The Crew behind Back to Nature

Joel Malmström

Kopparberg, Sweden

Joel (known to some as “Charlie”) is the sole proprietor of the brand “Back to Nature”, and the company “On the Rocks AB” which produces the Back to Nature backgrounds. Joel has extensive experience in the aquarium and terrarium hobbies, going back to when he was a young boy and was very interested in all sorts of animals. At the age of 20, he realised his dream to start his own company based on this interest in animals. He began as a breeder of aquarium fish, and shortly thereafter, he purchased a pet shop, moving on to an import business dealing in tropical fishes, reptiles and amphibians.

In the mid 1980′ he was breeding reptiles and amphibians, and began to construct and produce terrariums. But most important, he started experimenting to make natural looking landscapes. He tested different casting techniques, and many different materials, and ended up with the fact that Polyurethane was the best material for both aquariums and terrariums. The company known today as “On the Rocks AB” was established in 1989, and was then primarily a workshop for terrariums and experimental backgrounds, as well as being a small retail outlet for the local market in Stockholm. In 1992 Joel met Sune Holm and they began a collaboration that in time would result in the production of the Back to Nature backgrounds.

Sune Holm

Stockholm, Sweden

Sune has also had a devout interest in aquarium fish that dates back to his childhood, a hobby that gradually became more specialised to include decorations for aquariums. As early as the 1970s, he was a much sought-after lecturer in the Scandinavian countries. Over the years, thousands of aquarists have been inspired by Sune’s lectures and articles, and have built their own aquarium backgrounds from Isopor.

In his previous profession (purser for SAS airlines), Sune traveled very often throughout the world, and since his hobby was aquarium fish, he naturally took advantage of the opportunity to visit and take photographs of the natural biotopes of the fishes. He later used these photos as a source of inspiration when he would go to decorate his own aquariums. As a raw material for decorations, Isopor is limited. Sune therefore began to test several new casting techniques. Over the course of several years, he conducted many experiments with different kinds of material in order to create the perfect aquarium background.

Coincidentally, Joel and Sune had been doing the exact same thing for several years, and once the two met, they decided to work together. In this way they were able to take advantage of their collective experience and began to produce backgrounds for aquariums and terrariums on a small-scale basis. One of their first clients was a large aquarium maintenance company in Stockholm. Sune retired from the business in 1997, but he is still devoted to the aquarium hobby, and a popular lecturer among the hobbyists.

Kjell Fohrman

Jonsered, Sweden

In late 1993, Kjell Fohrman visited the Aquarium maintenance company in Stockholm, and saw an aquarium there, featuring a gigantic rock as a decorative element. He was amazed by the fact that it was possible to install such a rock in an aquarium, but was even more surprised when he was told that it was artificial and not a real rock. For many years, Kjell had owned a company involved in the aquarium trade (at that time mainly a wholesaler of aquarium equipment, but also a trade in tropical fish). He immediately contacted Joel and Sune to buy a background for his own private 700- litre aquarium, as well as to discuss a future cooperation involving the backgrounds.

The result of this discussion was an agreement which provided that Sune’s and Joel´s company would be responsible for the development and production aspects, and that Kjell’s company would handle the marketing, sales and distribution of the finished products. It was also at that time that the backgrounds were given their present name – Back to Nature. In 1998, Kjell reduced his activities and his involvement in the company, selling his share in Back to Nature backgrounds back to Joel. Kjell is still active in the trade with his enormous expertise and even publishes a line of the famous aquarium books entitled “Back to Nature.”

Learn more about how Back to Nature revolutionized the fishkeeping in the late twentieth century, under History.


This is Back to Nature

Back to Nature, the original − Modeled on nature.