2013-10-05 / News

Aquarium builder calls Millersport home

By Scott Rawdon

MILLERSPORT – What do aquatic life and gory special effects have in common? Jason Russell. He’s president of Columbus’ Nautilus Aquatics and Captain Blackjack’s Fine Aquarium Products. Nautilus Aquatics designs and provides high-end acrylic aquariums, and custom made acrylic aquariums.

“We’ve done everything from public aquarium displays, and 2,000-gallon bonnethead shark aquariums to jellyfish aquariums and we breed three species of jellyfish,” said Russell.

His company also provides aquarium services, installation, etc., as well as pond construction, pond repair and rebuilding and pond maintenance services. Additionally, it provides swimming pool services, BioTop Natural swimming pools and even drinking water systems. “We’re going to start doing that in this area,” said Russell.

He said clubs and sushi restaurants are the main customers for jellyfish tanks.

“Jellyfish are a little bit tricky,” said Russell. He said to survive they need a constant water current within the tank. “They can’t propel themselves,” said Russell, adding that they’re very fragile creatures. “They’re about 90 percent water.”

Russell said his interest in aquatic life goes back to his childhood, when his grandmother would take him to nearby ponds. He’d build aquariums to house fish, frogs, and whatever other creatures he’d find in the ponds. He said a pet store opened nearby his home and offered him a position as aquatic manager. From there, other larger companies offered him positions, including one where part of his job was building lobster aquariums for Wal-Mart and other businesses, until he finally established Nautilus Aquatics, and a sister company, Captain Blackjack’s Fine Aquarium Products, which offers a line of frozen fish foods and supplements for aquariums.

Nautilus Aquatics is affiliated with ATM (Acrylic Tank Manufacturers) from the Animal Planet reality TV show Tanked. It’s also one of the only companies in the world that provides temperate or coldwater marine aquariums and species from the Washington and Oregon Coast

Russell, who hails from Texas, said he and his girlfriend moved to Millersport to enjoy the lake. “We just really like the area, the water environment,” he said. Russell’s father lives near Dayton, so he was familiar with the Central Ohio area, and wanted to base his companies in Columbus. “It’s the nicest city in the state; people are pretty relaxed,” he said. Russell is considering moving aspects of Nautilus Aquatics to the Buckeye Lake Area, and possibly Captain Blackjacks, but time will tell.

Beacon photos byScott Rawdon Beacon photos byScott Rawdon Russell said there are some very visible examples of his work in the Columbus are, such as a very unusual aquarium of sorts at Hound Dog’s Pizza. He said the shop’s existing aquarium had some structural problems, so he converted it partly into a terrarium, featuring several waterfalls and homes for mudskippers. “I’m very proud of that tank,” he said. Russell said saltwater aquariums are especially difficult to maintain. “You’re creating an ecosystem,” he said. “You’re trying to place an ocean in an acrylic box.” Oceans are so vast that there’s almost no chemical fluctuation in ocean water, and saltwater creatures can’t adapt to chemical change like freshwater creatures can. “It’s tough to maintain that chemical balance in such a small area,” said Russell. “Freshwater areas change all the time, so that’s why they’re easier to keep.”

When Russell has free time, he likes to spend it on his other passion-movie making. He is a professional in the motion picture industry on the side and acts as a traditional special makeup effects artist on features, documentaries, and commercials. Some of his work has been released internationally, such as DAWN, a western short film by Joshua David Smith that has gone on to win awards at film fests here and abroad. Russell has also worked on films with Paul Sorvino.

Russell’s not shy about his particular love for creating gory special effects. “They tell me about a death they need performed,” he said, and he arrives with the necessary equipment to make the specific scene look as realistic as possible. “The aim is to scare and disturb (the audience),” said Russell.

Like aquatic life, Russell’s interest in special effects goes back to his childhood. He said he even worked for a funeral home for a while to learn about associated cosmetics. He said working for a funeral home takes a tremendous amount of compassion to help people through a loss, and admittedly, a bit of a dark side to drive a hearse and apply make up to bodies. “It’s a form of art,” said Russell, who is also a Goth music fan.

Hobbies aside, Russell said he’s excited to bring his aquatic and pool services to the Buckeye Lake Area. “We want to bring a lot to the community,” he said. “We like this place.”

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