Monday, December 9, 2013

10 Reasons To Love the Tennessee Aquarium

This is a little off the beaten path for my blog, but if this is really all about adventures, I guess it works. I'm wrapping up my second year as an aquarium member and excited to start my third. I've mentioned my love of fish on here before (If you don't remember, refresh yourself on this fun post.). I've been reviving it a bit lately (compliments of Season 4 of River Monsters with Jeremy Wade. If you haven't seen it, learn more here.), and thinking about why I love the Tennessee Aquarium so much. So, here we go:

The pointed, glass roofs in the center are the aquarium.
Photo Credit: John Knight

1) It's HUGE. Two big ol' buildings, River Journey and Ocean Journey. Each building is probably 4 or 5 stories high--I've been a dozen or more times, and it still takes me several hours to walk through all the exhibits.

2) River Journey is a wonderful blend of small, regional tanks and bigger exhibits. Since my fishy obsession is freshwater, I really like the extra attention given to this 40% of the world's fish. 

3) Speaking of River Journey, let's talk about the RIVER GIANTS exhibit. It opened in April 2012, holds nearly 90,000 gallons of water, and is home to some awesomely large fish. My favorite is the Arapaima. 

River Giants
Learn more about it, the other giants, and the exhibit HERE.
Photo from the Tennessee Aquarium website

4) Another special exhibit is the river otters. Currently under renovation, this exhibit will reopen in Spring 2014 with "3x the otters and 3x the space." I'm more than a little excited. 

American River Otters
Photo from the Tennessee Aquarium website

5) Other super-cool non-fishy exhibits include macaws, butterflies, various (often very large) reptiles (including LOTS of turtles), and penguins. I love this because it reminds us of all the other critters who live in, on, or near water, and it draws our attention to ecosystems as a whole, not just individual species.

6) Speaking of ecosystems, the Tennessee Aquarium is extremely involved in freshwater conservation. This makes a lot of sense since the Aquarium is on the TN River, and wonderfully set up to work in that environment. Exhibits like the sturgeon tank and the Barron's Top Minnow Lab remind aquarium goers that the facility is about research and conservation, not just entertainment. I love that visitors can pet the sturgeons and see the Lab because it brings them closer to understanding the fragility, importance, and beauty of preserving our waterways and their inhabitants. 

7) Touch Tanks. There's one in each building: the sturgeons that I already mentioned above located in the River Journey, and the stingray tank in Ocean Journey. I like these for the cool factor, but also because, again, they help folks connect with these animals, fostering concern rather than fear. I don't believe that the "needs" of wildlife should come before human life (ie: we're not going back to living in tents), but I do think we are called to be stewards and protectors of the earth who use resources wisely and do our best to preserve the wonderful variety and balance of God's creation. 

8) Freshwater Rays. Did you know there are a variety of freshwater rays living in rivers like the Amazon and Mekong? Amazonian rays are colorful and moderately sized. Mekong giant rays are just that--GIANT! 
Zeb Hogan
Dr. Zeb Hogan with one heck of a ray. 
Learn more about him here.
 Photo from the Tennessee Aquarium website

 9) Jellyfish. Ocean Journey is dominated by a large salt water tank and lots and lots of jelly fish tanks. I had know idea there was such variety-- including upside down jellies and even black jellies! 

10) The main attraction of Ocean Journey: The big salt water tank. Sharks and fish everywhere! It's wonderful! Fun fact, did you know that bull sharks breed in freshwater and can be found 50+ miles inland in many of the world's rivers? Yikes! 

There you have it folks! Next time you're in Chattanooga, you really should visit the aquarium. If you live within a couple hours, it's worth the day trip, too. It's my favorite part of this city, and this top 10 list only scratches the surface of all the wonderful things about it! 

Adventure well; Live fully. 


Please leave your comments about this post--I'd love to hear from you!