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Facts About the Best Aquariums in the US

Across the United States, and really the whole world, there are aquariums with all sorts of amazing exhibits that capture the imagination and educate us on the beauties and wonders of aquatic life. Whether you're fascinated by coral, sharks, or colorful tropical fish you can be sure to see and learn amazing things at the world's aquariums.

The graphic below shares some facts and figures about some of the accredited aquariums in the world, as well as highlights of some of the most famous aquariums in the US and abroad.

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Aquariums - Facts and Figures

Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Annual Survey Results (Updated September 21, 2011)

  • 225 accredited zoos and aquariums in 7 countries
  • Breakdown (combination of both zoos and aquariums for each country):
    • United States - 214
    • Canada - 5
    • Mexico - 2
    • Bermuda - 1
    • Bahamas - 1
    • Argentina - 1
    • Hong Kong - 1

Types of Accredited Institutions

  • 142 zoos
  • 37 aquariums
  • 9 both zoos and aquariums
  • 19 safari and theme parks
  • 15 science and nature centers
  • 2 aviaries
  • 1 butterfly house
  • 54% non-profit
  • 35% public
  • 11% for-profit

Animals in AZA-Accredited Institutions

  • 751,931 animals
  • 6,000 species
  • 1,000 threatened or endangered species

Aquarium Highlights in the US

Aquarium of the Bay

  • Non-profit marine nature center affiliated with The Bay Institute
  • Opened in 1996
  • Over 600,000 people visit the Aquarium each year
  • Over 20,000 aquatic animals from the San Francisco Bay and nearby waters live in Aquarium of the Bay
  • Home to a wide variety of sharks, including seven-gill sharks, which reach lengths over 10 feet
  • Features two signature tunnel tanks with moving walkways that total 300 feet in length

(*Note: Aquarium of the Bay is a San Francisco CityPASS attraction.)

New England Aquarium

  • Global leader in ocean exploration and marine conservation founded in 1969
  • 30,000 animals and 70 exhibits representing unique habitats worldwide
  • 200,000-gallon Giant Ocean Tank, 130 species and 850 animals, highlighting coral reef conservation
  • 1.3 million visitors annualy

(*Note: New England Aquarium is a Boston CityPASS attraction.)

Seattle Aquarium

  • Opened in 1977 and expanded 18,000 square feet by 2007
  • The major exhibits are: Window on Washington Waters, Life on the Edge, Pacific Coral Reef, Puget Sound Fish and Dome Room, Puget Sound Orcas Family Activity Center, Marine Mammals
  • 800,000 people visit annually

(*Note: Seattle Aquarium is a Seattle CityPASS attraction.)

Shedd Aquarium

  • Was incorporated on February 11, 1924
  • Houses more than 32,500 animals
  • Approximately 2 million guests visit every year
  • Has the oldest animal in a public aquarium in the world, an Australian lungfish named Granddad
  • Features beluga whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, Alaskan sea otters and harbor seals in a re-creation of a Pacific Northwest coastal environment

(*Note: Shedd Aquarium is a Chicago CityPASS attraction.)

Georgia Aquarium

  • World's largest aquarium with more than 10 million gallons of water and more aquatic life than any other
  • The aquarium was opened November 23, 2005
  • 3.6 million guests visited in the first year
  • Approximately 40% of the reef wall in Tropical Diver Gallery presented by Southwest Airlines is live coral and is predicted to be 100% live in the next 5-10 years
  • In the Aquarium's life support systems there are: 506 pumps using over 5,500 horsepower to move more than 300,000 gallons of water every minute

(*Note: Georgia Aquarium is an Atlanta CityPASS attraction.)

Adventure Aquarium

  • Opened its doors in May 2005
  • Serves over 800,000 visitors every year
  • Featuring nearly 200,000 square feet of space and over 2 million gallons of water
  • Has 8,500 animals
  • Offers numerous hands-on experiences including the Stingray Beach Club, where you can touch and hand-feed gentle and curious stingrays
  • Guests can also visit: African penguins, a shark in the 40-foot suspended shark tunnel, 760,000-gallon Ocean Realm exhibit

(*Note: Adventure Aquarium is a Philadelphia CityPASS attraction.)

Downtown Aquarium - Houston

  • There are over 200 species of aquatic life at the Downtown Aquarium Houston
  • The tank is almost 200,000 gallons
  • Shark Tank is the largest exhibit and can be viewed on the Shark Voyager Train Ride

(*Note: Downtown Aquarium is a Houston CityPASS attraction.)

Steinhart Aquarium

  • Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences is the oldest scientific institution in the West (founded in 1853)
  • Average of 1 million people come and visit annually
  • One of the most biodiverse and interactive aquariums with 38,000 animals representing more than 900 separate species
  • Main Exhibits Include:
    • The Coral Reef Tank exhibit houses a broad range of aquatic life from the coral reefs and mangroves of the Philippines
    • Rainforests of the World exhibit is contained within a glass dome that is 90 feet tall
    • California Coast exhibits a wide variety of native birds, fish, and invertebrates
  • The Coral Reef tank is the second largest living coral reef display in the world, measures 12,000 square feet and holds 212,000 gallons of water
  • Natural systems are used to purify nitrate wastes, ensuring that aquarium water can be recycled

(*Note: Steinhart Aquarium is part of the California Academy of Sciences, which is a San Francisco CityPASS attraction.)

SeaWorld San Diego

  • SeaWorld San Diego opened March 21, 1964
  • Now with 4 million visitors each year
  • Spread across 189 acres on beautiful Mission Bay Park
  • Features more than 5,700 fishes representing 434 species from The Great Barrier Reef of Australia to The Amazon River of Brazil
  • Aquarium de la Mer features hundreds of tropical, cold-water fish, and local species of the waters in Southern California like rockfish, wolf eel, and Pacific giant octopus
  • World of the Sea Aquarium showcases tropical, California and game fish plus white sea bass

(*Note: SeaWorld San Diego is a Southern California CityPASS attraction.)

Aquariums Around the World

Oceanario de Lisbos

  • Lisbon's newest and most modern quarter of Parque das Nacoes
  • This centerpiece was opened in 1998 and now has 1 million visitors every year
  • Inhabited by over 16,000 plants and animals that represent over 450 distinct species
  • Some activities include:
    • Fish Market - merge past and present and ensure the future holds a sustainable use of the oceans
    • Sleeping with the Sharks - most sharks are not dangerous to humans and therefore an excellent companion for the night

Sydney Aquarium

  • First opened in 1988
  • Between 55-60% of all visitors are from overseas
  • Over 1 million guests visit annually
  • Has an impressive 4,000 square meters of exhibit space
  • There are 650 species and 11,000 Australian aquatic animals

Underwater World - Singapore

  • The aquarium first opened its doors in 1991
  • There are more than 1.4 million visitors coming in each year
  • Located on Sentosa Island
  • A unique and famous oceanarium showcasing some 2,500 marine animals from 250 species from around the regions of Asia


Many of the aquariums listed above from the US are available in a CityPASS booklet.