Key West Aquarium

Key West Aquarium

The Key West Aquarium is located behind Mallory Square in Old Town. Look for the 65-foot wooden observation deck of the Shipwreck Historeum and Museum and you’ll find the aquarium right behind it. It’s an old building from the 1930s, and has a historical charm to it. It was Key West’s first tourist attraction, and one of the most beloved by visitors and locals alike. The Key West Aquarium is where you can see a live shark, touch a sea cucumber, and see up close all the major fish that live in the waters around Key West. This attraction may be the oldest in town, but it’s a classic and you just can’t beat a real-live encounter with nature and wildlife.

The museum consists of a main hall with arcade walkways down either side. The main central area contains several saltwater tanks set low to the ground, with no tops. You can look right down into the shallow water and see marine life. The first tank is the most popular: the touch tank. Here, kids and adults can reach right in and pick up a sea cucumber, a horseshoe crabs and hermit crabs. The largest tank in the back is full of nurse sharks, the most harmless shark of all, but it’s still exciting to see it so close up. The center tank has cobia and stinrays in it. This tank is fun to watch because of the way the rays swim. They kind of lean to one side and one wing skims the surface of the water. Strange looking creatures, and if you have kids they’ll really get a kick out of this tank.

The side walls have recessed glass tanks full of common reef fish living around Key West. There’s a Jewfish, whose name has been changed to Goliath Grouper. There are different types of Hogfish, lobster, Gag Grouper, Squirrelfish, snapper, grunts, and more. The eye-level tanks are lit from above and from the sides so you can get a really good look at the fish.

If you walk out the side door you’ll see an outdoor lagoon with tarpon, jacks, and another Goliath Grouper. These are all big fish, quite amazing to see. Walk up one flight of stairs for a bird’s eye view of the lagoon.

Walk out the back of the building towards the waterfront and there are outdoor tanks. Here you’ll find sea turtles, and other creatures. The large pen at the end contains more dangerous sharsk: bull shark, reef shark, and sandbar shark. These are more aggressive and dangerous than the nurse shark, which is why they’re outside and out of reach!

Wind your way back through the main hall to exit, near the area where you came in. There’s a small room here with books and other items you can pick up.

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