"I found Nemo!" he called out, pointing to one of several orange clown fish with a white stripe down its middle.
Nearby, his father, Larry Theis, watched as both Carson and his daughter, Sydnee, entertained themselves by watching all the pretty fish checking out their new habitat.
"(The aquarium's) going to do exactly this," Theis said, nodding to his kids, attracted to the colors and fish movement as they tapped on the glass and chased dogfish and tangs.
Theis, the store manager of Scheels All Sports, and other guests watched as the Legends at Sparks Marina's anchor store welcomed its marine tenants into a large, 16,000-gallon saltwater aquarium on Friday, the first of two tanks to be filled with various species.
Jason Loney, vice president of store development, introduced the tanks to onlookers and media as Ron Bedera of Sparks-based Aquatic Display sat above the large tanks on grates, waiting to free about 250 bagged fish, just one of several additions that will be made before Scheels opens on Sept. 27. Some new tenants were so eager to get out, Bedera had to release them early, such as the porcupine puffer that got nervous, puffed up its spikes and poked a hole in its bag.
Cardinals, damsels, triggers and more were dropped in individually or in schools and quickly began exploring their environment. About an hour after settling in, most species began pairing up, already showing some territorial claim, Bedera said.
"When the store opens, we'll have 1,600 fish," Loney said. "We wanted to make sure their habitat was ready to go."
Loney said the tanks took about six months to design and build, and are made up of three large cylindrical tubes with a flat top and arches to make the aquarium look like a bridge. Each tank, located on opposite ends of Scheels, holds 16,000 gallons. About 75,000 gallons of water will flow through every hour.
The second aquarium will be filled next week with freshwater bass, perch and pike, all native to Nevada's freshwater bodies.
"The architect came to us with a basic shape and we looked at a color artist's rendering to see what the owner wanted and did the engineering of the structure with acryllic cylinders," said Nate Reynolds, project manager for the construction of the tanks.
The glass is 2-1/2 inches thick with a 5-inch concrete footing. Inside, thick artificial coral of different colors and types provide excellent hiding places for fish to blend in.
Bedera said he will handle maintenance and that no Scheels employees will touch the tanks. He will visit the store every day to make sure they'll well-fed and healthy. The water is maintained at 72 degrees because saltwater fish require warmer water than fresh water. Bedera ordered the fish from a company in Los Angeles that collects tropical fish from all over the world.
The aquariums have a large filtration system that connects to their own rooms full of chambers where a certain type of sand – or lava rock for the freshwater – helps grow "good bacteria" to combat the ammonia produced by fish waste, Bedera said. The room also contains a sick bay to quarantine and medicate fish with parasites or other disease.
On a daily basis, the saltwater fish will enjoy about 2 to 3 pounds of Bedera's own mix of shrimp, clams, crabs, lobster, vegetables and even the occasional treat.
"If you see me in the tank peeling a banana, it's not for me," he said, explaining that fish love the sweet fruit.
On occasion, Bedera will dress in a wetsuit and dive into the tanks not only to check on the health of the species, but to offer educational talks to students. He will be able to be heard while in the water and can even interact with the students as they ask questions.
He expects a lot of kids will be impressed by all the "Nemo" clownfish.
"There'll be about 30 Nemos. I want you to find them all," he said.
Scheels isn't the only client Bedera and his wife serve. They also check on the aquariums at Atlantis Casino Resort Spa and Peppermill Resort and Casino, along with 65 residents and other professional offices.
Scheels is set to open on schedule on Sept. 27 with some tasks still to be completed before then, including setting up merchandise, completing several shops, painting, electrical and flooring, Theis said.