Aquarium of the Americas

Walking into the Aquarium, the first thing you see are the three sharks hanging from the ceiling. Hammerhead to the left, basking shark to the right, and I'm guessing the one in the middle is a great white...

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The above pictures are of the coral reef tank -- it's one of those fabulous tunnels you walk through that make you feel like you're walking on the ocean floor, with rays and sharks going past above you...

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These are from the Amazon section. Big fish -- some of them armor-plated -- and stingrays, and a really fun walkway through the "treetops" showing things in tanks made to look like rock pools. And then there were the piranhas...

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I spent a few minutes in front of the piranha tank trying to get a really good pic, especially of the way the piranha seemed dipped in gold glitter. (There was another type of fish in there, too, but I don't recall what they were called.) Turned off the flash so as not to have the reflection against the glass washing things out, even though it made the images get all blurry. (It's a compromise sometimes.) Didn't realize until I was checking the images the next day that the first picture had gotten what I wanted -- but those later pictures were kind of nice. Misty and ghostly.

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Here are the baby rays, which the aquarium seemed rather proud of. A sign noted that they're so good at breeding stingrays that they have extras to give to other aquariums. I put my hand on the glass in the third pic just to give a sense of scale as to how small these guys were.

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Penguins. And sharing their tank with fish, of course -- I think the aquarium needed to justify their presence a bit...

This tank held sharks. Small ones, about the length of my arm. Quite possibly the zoo had a nifty shark captive-breeding program as well. Or else these were just small sharks. Don't know. LittShar.JPG (9713 bytes)LittSha2.JPG (13000 bytes)

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Now, this was just *interesting*. The pet-a-shark tank. "Step right up, kiddies, and stick your hand in the water with a live shark!" They were bitsy sharks, and there was an employee sitting right there to keep an eye on things -- and I'm betting he was actually there for the sharks' safety, to make sure some jackass didn't go poking them in the eye or trying to pull them out of the water or anything like that. But there's still something almost viciously funny about the whole idea...

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The seahorse display was very nice -- sponsored by a local racetrack, in a really cute bit of tie-in marketing. The first pic is really blurred, but there was a certain attractiveness in the green and gold glitter -- and you can dimly see one of the tiny seahorses just above my middle finger. Fingers included in the first and second pics to give a sense of how big these guys *weren't*. The third pic is a weedy seadragon, and the fourth is a leafy seadragon -- or rather, a pair of them, but one was drifting behind the other so you can only see one clearly.

ScorpFsh.JPG (16731 bytes)Scorpionfish. Nothing very exciting there. Just like the one in Deuce Bigalow that got turned into a "chocolate margarita."

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Another "line the kids up to stick their hands in" tank. Just starfish in this one, I think, so I didn't bother going through the line myself.

Otter.JPG (6023 bytes) This otter was slacking off the job. Just lying there floating and apparently snoozing, periodically twitching its feet. Ah, well. The sea lions at the zoo had picked up the slack in terms of underwater cavortings.

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There was a whole display on frogs, too. Which didn't strike me as strictly aquarium fodder, but I'm willing to let it slide. I ignored the rest of the frogs and toads and just got a few pics of the pretty little poison dart ones. The blue frog photographed fairly well.

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And the above pictures were from the obligatory swamp exhibit. All over the riverside were pics of an albino alligator with the text referring to the "swamp tour" at the Audobon Zoo. Then I got to the zoo and not a one of their gators was even slightly pale. Come to the aquarium afterwards, and what do I see? They bogarted the zoo's alligator! Plus they had a few albino catfish, but aquariums are *supposed* to have fish. And there were a few freakier denizens of the river, though I think the only really identifiable ones in the fourth picture are paddlefish with those long duck-billed muzzles. And then -- well, I thought the frogs and otter and gator were already pushing the definition a bit for an aquarium, but -- there in the swamp display, an owl. Perched up there on the fake rocks above a tank of random fish. (And one little turtle -- a sign bragged about the zoo's program raising endangered Ridley's sea turtles and releasing them into the wild once they pass that dangerous first year, but only one turtle did I see in a tank full of large fat fish...) There was a second owl, and an actual bald eagle, whose head is visible at the far right of the sixth picture. *Why* does an aquarium keep so many animals that I would think more appropriate to the zoo? It was a very *smug* aquarium...

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And here were more sharks -- the *big* ones, all gliding about and past each other. Getting to see that grin from underneath is wonderfully eerie. And there was an upstairs view of the huge tank they were in, too.

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And finally the jellies. The aquarium also bragged about being so good at breeding them that it had spares to give out -- like I said, a very smug aquarium. Unfortunately they didn't photograph at all well -- the flash washed them out, and shutting it off meant that the very faint illumination of the tanks themselves wasn't enough for the camera to really pick up. (And I'm not sure that I don't have that third picture sideways or upside down.) But aside from the light quality, there's the simple fact that a still image of these doesn't really capture the beauty of watching them rippling about, slowly drifting through the tank in the dim red or orange light.

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