In the past, a lot of attention has been focused on space exploration. However, the earth itself has not yet been thoroughly studied, especially when it comes to our saltwater and freshwater environments. Although one does not have to travel a great distance to reach any of these areas, it is still difficult for all but a few to interact closely with these environments. This is now changing, thanks to the aquariums that are being built in many areas around the world. Unlike the early efforts to recreate a part of the ocean in small fish tanks, today's aquariums are actually pieces of the ocean transported to an area where everyone can enjoy its beauty. Entire ecosystems have been created, allowing visitors to see in front of them what they often had to create in their imaginations. Due to the increased interest in the inhabitants of the oceans and other water environments, many large aquariums have now been constructed. This has made it possible, for all those who are interested, to view ocean life without having to step foot in the water.
There are several outstanding aquariums throughout the world. The following sites are just a few that come highly recommended by visitors as well as those who study these habitats.
The Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia
This aquarium, which opened in 2005, is the largest in the world. The exhibits consist of saltwater as well as freshwater ecosystems. There are examples of well-known animals as well as those that are quite rare. Certain exhibits allow certified scuba divers to swim with a whale shark as well as with rays and tarpon. With five main galleries, the Georgia Aquarium holds 8.1 million gallons of water between the freshwater and saltwater exhibits, and is home to approximately 100,000 animals.
The five galleries include The Georgia Explorer, a touch tank; The Tropical Diver, which includes seahorses and eels; The Cold Water Quest, housing animals such as the beluga whale; The River Scout, which includes examples of freshwater environments found within Georgia; and The Ocean Voyager, which houses examples of the largest species of animals living in the ocean.
The AquaDom, Berlin, Germany
The AquaDom Aquarium can be found at the Radisson Hotel in Berlin, Germany. This exhibit consist of a cylindrical aquarium measuring 25 meters high and 11 meters in diameter. Another cylinder inside the main cylinder holds an elevator used by visitors to this hotel. It moves slowly up or down, allowing those using it to be surrounded by the aquarium itself. It holds approximately one million liters of water, and is home to 2,600 fish species.
The Sydney Aquarium, Sydney, Australia
The Sydney Aquarium contains the largest collection of marine life that is specific to Australia. One of its exhibits, the Open Ocean exhibit, holds the largest shark collection in the world. This is viewed from underwater tunnels, giving one the impression of being immersed in the exhibit itself. Another exhibit is the Great Barrier Reef, where children can interact with a touch pool, as well as a Coral Cave and a Great Barrier Reef collection of more than 6,000 animals. The water for this exhibition comes from the Darling Harbor in Sidney, where it is filtered and heated before being pumped into the exhibition.
Underwater World, Singapore
The Underwater World in Singapore houses more than 250 types of marine life from waters in the Singapore area. A visitor to this aquarium will be able to view Gracie, a dugong who lives here. Dugongs are similar to manatees in that they are huge, slow moving mammals. Their tail resembles that of a whale. What makes this aquarium unique is their use of a "travelator," a means of transporting the visitor through a long tunnel running through the habitats of sharks, rays and shoals with other various sea animals. Visitors are also given the opportunity to swim with the sharks and the dugong, if they are qualified.
The earth's oceans and freshwater habitats are just beginning to be explored. With so many unique aquariums being constructed around the world, it is difficult to rate one against another. If one has the opportunity to visit an aquarium, he / she will leave it with much more knowledge and appreciation of the liquid area of our planet. Hopefully, this will lead to greater respect for what we have right at our fingertips. There is no need to go to outer space to explore new sites. We still have plenty of unexplored places right here on the earth.