Robert M. Weintraub, 76, tropical-fish expert

Robert M. Weintraub
Robert M. Weintraub
Posted: March 15, 2014

Robert M. Weintraub, 76, of Gwynedd Valley, a tropical-fish expert whose marketing ability made it fun to shop for the colorful creatures at his aquarium supercenter, died of pneumonia Monday, March 3, at Chestnut Hill Hospital.

Mr. Weintraub and his brother, Paul, started out by working at Martin's Aquarium, the store their parents founded in Jenkintown.

But Mr. Weintraub's greatest success came as the designer and co-owner of Captain Nemo's Aquarium in East Norriton Township. Captain Nemo's, in Northtown Plaza on Germantown Pike near DeKalb Pike, was known by fish hobbyists and aquarium experts as a premier aquarium superstore.

Its main attraction was a circular, 11-foot-high, 5,000-gallon fish tank containing two Indonesian black-tipped reef sharks. At 7 p.m. each Tuesday, children and their parents would come to see the sharks being fed. The children were given shark-shaped soft pretzels to eat during the performance.

"We bring in a guy in a shark suit," Mr. Weintraub told The Inquirer in 2007. "We have a big video screen explaining all about sharks and tropical fish. The music is from Jaws. It's a family event, I think."

The stunt was a hit with customers and exemplified the promotions that Mr. Weintraub worked to create. "He wanted people to experience the joy of loving fish as much as he did," said his wife, Patricia A. Ranieri.

He and partner Joel Goldstein also acquired a two-headed turtle from Florida, which became a minor Internet sensation in October 2007. The tortoise, with one head in front and another in the rear, went to New York by limousine to appear on TV talk shows.

Captain Nemo's was acquired by Pets Plus Natural several years ago, and no longer sells just fish.

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Weintraub was a graduate of Central High School and Temple University with a bachelor's degree in business. He served in the Air Force Reserve.

Mr. Weintraub got hooked on tropical fish while working with his father at Martin's Aquarium. After the family left the business, he set up tanks in his garage so he could teach himself how to keep fish alive.

That effort led to Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Inc., an international company he founded to develop medicines for fish and pond treatments. He led the firm until selling it in 2003 to Mars Inc.

Mr. Weintraub was often asked to help edit books on fish and for advice on how to build aquariums and fish ponds. He designed many large aquariums for restaurants and homes in the Philadelphia area.

In his spare time, he enjoyed deep-sea fishing, cooking his catch, and restoring his farmhouse.

Besides his wife of 26 years, he is survived by sons Alex R., Jeffrey, and Larry; two grandchildren; and a brother. A sister died earlier.

Funeral services and interment were private.


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