April 1, 1984: How to Make a Monster! (Aquarium Store!)

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A Brief History

On April 1, 1984, three suburban Cleveland young men started a business that would become “The Aquarium Superstore!”

Digging Deeper

Robert, Mike, and Steve worked together to create RMS Aquaculture, putting their passion for tropical fish into a level above just a hobby.

Initially using their expertise to breed and raise various tropical fish, the young entrepreneurs initially filled their parents’ basements with rows of fish tanks.  Successfully producing thousands of baby fish, RMS found ready buyers in local pet stores.  This initial success meant having to move to more substantial quarters, and an abandoned greenhouse complex in Olmsted Township was found.  With a supply of pure rainwater, the operation got much bigger, with tens of thousands of baby fish being raised for pet stores and wholesale operations.

Still, as many industrialists have found out in recent years, competing with Asia is no easy thing!  Although able to sell their product at an economical price, the three fish farmers realized that retail posed better economic prospects.

Turning the greenhouses into a huge tropical fish and aquarium store, RMS developed a large following quickly, and business outgrew the greenhouses!  Moving into a large space (16,000 square feet) in Middleburg Hts., Ohio created “The Aquarium Superstore” familiar to all tropical fish hobbyists in northeast Ohio.

Probably the largest tropical fish and aquarium store in the state, and possibly the Midwest, RMS has about 100 saltwater tanks of fish for sale, and over 200 tanks and tubs of freshwater fish, with anywhere from 300 to 600 species of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, corals, jellyfish, and amphibians available for sale.

Fresh and saltwater plants are also available, as well.

With many aquarium owners also keeping other pets, demand for non-aquatic pets and supplies caused RMS to start carrying puppies (no puppy mill dogs!), kittens, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, chinchillas, ferrets, pot bellied pigs, hedgehogs, lizards, snakes, frogs and toads, spiders and insects, birds and the various foods and accoutrements needed to keep those critters.  (Some of the animals are seasonal and not always available.)

Even native species of game fish are carried by the store when available, including bass, crappies, walleyes, perch, sunfish, muskellunge and northern pike, various North American catfish, and even White Sturgeons!  Pond fish and supplies are also a major part of spring and summer business.  In all, millions of fish have been sold and somewhere between a few hundred thousand and a million more are sold each year!

With some employees having over 20 years with the store, there is a lot of expertise to provide customers with advice and information about pets, especially tropical fish.  Many customers proudly tell the younger workers at RMS how they used to shop at the old greenhouse location.  As with many modern businesses, RMS has a website and will answer emails for specific questions, as well as an email sign-up for online specials and coupons.

Although Rob left the business several years ago, Mike and Steve still own and run things, providing their 30 years of expertise apiece.  If you are thinking of starting an aquarium, RMS is an interesting place to visit and view the many beautiful and unusual fish available for the home hobbyist.  Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite aquarium fish?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evdience

For more information on “aquaculture”, please see…

McLarney, William.  Freshwater Aquaculture: A Handbook for Small Scale Fish Culture in North America.  Echo Point Books & Media, 2015.

Van Gorder, Steven D.  Small Scale Aquaculture.  Alternative Aquaculture Assn, 2000.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.