Shark Reef Aquarium

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Shark Reef Aquarium
Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay (12370496633).jpg
Date openedJune 20, 2000
LocationParadise, Nevada, United States
Coordinates36°05′25″N 115°10′36″W / 36.0903327°N 115.1765442°W / 36.0903327; -115.1765442Coordinates: 36°05′25″N 115°10′36″W / 36.0903327°N 115.1765442°W / 36.0903327; -115.1765442
Floor space105,000 sq ft (9,800 m2)
No. of animalsOver 2,000[1]
No. of speciesOver 100[1]
Volume of largest tank1,300,000 US gal (4,900,000 l)[1]
Total volume of tanks1,600,000 US gal (6,100,000 l)[1]

Shark Reef Aquarium is a public aquarium on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada. It is located at and owned by the Mandalay Bay resort. The attraction opened on June 20, 2000. Its main tank is 1,300,000 US gallons (4,900,000 l), one of the largest in North America.[3] The facility is 105,000 sq ft (9,800 m2), and displays numerous species of sharks, rays, fish, reptiles, and marine invertebrates. It also features a shark tunnel. The reef was developed in consultation with the Vancouver Aquarium.


Shark Reef was developed with help from the Vancouver Aquarium.[4] It was built at a cost of $40 million, and was opened on June 20, 2000.[5] Shark Reef received its 1 millionth visitor in May 2001, and had generated $10 million up to that point.[6] It was accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2003.[7]

As of 2017, Shark Reef had 80 workers, including 35 aquarists.[8] The facility receives an annual 900,000 visitors on average.[9]

In 2020, Shark Reef announced plans for a 36-seat virtual reality theater showing aquatic short films.[10][11] It opened later that year.[12]

Exhibits and animals[edit]

Temple statue at Shark Reef
Pterois volitans in the aquarium.

The 105,000 sq ft (9,800 m2) facility is designed to resemble a sinking ancient temple.[4][13][6] It includes the largest aquarium on the Las Vegas Strip, holding 1,300,000 US gallons (4,900,000 l).[14][15] Features include a shark tunnel,[16] and a viewing area designed as the interior of a sunken ship.[17] The 1,300,000 US gal (4,900,000 l) shipwreck tank, touted as the third largest in North America,[3] is home to several endangered and threatened marine species including green sea turtles, Galapagos sharks, blacktip reef sharks, sand tiger sharks, and green sawfish.

Upon opening, it included the only indoor shark exhibit on the U.S. west coast,[6] featuring 10 shark species.[4] Other animals have included small stingrays, horseshoe crabs, moon jellyfish, and water monitors.[4] Sharks generally do not hunt the other fish present in the aquarium, as they are kept well-fed.[18][7] As of 2005, Shark Reef had more than 2,000 aquatic animals and reptiles, and one employee responsible for preparing their food. Large lights above the tank are used to indicate feeding time for the sharks. The facility spent $150,000 annually on food, equaling about 500 pounds per week. In total, the facility had 65 employees.[18]

By 2007, the aquarium contained 15 types of sharks.[7] In 2008, Shark Reef received a Komodo dragon from the Miami Zoo. Additional Komodos were introduced in 2013.[19][20] By that time, the aquarium had also introduced a diving program, allowing guests to swim with the sharks.[21] Guests can also feed the various animals, through a separate program introduced in 2013.[22][23]

Two scalloped hammerheads were introduced in 2015, making Shark Reef one of three aquariums in the U.S. to feature the species. At the time, the aquarium contained 16 shark species representing 100 individuals. It also had 14 exhibits dedicated to the various animals.[24] A new exhibit, introduced later in 2015, featured aquatic animals preserved through plastination.[25]

Devils Hole pupfish[edit]

In May 2006, two adult male Devils Hole pupfish were moved to Shark Reef from Devils Hole, while two adult females were relocated from a refuge at Hoover Dam, in hopes of augmenting the population.[26] As of July 2020, these fish can be found in a small exhibit in the first section of the aquarium. Additionally, over 200 of the fish are in a breeding program in the sister site.

