to the overbuilding of the city,
    BTW: The ocean is still being polluted via discharge at sites lovingly called “stinkholes”. And just where is the excess sewage from the broken sewage system in Fort Lauderdale being discharged? Rumor has it that it is being pumped into the Intracoastal Waterway thus killing the few remaining bait fish that were barely hanging on.
    On a positive note, good luck in cleaning up the mess. The waterways are unfit for marine life or human enjoyment.

  4. Marco says:

    I heard that they are going to be using a vacuum type component to this. I also heard that they might be dredging. I want to know more. Glad something is getting done either way

  5. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    $350 000 to clean Canals is chicken feed compared to the lost tourist revenue PLUS IF IT WORKS IT WILL GIVE FT LAUDERDALE PRICELESS PUBLICITY WORLDWIDE. From Venice to St Petersburg from the Thames to the Indus to the Yangtze Ft Lauderdale will win respect. Perth Amboy boats like my Uncle’s used to.marvel at clear Ft Lauderdale waters. If this works Ft Lauderdale can help with the Hudson n Perth Amboy Bay.