Alivia Zimmerman is destined to know and love fish and water. These things run deep in her bloodline, for generations. At age 2, Alivia has already caught her first fish and experienced countless kayak outings. She also visited the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, with which she has family connections.
These are planks on the dock most kids haven’t set foot on, but there’s something fishy about Alivia’s family. In fact, there’s a lot that’s fishy about the Zimmerman clan.
Alivia’s dad, Brian Zimmerman (a Stark County native) has been fishing since he was younger than Alivia is now. From early childhood on, he meticulously kept a “fish journal,” carefully documenting nearly every fish he ever caught. He was one of those kids who found his niche early in life and stuck with it. With a master’s degree in Aquatic Ecology, he now raises fish, both in ponds and in aquaria, for his fish supply company, Zimmerman’s Fish.
When the Zimmerman family visited the Aquarium, they had a special interest in the “North American Native Fish” exhibit, for which Brian supplied the fish in eight of the nine tanks. As a fish vendor, Brian was involved with the Aquarium prior to its opening in January of this year, delivering fish, so he saw the process and progress of the aquarium along the way.
A North American species enthusiast, Zimmerman wants people to see the beauty of Ohio’s native fish.
“You don’t have to go somewhere tropical to see colorful fish. We have many colorful fish right here in Ohio. One common one is the Rainbow Darter,” he said.
The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is the only free-standing aquarium in Ohio. It is a medium-sized public aquarium with unique architecture settled in the historic FirstEnergy Powerhouse, on the west bank of The Flats. It has three main sections: Feshwater North American Fish, Freshwater Tropicals and Saltwater. The exhibits include: Ohio Lakes and Rivers, Exotic Freshwater, Florida Keys, Weird and Wonderful, Coastal, Tropical Reef and the Shark Exhibit.
"Alivia loved the alligator and the large shark displays. There is a tunnel and that is always a favorite,” Alivia’s mother, Julie Zimmerman said.
Other favorites include a large touch pool that is fun for children of all ages. It includes lobsters and stingrays.
An artist who is originally from North Canton, Ohio, Julie appreciates the historic qualities of the aquarium building.
“It has some great views of tanks in the smoke stacks and others that are hidden in the brick walls of the old power plant,” she said.
Julie says that the aquarium is a great place to visit in its current stage, but she feels it will evolve to be even better as it becomes more established.
“Any new aquarium takes a while to get things started,” she said. “These fish are very new and some are small, but they will grow and get more color as they get older, allowing the Cleveland Aquarium to look even better.”
The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday. Guests should plan and hour and a half for their visit; last admission is at 5 p.m. Tickets are available online; admission is $21.95 for adults and $15.95 for children ages 2-12. Parking is $3.00 M-F and $5.00 on weekends. Children under 2 are free.
Because of the unique setting of the former power plant, exhibits contain some narrow viewing areas. Strollers are permitted Monday through Friday all day, but on the weekends from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. only. Strollers for special needs are permitted at all times. The facility is completely wheelchair accessible.
For more information about The Greater Cleveland Aquarium, call 216-862-8803.