What You Will See and Learn at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Connecticut
After ticketing, your orientation to Long Island Sound begins as you stroll down the Rizvi Family Promenade. Panels describe some of the estuary's special aspects and get you thinking of the role you too play in the health of this important body of water.
Newman's Own Hall and Harbor Seals. Daily Seal Shows at 11:45, 1:45 & 3:45.
Start your Maritime Aquarium journey in Newman’s Own Hall, our central hub and also where you'll find our harbor seals in their unique/indoor outdoor exhibit.
Harbor seals are the most common seal in New England waters. They spend most of the year in the Gulf of Maine but many swim down to winter in Long Island Sound. Seal show times at the Aquarium are 11:45 a.m. and 1:45 & 3:45 p.m. daily. These public sessions are a great opportunity for visitors to ask questions of the animal-husbandry staff.
See how we train our seals
Also in Newman's Own Hall, an interactive panel lets you explore the geographic history of Long Island Sound and also your place (and responsibility) within the Sound's watershed.
Shark and Ray Touch Pool
Pull yourself away from the seals to enter The Sound & Beyond, beginning with the new Sharks & Rays Gallery. Centerpiece of the gallery is a large supervised "Shark & Ray Touch Pool," where you can gently stroke the backs of several species of sharks and a variety of rays.Plus, see baby sharks before (and after) they're born, touch shark teeth, pose in a dive cage and explore why we're so fascinated with sharks – plus learn the troubling consequences of our misguided fears about sharks.
Then enter ... Go Fish Exhibit
"Go Fish! Long Island Sound & Beyond" explores our important cultural connections to fish and includes one of the Aquarium’s largest tanks, full of cod, salmon, pollock, halibut and other game fish that have been historically important in New England. There’s also a fishing boat for children to play in, a Wii fishing game, and a “Sustainable Seafood” café that offers tips on being a smart seafood consumer. Be sure to pick up a Seafood Watch pocket guide to help you make smart choices when you're at restaurants and markets. Exit left out of "Go Fish" to ...
Marine Care and Culture Lab
These displays bring some of the aquarium operations that formerly were behind-the-scenes out into the open for visitors to witness. These include the jellyfish and seahorse “nurseries,” where our year-round supply of these delicate animals are raised. You'll also sometimes see treatment tanks, where fish new to the aquarium stay until their health is assured for the exhibit population. Adjacent to the lab is ...
Jiggle a Jelly Exhibit
Open on weekends and holidays. Daily in July & August.
This new exhibit invites you to do something you've tried to NOT do all your life: touch jellyfish!
Gently touch the tops of live moon jellies as they pulse in our new exhibit, which is open on weekends & holidays.
How is this possible without being stung? The stinging cells of moon jellyfish hang on tentacles below their bodies. Also, their sting is known to be relatively benign for most people.
Have questions about moon jellies? We have answers! Watch our Q&A below.
From "Jiggle A Jelly," turn around and enter ...
Dragons! Real or Myth?
See a baby black dragon – one of only an estimated 31 in the U.S. – in the only place in the country to exhibit one: in our new special exhibit, “Dragons! Real or Myth?”
The exhibit stars the black dragon and other animals that have the word dragon in their names. The black dragon is a water-monitor lizard that has a “melanistic” gene that makes it all black. (Similar to what makes an albino animal all white.) You won’t find one in any other U.S. aquarium or zoo; all other known black dragons are privately owned.
"Dragons! Real or Myth?" lets you also get close to such species as: dragon moray eels; a seahorse cousin called the weedy sea dragon; and terrestrial lizards like sailfin dragons, bearded dragons, frilled dragons and more.
Besides highlighting the unique characteristics of these animals, the exhibit explores the facts and fictions about mythological dragons and their roles in cultures throughout time. Guests are encouraged to find similarities between the displayed live creatures and the fire-breathing dragons of lore.
Entry into “Dragons! Real or Myth?” is free with Aquarium admission.
The dragons are on exhibit in the the same area as the ...
"They're so cuuuuute!" Meet a family of Meerkats, one of Africa’s most entertaining species.
