People used to ask Steve Clayton when he was going to get a real job.
They didn’t think that cleaning aquariums and feeding fish was much of a career, but the skeptics might want to take another look.
Clayton owns Bellevue-based Clayton Aquarium Corp., which he bills as the nation’s largest aquarium service. The company designs, installs and maintains custom-made aquariums servicing more than 900 tanks. He has 17 employees, a fleet of 16 service vehicles and expects to top $1.5 million in sales this year.
Some of his most visible projects include, multiple aquariums at Bellevue’s Overlake Hospital and the unique circular tanks at Nordstrom’s flagship store, which opened last August in Downtown Seattle.
But those splashy aquariums are just two of many in the Puget sound region, where thousands of visitors each day enjoy Clayton’s colorful installation at banks, medical clinics, retirement homes and restaurants though few would recognize his name.
The company’s growth in recent years has been made possible by a combination of technological change and the increasing perception that viewing fish may be good for one’s health.
“What hasn’t changed is that people enjoy fish as much as in the “50s, but they need then even more,” he said, referring to workplaces that are becoming ever more stressful. “I think people have a need to have living things around. It’s only human.”