One of the aspects of the Tennessee Aquarium that makes repeat visits so appealing is that it’s constantly changing.
From witnessing new behaviors and admiring recently renovated exhibits to exploring entirely new galleries, each trip through the River Journey and Ocean Journey buildings offers unique experiences that make return visits practically a must.
For nearly 100 days, the Aquarium has remained closed to slow the spread of Covid-19 in the Chattanooga area, but when the doors reopen to guests on June 18, visitors will discover exciting changes that have taken place while they were away.
Whether they’re long-time fans or fresh faces, here are five fun, new Aquarium additions visitors can look forward to when the doors reopen to the public:
- The Turtles of the World gallery — The Aquarium’s voluntary closure started just one day after this brand new gallery opened to the public.
With the Aquarium open once again, visitors will finally have the opportunity to experience this whirlwind exhibition of turtles from all over the world.
This collection of habitats places particular emphasis on “hotspots” of diversity in the Southeastern U.S. and Southeast Asia. The gallery’s adorable, beating heart of cuteness is a working turtle nursery where guests can see dozens of toddling turtle hatchlings, many representing critically endangered species.
- Fuzzy arrivals in Lemur Forest — Since opening in 2017, Lemur Forest has delighted guests with the acrobatic antics of its conspiracy of Red-ruffed and Ring-tailed Lemurs. These agile mammals have won over countless visitors with their natural beauty and charisma. Now, they have new roommates.
Two Red-collared Brown Lemurs now call this towering gallery home. Like all lemurs, this tree-dwelling species is only found in Madagascar, but unlike most other lemurs, Red-collareds display visible differences between males and females. Visitors will have no difficulty telling the Aquarium’s male, John, apart from his aunt, Jessie, thanks to his fluffy white muttonchops.
- Disco jelly light show —Boneless Beauties is usually kept pretty dim to ensure the comfort of light-sensitive animals like the Giant Pacific Octopus. Lately, however, the gallery has started looking ever so slightly psychedelic thanks to newly installed color-changing LED lights on the quartet of tanks housing Moon Jellyfish. The jellies’ ghost-like, translucent bells take on the color of these lights as they cycle, making for a truly hypnotic display that’s sure to entrance guests.
- Touchable newcomers in the Bay —Stingray Bay is the Aquarium’s most massive touch tank and home to numerous species of tropical fish, swooping stingrays, miniature sharks and tank-like Horseshoe Crabs. During the closure, aquarists introduced even more amazing animals to this exhibit, including a Japanese Horn Shark and a trio of strikingly patterned Fiddler Rays.
Fiddler Rays are a species of guitarfish — a cousin to sharks and rays — possessing shark-like tails but ray-like flattened heads and mouths on the underside of their bodies. Although quite docile, the Japanese Horn Shark feeds primarily on shellfish and Sea Urchins, a tough-bodied diet made possible due to a bite with more power, for its size, than any other shark species.
- Here there be (sea)dragons — Long-time Aquarium fans will undoubtedly recognize and delight at the return of Weedy Seadragons, last seen in the Seahorses: Beyond Imagination temporary gallery in the River Journey building. Now on display in Ocean Journey’s Boneless Beauties gallery, these unusual animals are classified, like seahorses and pipefish, under the Syngnathidae family of fish. Found in kelp forests off the coast of Southern Australia, the Weedy Seadragon’s bizarre, leaf-like fins help them to become nearly invisible to predators.
These new additions further enhance the Aquarium experience, an expansive journey encompassing thousands of animals and a wide range of habitats from the mountains to the seas. Guests will also thrill at the opportunity to revisit (or to discover) the speedy underwater “flights” of Gentoo Penguins, the imposing leviathans in the River Giants tank, the toothy napping of American Alligators and the playful romping of North American River Otters.
The Aquarium’s phased reopening plans include numerous changes to the visitor experience made in the interest of safeguarding guests and staff members. These include limited daily attendance, timed-entry ticketing, daily staff health screenings and numerous adjustments to exhibits to encourage physical distancing.
Timed-entry tickets are now available on the Tennessee Aquarium’s website: https://www.tnaqua.org/welcomeback
In response to visitor feedback, the Aquarium will be offering expanded “Early Bird” hours when all guests must wear masks every day from 9 to 11 a.m.
All guests, ages three and up, are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings when visiting the Tennessee Aquarium.