Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium

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Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium

View of the Aquarium from the Yarra River
Date opened 2000
Location Central Business District, Melbourne, Australia
Coordinates Coordinates: 37°49′16″S 144°57′29″E / 37.821044°S 144.958017°E / -37.821044; 144.958017
Number of animals 10000+
Number of species 550+

Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium is a Southern Ocean and Antarctic aquarium in central Melbourne, Australia. It is located on the banks of the Yarra River beside and under the Flinders Street Viaduct and the King Street Bridge. The attraction is a Sea Life Centre owned by Merlin Entertainments.


Built between February 1998 and December 1999,[1] the building was designed by Peddle Thorp architects to resemble a ship moored to the river, and opened in January 2000.[2] The depth of the building however was designed not to be imposing at street level, and extends 7 metres (23 ft) below the surface. At its centre is a world first 2,200,000-litre (580,000 US gal) 'oceanarium in the round' where the spectators become the spectacle to the marine life swimming around them.[3][4]

Soon after opening, the building had a legionnaires disease outbreak that resulted in 2 deaths and another 60 people being affected. Those affected had visited the aquarium between 11 and 27 April 2000. A damages action was brought in May 2000, ending in February 2004.[5]

The Melbourne Aquarium recently[when?] underwent a significant expansion, also designed by Peddle Thorp, and now extends from the Yarra River to Flinders Street. A new entrance was built on the corner of Flinders and King Streets. The expansion features exhibits with king penguins and gentoo penguins, as well as many other Antarctic fish, a first for Australia. The exhibits also feature real ice and snow to simulate Antarctic conditions, and take visitors on an expedition to Antarctica.[6] The penguins were sourced from Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World in New Zealand.

In April 2013, Melbourne Aquarium's owners, Merlin Entertainments, announced that they would be spending $8 million on the refurbishment of the facilities. As part of the process, the aquarium will be rebranded as a Sea Life Centre and relaunched in September 2013.[7]


The Aquarium has a one-way self-guided tour, which is spread over four levels:

Level One[edit]

A staff encounter at an exhibit on Level One of the aquarium.

Ground Floor[edit]

  • Antarctica, featuring king and gentoo penguins
  • Weird & Wonderful, featuring giant crabs and sea dragons[disambiguation needed]
  • Coral Atoll
  • Sea jellies
  • Octopus Cove, featuring Giant Pacific Octopus
  • Coral Cafe
  • Aquarium Shop

Level B1[edit]

Level B2[edit]

  • Sharks Alive
  • BHP Billiton Shark Conservation Project & Animal Nursery
  • Oceanarium
  • Ocean Theatre
Melbourne Aquarium view from the Queens Bridge

While visiting these features visitors come across horseshoe crabs, scorpions and tarantulas in the 'two creepy caves' and a diverse collection of Australian sea jellies.

While the theme is that of "Southern Oceans" there are a few exceptions, including a floor-to-ceiling coral atoll, the mangrove exhibit, the billabong exhibit and the rockpool exhibit.

The aquarium is known for its main exhibit, which features huge grey nurse and sandbar whaler sharks, in a large oceanarium containing many diverse species of marine life.

Temporary exhibitions also frequently come to the aquarium.

Research and conservation[edit]

  • Grey Nurse Sharks. The Melbourne Aquarium is involved in a grey nurse shark breeding program aimed at conserving this endangered species, which is already extinct in Victoria. The Aquarium currently has three grey nurse sharks and are looking at intra vitro fertilization (IVF) as a method of breeding. On November 11, Melbourne Aquarium celebrated Georgie, the grey nurse shark's 10th birthday with a celebratory party.
  • Sea Turtles. The aquarium is also involved in the rehabilitation of turtles washed down to the cold Victorian waters where they cannot survive. The sea turtles are housed at the aquarium to gain strength, a which point they are taken north to Queensland to be released.
  • Sea Snakes. Melbourne Aquarium is home to the world's first captive pregnant sea snake; it was on display in the coral atoll with two other snakes, but has since been moved to a holding tank in the back-of-house area of the aquarium. It is under constant 24-hour video surveillance in the hope the first captive sea snake birth can be captured on film.
  • Seadragons. Melbourne Aquarium is one of the few worldwide to have successfully bred the locally-endemic weedy seadragon in captivity.[8]

Current and past attractions[edit]

The frozen giant squid.

The current exhibition at the aquarium is of various kinds of creatures, including angler fish, the Japanese spider crab, jellyfish, blood sucking leeches, horseshoe crabs, poisonous scorpions and tarantulas.

Melbourne Aquarium formerly had a giant squid exhibit (frozen, not alive), which has been moved to UnderWater World in Queensland. A quote from their website: "The 7 metre squid is frozen in time in the world’s largest man-made block of ice and is on display as part of the Monsters of the Deep exhibit. The exhibit also features live cuttlefish, bioluminescent fish and octopus hidden in dark, eerie caves, and rare footage of a live Humboldt squid, filmed off the coast of Mexico."[citation needed]


The aquarium is owned and operated by MFS Living & Leisure Group (a stapled security listed on both the Australian Securities Exchange and New Zealand Stock Exchange).

As of 2012 Living and Leisure Group was purchased by Merlin-SAG.


  1. ^ "Melbourne Aquarium". Frommer's. Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  2. ^ "Melbourne Aquarium". The Great Outdoors. Yahoo!7. Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  3. ^ "Melbourne Aquarium, Stage 1". Peddle Thorp Architects. Peddle Thorp Group. Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
  4. ^ "Melbourne Aquarium". That's Melbourne. Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
  5. ^ Peter Gregory (3 February 2004). "Victims of legionnaires' disease win battle". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  6. ^ "Melbourne Aquarium, Stage 2". Peddle Thorp Architects. Peddle Thorp Group. Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
  7. ^ "SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium relaunching in September 2013!" (Press release). Melbourne Aquarium. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Melbourne Aquarium > Conservation Accessed 6 April 2012.

External links[edit]