Note: The Aquarium has been permantly closed!
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Welcome to our 1997 Iowa State Fair Visitors!

Fish photos #11, 9, 12, and 7

You might well wonder: What is the Aquarium Center? How did it get here? How long has it been here? Who runs it? What is the future of this Public Aquarium? Can I help out somehow?

What is the Aquarium Center? Well, to make a long story short, the Aquarium Center is a true Public Aquarium, just like the famous Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco, the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, etc. We are a lot smaller, but we have the same goals: to show the greatest variety possible of the world's fish, in the best possible way. Of course, we don't have the size or the financial resources of the big Public Aquariums, so our exhibits have a lot smaller aquariums. Our aquarium tanks range from one gallon up to 375 gallon tanks, with the majority of the tanks being 70 gallon ones. Our fish come from all over the world, representing all of the world's major ecosystems and all 7 of the world's oceans. They range in size from tiny babies about a half inch long up to some over 40 pound weight Pacus from the Amazon River.

How did we get here? Well, about 18 years ago a small group of aquarium enthusiasts decided Des Moines needed a Public Aquarium, and dedicated themselves to funding and building one. The major contributors to our initial building are listed on the wall just inside our front door. An unbelievable amount of work was realized when the Aquarium Center was officially opened by then Governor Robert D. Ray in a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Who runs the Aquarium Center? Well, this Public Aquarium is owned and operated by the Greater Iowa Aquarium Association - a fish club. That's right. The lion's share of the work involved in the maintenance and operation of this facility is accomplished by VOLUNTEERS! The entrance fee you paid and any "profits" from the Souvenir and Shell Jewelry Sales Area provide the entire operating budget for this facility. We receive no State, County, City, of Federal funding at all. All that you see here has been accomplished by dedicated aquarium buffs, ordinary folks. Perhaps folks just like you!

What is our future? Well, the Iowa State Fair Board has some really nice plans for this end of the Fairgrounds, but we aren't included. So, we are looking for a new home. The Des Moines Kiwanis International is including space for a Public Aquarium in their plans for the RiverView Park Nature Center. We are working with them and supporting their fund raising efforts. It is our plan to give them our entire facility, including the tanks, fish, equipment, and all of the benefit of our experience in operating a high quality Public Aquarium on a shoestring.

What could you do to help? Well, we would certainly welcome you as a Member of the Greater Iowa Aquarium Association. No, you don't have to be a fish expert. You don't even have to have any fish tanks at all. All you need is a genuine interest in fish! (And, of course, you DO have to pay your dues!) Membership applications are available back by the Souvenir Counter. Club Meetings are held right here, in the back room, on the first Tuesday of each and every month. Club members are eligible to "adopt" a tank, agreeing to help in the maintenance of "their"tank. Our Curator LISTENS to suggestions from members-you might even be able to design an exhibit yourself and see it accomplished. Club Members also "Fish-Sit" each weekend. You see, there are two part time folks on a small salary who run the Aquarium Center during the week, and volunteers are needed to run it on the weekends.

In closing, you are viewing a very unique Public Aquarium. This is the only one in the world that is owned and operated purely in the Public Interest, on a non-profit basis, by an Aquarium Club. Would you like to join us?

Visit the Aquarium Center

Iowa State Fairgrounds
E. 30th & Grand Ave. Gate
Des Moines, Iowa.
Open 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Daily - 515-263-0612

Greatest Little Aquarium in the World!!!

Fish photos 15, 5, and 14


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Last Updated: May 31, 1997
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