It’s Mermazing

Eric Ducharme has turned his childhood dreams into a thriving mermaid tail-making business and encounter attraction that showcases mermaids and aquatic wildlife with interactive and immersive opportunities.

“The Mertailor” Ducharme

Talk about tenacity! 

When Eric Ducharme was a small child, he wanted to be a merman and make mermaid tails. He says people told him he was crazy. 

Now, the Mertailor is celebrating 20 years of creating some of the most spectacular mermaid tails and accessories on the planet. And he’s only 34 years old. 

Not long after the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a near standstill for a time, Ducharme purchased a building in Lecanto, near Crystal River, with the intent of creating a place where he could not only manufacture his elegantly crafted mermaid merchandise but also create a tank in which live mermaids could perform for the public. The Mertailor business now occupies half of the building that houses the Mertailor’s Mermaid Aquarium Encounter at 4100 West Gulf to Lake Highway.

Mermaid Annie and Mermaid Serena

“Three years ago, we bought this building and moved our manufacturing for mermaid tails and things, and I said, ‘We’re going to do my dream. We’re going to get a tank and we’re going to have mermaids swimming in it in one end of the building,’” he recalls. “And then one thing led to another, and I said, ‘Let’s open a small educational aquarium attraction here in Citrus County, in combination with the mermaids shows. Let’s give people something to do.’ It developed into this small but big project.

“And the next thing you know,” he says, “we have all these tanks going up and filter systems going in and here I am the mermaid tail creator extraordinaire turning into a marine biologist and aquarist. I love it because I always had ambitions as a child of being a marine biologist and working with animals, so I’m getting part of my childhood dream right now. And I’m educating people; we’re opening eyes, but we’re also entertaining people at the same time.”

When you enter the doors at the encounter, you are surrounded by the sights and smells of saltwater beings, meaning mermaids and mermen, and living aquatic wildlife, with some magnificent macaws sounding off in the background. A colorful brochure you receive when you purchase tickets offers “Your Key to the Sea.”

Shows and Experiences

Several times a day, live mermaids and an occasional merman perform underwater shows, or aquatic artistry, to music. To remain submerged for the duration of the show, they use the type of air hoses that Ocalan Newt Perry created for his mermaids when he opened the world-renowned Weeki Wachee Springs attraction in 1947, which became a state park in 2008 and still features live mermaid shows. 

Ducharme is well acquainted with Weeki Wachee, having performed there as the prince in The Little Mermaid. He also has created mermaid tails used by the performers there as well as by the students in the annual Sirens of the Deep Mermaid Camp (of which this writer is an alumnus). 

“I had a very deep, deep adventure with Weeki Wachee Springs, deeper than most people will ever experience,” he shares. “It allowed me to embrace who I really am as a person and as a creator and gave me the drive I needed to move forward and create something so magical and phenomenal and eye-opening. I’m grateful for the experience.” 

For those who are ready to immerse their inner mermaid, the Mermaid Aquarium Encounter offers “experiences” such as the “discover mermaid swimming” opportunity for ages 7 and older. 

“You can learn how to be a mermaid for a short period of time in our tank. It’s a 30-minute experience,” Ducharme explains. “We get you in the tank and you get to swim with the sharks and the fish and the rays. You get to work side by side with one of our certified mermaid trainers. It’s so awesome and so many dreams are coming true.”

In the “swim with the fish” experience, participants don snorkel gear and spend 30 minutes interacting with a variety of tropical fish, stingrays and sharks. The “Stingray Encounter” offers 30 minutes of seated and or wading tank time on a shallow platform in the mermaid tank, with guidance from the aquarist staff during the interactive session.

“We’re trying to do these in-water experiences to give individuals an insight into what it’s like to swim with these awesome creatures,” Ducharme elaborates. “I can’t tell you how many people walk away from here feeling so fulfilled, with so much more appreciation for aquatic life than they did when they got in the tank.”

“This kid blows me away,” offers Barbara Wynns, one of the longest-performing mermaids at Weeki Wachee. “I’ve known Eric since he was 7 years old. He’s amazing. Every nail, hose, tank, fish and bird came through his head and his hands. He does it all.”

She said that as a longtime professional mermaid, she is in awe of the quality of the performances being done at the encounter. 

“Compared to Weeki, it is a small tank, and what they do in that little tank is phenomenal,” she notes. “He started with former Weeki Wachee mermaids and now is training others. With underwater ballet, it’s all about synchronicity and you must be invested in the number to pull that off.”

Wynns says she has seen several of the themed shows, such as during the Christmas season and for Easter, and was amazed each time.

“He will have his own Epcot one day,” she enthuses. “For such a small place, what they are achieving is just phenomenal.”

The recent NetFLix docuseries MerPeople featured extensive footage with both Wynns and Ducharme.

Aquatic Life Up Close

The Mermaid Aquarium Encounter includes an amazing variety of living aquatic life, some of which you can touch in the interactive tank exhibits. 

