The CLEVELAND AQUARIUM was originally located in GORDON PARK at 601 E. 72nd St. and was operated for the city of Cleveland by the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY. It had 50 exhibit tanks, housed in a building which had previously seen service as a bath house and a trailside museum. Converted by volunteer tropical fish hobbyists, under the auspices of the Cleveland Aquarium Society, the facility opened on 6 Feb. 1954.
Included in its freshwater and marine exhibits were sharks, swordfish, sawfish, eels, squid, octopus, and coral. Among its highlights were the acquisition of a pair of lungfish in 1966 and a school of red-bellied piranhas in 1970.
Under the Natural History Museum's direction, the aquarium often drew more visitors than the building could handle. A $300,000 gift from the Leonard C. Hanna Foundation financed the construction of a new octagonal wing in 1967 that tripled the aquarium's size and increased its tank capacity from 8,000 to 82,000 gallons.
Despite annual deficits experienced by the aquarium in the 1970s, it required a city council override of a mayoral veto in 1979 to increase the admission charges and keep aquarium operations with the museum.
In June 1985, structural problems forced the closing of the aquarium to the public. On 1 Apr. 1986, operations were transferred to the Cleveland Metroparks, and the collection was subsequently transferred to new exhibits at CLEVELAND METROPARKS ZOO.