First popularized by the comical sidekick Timon in Disney’s “The Lion King” and then celebrated in the Animal Planet television series “Meerkat Manor," Meerkats are members of the mongoose family that live in social “mobs” or “gangs” in burrows in the Kalahari Desert, in the southern African nations of Botswana and South Africa.
No mere cats, Meerkats (Suricata suricatta) are fascinating for living in structured but cooperative societies, including a foraging strategy where adults take turns standing guard upright on their hind feet, watching for predators, while the others eat.
The exhibit features six sibling Meerkats – three males, three females – born in the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah. Their Maritime Aquarium habitat offers windows into their underground burrows, so all Meerkat activity is within view. A viewing bubble even lets young visitors stand up right among the Meerkats.
Exiting "Dragons!"/"Meerkats," turn left and go up the stairs, then down the hall to ...
One of our coolest exhibits. We feature dozens of species of frogs, toad and other amphibians from around the world – including some of our native examples but also tomato frogs (pictured), colorful poison dart frogs, the bizarre Surinam toad that looks more like ... well, like flattened roadkill, and more. Learn why amphibians are so special, but also the alarming facts behind why their numbers are dramatically decreasing worldwide.
VIDEO: Check out an up close look at our poison dart frogs.
Then cross over the bridge above the seals into the Hokin Family Sound Voyage galleries – your trip through Long Island Sound.
You’ll enter at the shallow Salt Marsh and proceed deeper and deeper through 20 marine environments to the deep ocean waters of the Sound and the ocean beyond. These exhibits offer a realistic look at each successive level of various habitats found in the Sound.
Entering the salt marsh area, visitors find five tanks filled with life from this “fragile nursery of the sea.” Marine life that thrives in the sheltered marshes includes fiddler crabs, diamondback terrapins, seahorses and pipefish, Atlantic silversides, mummichogs, shore shrimp and a flatfish called hogchokers.
Visitors also learn about the Eastern oyster, which flourishes in the Norwalk area because of the near-perfect oyster conditions: a clean sandy bottom, protection from heavy wave action by the Norwalk Islands, and removal of loose sediment by river currents. Historically, the largest oystering operations on the East Coast have been based on the Chesapeake Bay and in Norwalk.
Meet our seahorses:
Leaving the salt marsh, visitors enter a river-woodlands habitat stocked with salmon and sturgeon, which share a special ability: they migrate as adults from the salty ocean up freshwater rivers to spawn. (Going from sea water to freshwater would kill most species of fish.)
Also migrating from salt to fresh water are eels in a special exhibit that looks like an urban culvert.
Displays in this gallery explain the Long Island Sound watershed, which encompasses all the rivers and streams, large and small, that directly and indirectly empty into the Sound. Here, visitors see that the Sound’s watershed reaches all the way to Canada (where the Connecticut River starts) and discover that you don’t need to live right on the Sound to affect the health of the Sound.
On display are reptiles that live in watershed and woodland habitats: snakes and turtles, even a big snapping turtle named Franklin.
This woodlands habitat also features Lew and Levi, two playful North American river otters that splash in a waterfall, frolic in 1,200- and 2,800-gallon pools, and explore their simulated woodlands shoreline. Look for special changing "enrichments" in their exhibit to keep them busy!
Swim with our river otter!
Meet 'Levi' our new river otter
Progressing deeper into the aquarium, visitors enter the Depths of the Sound gallery, where exhibits showcase different habitats on Long Island Sound’s floor – and their inhabitants.
Some of the marine life displayed include: cunner, mussels and tautogs in “Pilings”; lumpfish and chain cat sharks in “Boulders”; pouts, sculpin and lobsters in “The Muddy Bottom”; flounder, skates and porgy in “The Sandy Bottom”; young stripers, wolffish and sea ravens in “A Ship Wreck”; and “Schools of the Sound” filled with a swirling school of alewives.
A special horseshoe crab exhibit has a slanting top so you can look down on these amazing looking animals, and then touch one at . . .
The Intertidal Touch Tank, where children enjoy supervised hands-on encounters with sea stars, hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, spider crabs, whelks and other harmless shoreline critters. This is one of the "musts" on your Aquarium journey.