“There is one where you can see the rays and touch the rays and learn about the various species in Florida as well as around the world. We have some exotic species,” Ducharme explains. “We have a touch tank filled with sea stars, sea urchins and mollusks, which are great for the littles who are freaked about touching things that are swimming. And then we have our shark tank where you can learn about their personalities and the different species. So many people come into the aquarium and they’re like, ‘We never knew any of this existed.’ My goal is for people to leave entertained but educated with something new.” 

And, he continues, “Some of our sharks were rescued and rehomed. We have a wobbegong shark. I think she’s adorable, but people say she’s this ugly little thing that looks like she has a mustache, and she blends in with the rocks. She is in a tank by herself because she is an ambush predator. This species only gets up to about 30 inches long, but she is a shark. She can consume predators that are about half the size of her body. This shark was in somebody’s home aquarium and was eating thousands of dollars of ornamental fish and they were like get this thing out. We gave her a home.

“We do that a lot,” he continues. “We have other species of small carpet sharks. People get them and don’t realize how big they get. They don’t’ realize what their dietary needs are. We just got a rehome of a tessalata or honeycomb eel, along with a really beautiful vlamingii tang (also known as a unicornfish).” 

A spacious part of the encounter houses numerous colorful and noisy macaws, most perched high atop stands as they peruse those eyeing them. 

“All of those birds are rescues. Before my other half and I started the aquarium, we used to rescue macaws and cockatoos and other exotic birds to give them a better home,” Ducharme notes. “We thought this was the perfect opportunity to get them out of the house, get them into a nourishing environment and to where they could live with one another and get daily enrichment from our guests and people can learn about them as well.”

Ducharme says the current format of the encounter building is phase one and they are working to “move pieces of manufacturing and administration to other locations and then the aquarium will be built out.”

The Mertailor 

“I’ve been making tails for over 20 years, but it’s our 20th anniversary for Mertailor, which is huge,” Ducharme shares. “People said when I was a little kid that I was crazy for wanting to make mermaid tails. Well, here we are and I’m doing just fine. My mermaid tails have been shipped all over the world.”

Ducharme and a staff of 12 create a wide range of mermaid tails for all ages, for professional “mers” as well as “the average person who wants to do something unique, fun and different, to escape reality and do something fanciful. We also do production work for television and movies, and production companies, but our main draw is that person who wants to dress up as a mermaid and swim around in a tail.” 

The tails range from $100 up to $6,000. 

“It depends on the type of material and the detail the customer is looking for,” Ducharme explains. “Our introductory tails start at $100 and go up to $1,000 and are made from spandex, which is a swimsuit material, or scuba knit, which is a thicker material. Then we have our $2,000, $3,000 and up tails, which are made from silicone rubber using various molds. They are hand-painted and weigh between 20 and 30 pounds. Those are very realistic looking tails.” 

The Mertailor also creates all kinds of accessories for those seeking to be a “mer.” 

“We have an entire line that partners with all of our mermaid tails so you get the full experience, or you can just get a swimsuit that you love the look of, or leggings that you want to wear at the gym or jogging or yoga,” he notes. “And we make all of that stuff right here at Mertailor.”

Plan Your Visit

From Ocala, you can take State Road 200 to State Road 44 in Inverness, then head west to Lecanto or, from the Dunnellon area, take U.S. 41 south to SR 44, then west for a trip of a little over an hour either way.

The Mertailor’s Mermaid Aquarium Encounter is open daily 11am to 4pm. Touring the aquatic life space and taking in a couple of the mermaid shows will provide an hour or two of entertainment and enlightenment. 

“I try to explain to people to come with their eyes open, with their brain open to learning and exploring. We are a smaller facility, but we have a lot packed into a small space,” Ducharme notes. “We are a family-run organization, wanting to educate and open minds to all ages, and in hopes that when they leave, they leave fulfilled in learning something they didn’t know and had a wonderful time, whether it’s watching mermaids swim, watching birds flap their wings, getting to see and touch a stingray or feed a shark. There’s something for everybody. 

“And at the end of the day, I’m not trying to put myself on a pedestal,” he says. “But if someone can look at what I’m doing and living my dream, maybe it can allow them to do what it takes to realize that they can do the same. It’s a lot of work; not gonna lie! And we’re just getting started.” OS

To learn more, go to and 

Posted in Ocala Style FeaturesTagged

Share this post


What's New at Ocala Style

Read These Writers

Our area has an abundance of authors. Check out some...

‘Water Shapes Florida’

The new exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History...

Mastering Your Garden

The dog days of summer can be a good time...

Alligator Allegory

My grandparents were the first to build a home along...

Making Moves

Meet the Ocala-based casting director who has steadily been building...

From France to Ocala

Dr. Jose Gaudier will lecture about the Olympic Games Paris...