Great hammerhead shark[edit]

Shark Reef Aquarium was the first closed-system aquarium in North America to exhibit a great hammerhead shark. The female juvenile was less than four feet long when she was accidentally caught off the coast of Florida. The shark was successfully flown into Mandalay Bay in August 2001 on a record 16-hour flight in a special transportation tank designed specifically for it. It remained in a private quarantine tank for 2.5 years until the in-house aquarium husbandry team decided it had grown large enough where it would not fall prey to the other sharks in the exhibit tank. It measured six feet long when it was finally introduced among big public fanfare into the 1,300,000 US gal (4,900,000 l) tank on November 3, 2003 for public exhibition. After more than a year on exhibit, the specimen died suddenly and unexpectedly on December 16, 2004. A necropsy later attributed an intestinal infection as the cause of death. The specimen had grown to 6.5 ft (2.0 m) and weighed in at 95 lb (43 kg) at time of death.[27][28][29]

Conservation and sustainability[edit]

Members of the Shark Reef staff participate in the "Adopt-a-Cove" program to aid in the clean up of Lake Mead. Within the map and guide handed out at the park, they offer an "In Good Taste" guide that folds up into a business card size pamphlet to promote sustainable seafood choices. The information found within this guide is credited to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation.[30] Throughout the various exhibits, there is signage to educate the audience about the dangers of shark finning, introducing invasive species (like lion fish), and various other harmful practices.


  1. ^ a b c d "Welcome to the deep blue world of Shark Reef Aquarium". Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  2. ^ "Currently Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". AZA. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  3. ^ a b Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay - USA Today Travel
  4. ^ a b c d "Sea Carnivores Move In At Las Vegas Casino". The New York Times. August 13, 2000. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  5. ^ Hogan, Jan (19 June 2000). "Mandalay Bay set to open aquarium". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on 20 February 2002.
  6. ^ a b c King, Pat (June 1, 2001). "Media: Mandalay Bay shark exhibit shows its teeth". Las Vegas Business Press. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  7. ^ a b c "Curator glad to add some teeth to Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef". Las Vegas Review-Journal. July 9, 2007. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  8. ^ Taylor, F. Andrew (May 9, 2017). "Shark Reef educates Las Vegas on animals, conservation". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  9. ^ Horwath, Bryan (August 5, 2019). "Sharks a hit in Las Vegas, even without an ocean". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  10. ^ Horwath, Bryan (February 11, 2020). "Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef Aquarium getting virtual reality theater". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  11. ^ Schulz, Bailey (February 12, 2020). "Mandalay Bay Shark Reef Aquarium adding virtual reality theater". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  12. ^ Holman, Bianca (September 9, 2020). "New virtual Shark Reef Aquarium experience gets you close to sharks, whales". KLAS. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  13. ^ Macy, Robert (June 19, 2000). "Mandalay Bay putting teeth into claim as South Seas resort". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
  14. ^ "Vegas Aquarium Fish Love Being In Over Their Heads". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. February 8, 2001. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  15. ^ Jones, Jay (July 13, 2008). "Las Vegas aquariums bring the sea to the desert". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  16. ^ Hogan, Jan (February 28, 2000). "Mandalay Bay building walk-through aquarium". Archived from the original on May 8, 2001.
  17. ^ Hogan, Jan (June 25, 2000). "Predatory sea life occupies new Mandalay Bay aquarium". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on April 13, 2001.
  18. ^ a b Kihara, David (January 21, 2005). "Chef to the stars". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  19. ^ Jones, Jay (May 14, 2013). "Las Vegas: At Mandalay Bay, there be dragons". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  20. ^ Padgett, Sonya (May 13, 2013). "New Komodos set to laze at Mandalay Bay". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  21. ^ Henkel, Jerry (November 14, 2013). "Shark and awe found at Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  22. ^ Jones, Jay (July 30, 2014). "Las Vegas: Cozy up to turtles, rays and sharks without getting wet". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  23. ^ Przybys, John (January 7, 2015). "Forget the scares, feeding sharks is fun". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  24. ^ Stapleton, Susan (April 1, 2015). "It's hammerhead time at the Shark Reef Aquarium in Las Vegas". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  25. ^ Stapleton, Susan (September 17, 2015). "New Las Vegas aquarium exhibit dissects sea monsters". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  26. ^ "Endangered fish get a shot at Vegas honeymoon". NBC News. Associated Press. May 22, 2006. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
  27. ^ Rogers, Keith (December 3, 2003). "Mandalay Bay Aquarium: Great hammerhead shark goes on display". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on December 28, 2004.
  28. ^ Smith, John L. (December 5, 2003). "Shark Reef's hammerhead has Mandalay aquarium biologists smiling". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on October 19, 2004.
  29. ^ Lake, Richard (December 18, 2004). "Mandalay Bay's hammerhead dies; 6-year-old shark was only one in captivity in U.S." Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on December 28, 2004.
  30. ^ "Green Program / Environment". Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. Retrieved 24 March 2012.

External links[edit]