Experience Our Schooling Tank
Past the swirling fish in the schooling tank you follow another school of shimmering fish through The Race, a visual intrepretation of the place where Long Island Sound meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Moving deeper into the Aquarium, visitors find themselves at Ocean Beyond the Sound, a 110,000-gallon habitat that is home to sand tiger sharks (the largest, at 9 feet), a lemon shark, red drum, black drum, sea bass and other larger schooling fish.
You may encounter divers in the tank who can talk to the crowd through radios incorporated into their underwater breathing apparatus. Or you may find divers outside of the tank with a display of their specialized equipment.
Sharks are generally fed around 10:45 a.m. on Sundays, Tuesday and Thursdays. Check our Today's Events section to see if we have a feeding scheduled during your visit.
When it’s meal time for our sharks, don’t expect a feeding frenzy! They do get hungry, but they don’t turn into mindless killing machines.
What to look for. Get up close to the glass and look UP! You can see the pole-feedings primarily on the right hand side of the exhibit from the surface to about mid-way down. Most of our sharks will feed at the top, but there are times when we have to pole-feed about mid-way down in the water to get to a certain shark.
How does pole feeding work? Pole feeding is when trainers place the food on the end of a feeding stick or pole and direct that food directly to the individual shark want to feed. This allows the trainers to make sure that each shark is eating enough and that it is receiving any additional vitamins and/or medication it may need.
What do sharks eat? Our sharks typically eat herring or mackerel though, from time to time, they may also get salmon or squid.
Why don't the sharks eat the fish in the exhibit? The honest answer is that occassionaly, a shark will eat a fish in its exhibit. Sharks are opportunistic feeders, so given the opportunity to get a meal with little or no effort or energy spent on their part, they will take that opportunity. This can occur when another animal in the tank is weak or distressed or simply when another animal makes a right hand turn when it should have gone left. But a majority of the time, the sharks are well-fed enough to not think about going after the other fish.
How often do the sharks eat? We feed our sharks three times a week. Due to low metabolisms, sand tiger sharks such as ours only require food intake levels of less than 2% to as little a 1% of their body weight per week.
Open Ocean Cascade Feedings
We general feed the fish in the Open Ocean exhibit around 11 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Check our Today's Events section to see if there is a feeding scheduled during your visit.
What to look for. Cascade feedings are when the animals besides the sharks in the Open Ocean exhibit are fed. Look for bits of food coming down from the top of the tank and fish darting around the exhibit looking for a bite to eat.
What do our fish eat? Our fish on exhibit usually eat cut up or whole capelin and herring.
Do different fish need different food? The fish in the Open Ocean exhibit are offered a variation between the capelin and herring, but we cut various sizes of the foods to accommodate the different size mouths that the fish have.
How often do these fish need to eat? We feed them several times during the week so the animals living in large communities have plenty of opportunities to eat.
As you continue on your Hokin Family Sound Voyage, you encounter "Seasons of the Sound," a series of four jewel tanks that highlight some of the changes in Long Island Sound's marine population over the course of a single year.
Live Barnacles wave their legs to gather food in the Winter in the Sound tank.
Video is shot through a magnifying glass and we put the hand in at the end
to give some sense of scale.
Summer in the Sound: Jellyfish Encounter and Tropical Travelers
Next is Jellyfish Encounter, which offers a sting-free study of one of the most mesmerizing and unusual creatures in the sea.
Jellies have no brain, heart, blood, lungs or gills, yet have existed on Earth for 650 million years. Visitors discover that jellyfish are more than just floating annoyances that can pack a painful sting. The sight of dozens of jellyfish pulsing through the water can almost take your breath away.
Tropical and colorful coral reef tanks contain many very popular species of fish in tanks full of live coral.
Watch a timelapse as we rebuilt our coral reef exhibit after a tank crash.
The aquarium passageway concludes at Sea Turtles, a 10,000-gallon tank featuring a loggerhead turtle and two green sea turtles.
Displays discuss all the endangered sea turtle species, as well as turtle migration and conservation. These magnificent travelers are found in Long Island Sound in the summer months as they ride the Gulf Stream gyre.
Feeding frenzy in the turtle tank!