Tennessee Aquarium

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Tennessee Aquarium
Date opened

May 1, 1992 (River Journey Building)[1]

April 29, 2005 (Ocean Journey Building)[1][2]
Location Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States
Coordinates 35°03′21″N 85°18′39″W / 35.0557°N 85.3108°W / 35.0557; -85.3108Coordinates: 35°03′21″N 85°18′39″W / 35.0557°N 85.3108°W / 35.0557; -85.3108
Number of animals 12,000[3]
Volume of largest tank 500,000 US gal (1,900,000 L)[4]
Total volume of tanks 1,100,000 US gal (4,200,000 L)[1]
Memberships AZA
Website www.tnaqua.org

The Tennessee Aquarium is a non-profit public aquarium located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States. When it opened in 1992, the River Journey building was the largest freshwater aquarium in the world.[1][5] It was established as part of the revitalization of the Chattanooga Riverfront.[6]

The Tennessee Aquarium's River Journey and Ocean Journey buildings are home to more than 12,000 animals including fish, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, birds, penguins, butterflies, and more.[3][7]

River Journey[edit]

The original River Journey facility, which contains a total of 400,000 US gallons (1,500,000 L),[1] is organized around the theme of the Story of the River, following the path of a raindrop from high in the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico.

Approximately 2/3 of the facility's display follows this theme, with the rest devoted to smaller aquatic exhibits hosting organisms from around the world. The self-guided tour takes visitors through three living forest exhibits that teem with life above and below the water’s surface. The first part is the "Cove Forest" exhibit, which has free-flying North American song birds, an exhibit for river otters, and various North American fish (shiners, daces, darters, redhorse, hog suckers, trout and more), as well as an artificial waterfall falling into a 30,000-US-gallon (110,000 L) mountain sink.[8] Other parts of the River Journey are the "Mississippi Delta" with exhibits for American alligators, alligator snapping turtles, various other turtles, birds, snakes and fish (shiners, chubsuckers, topminnows, mosquitofish, darters, sunfish, bowfin and more), "Rivers of the World" with several small to medium-large aquaria aimed at the Amazon River, Congo (Zaire) River, Fly River and more, and the "Tennessee River gallery" where the centerpiece is the 145,000-US-gallon (550,000 L) Nickajack Lake featuring large North American freshwater fish.[8] River Journey initially included the 88,000-US-gallon (330,000 L) "Gulf of Mexico" aquarium with saltwater fish, but it was changed to "River Giants" after Ocean Journey opened.[8][9] "River Giants" contains giant freshwater fish from around the world, such as alligator gar, arapaima, giant pangasius, redtail catfish and giant freshwater stingray.[9]

Ocean Journey[edit]

A new addition to the facility, Ocean Journey, opened in April 2005, and contains a total of 700,000 US gallons (2,600,000 L).[1] It ostensibly follows the theme of the River Journey, though with much less consistency than the original. However this facility does include more hands on displays, such as a small shark and ray touch tank, large macaws, a butterfly garden with South American species on constant display. The largest tank in the Ocean Journey (and the Tennessee Aquarium) is the "Secret Reef", which contains 500,000 US gallons (1,900,000 L) and features species such as sand tiger sharks and bonnetheads.[4] Other sections include the Boneless Beauties gallery, where guests can see invertebrates like jellyfish, cuttlefish, giant Pacific octopuses, and Japanese spider crabs. An even newer 16,000-US-gallon (61,000 L) exhibit with macaroni penguins and gentoo penguins opened on May 3, 2007. The Tennessee Aquarium was the first to breed weedy seadragons.


The decision to build an aquarium in Chattanooga grew out of broader plans to revitalize the city's decaying riverfront and central business district during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1982, as part of this process, the Urban Design Studio issued a report whose suggestions included the establishment of a Tennessee state aquarium on the riverfront. The project received essential early support from Chattanooga philanthropist Jack Lupton, who contributed $11 million of his own funds and $10 million from his family foundation, the Lyndhurst Foundation, for the project. Ground broke for the construction of River Journey in November 1988, and the Tennessee Aquarium opened to the public in 1992. The second Tennessee Aquarium exhibit building, Ocean Journey, opened in 2005 as part of a second plan for urban redevelopment, the 21st Century Waterfront.[6][10]

The Tennessee Aquarium’s initial conceptual design, architecture and exhibit design (opened in 1992) was led by Peter Chermayeff of Peter Chermayeff LLC while at Cambridge Seven Associates, and the expansion’s conceptual design, architecture and exhibit design (opened in 2005) was led by Peter Chermayeff and Peter Sollogub and Bobby C. Poole at Chermayeff, Sollogub & Poole.[11]

By 2012, more than $2 billion in additional investments had been made in Chattanooga's downtown, and the aquarium was widely acknowledged as the linchpin of this redevelopment process. Community leaders also credit the aquarium with beginning to improve residents' perceptions of the downtown and riverfront districts.[12]

Conservation and Research[edit]

The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, TNACI, is the aquarium's own research institute. The TNACI works to "preserve, protect, and sustain" the Southeastern region that the aquarium is located in.[13] The Institute first formed in 1996, four years after the opening of the aquarium, as the Southeast Aquatic Research Institute, which was a collaborative partnership of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the Tennessee River Gorge Trust. It was later renamed to "emphasize their mission to protect the aquatic species and habitats in the region." The TNACI has been under the direction of many directors that have guided members of a respected staff to accomplish many things that better not only the aquarium, but also the environment surrounding the Chattanooga area.

The Institute funds and takes part in research projects to help strengthen the community as a whole. Some projects undertaken by the Institute include but are not limited to:

  • the publication of Aquatic Fauna in Peril: The Southeastern Perspective, edited by George Benz and David Collins, the Curator of Forests at the Aquarium. This publication provided information on the region’s aquatic animal groups, along with “historical perspectives” and their “current conservation status.”
  • Conservation Biologist Paul Johnson’s work with mollusks
  • collaboration with the Tennessee River Gorge that improved monitoring of the local turtle assemblage.

Originally located at a facility in Cohutta, Georgia but moved to Chattanooga in 2011.[14]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Tennessee Aquarium Newsroom - News Release
  2. ^ "Tennessee Aquarium Ocean Journey Building". Tennessee Aquarium. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Endangered Beluga Sturgeon will be Reunited with Brother: Delta Air Lines Transports 7-Foot Fish on 767 Passenger Plane". Tennessee Aquarium. May 25, 2006. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Tennessee Aquarium: First sizeable sharks delivered to Aquarium’s animal care facility. Retrieved 21 March 2014
  5. ^ Flessner, Dave (April 29, 2012). "Tennessee Aquarium aims to raise attendance and donations". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Eichenthal, David, and Tracy Windeknecht (September 2008). "Chattanooga, Tennessee: A Restoring Prosperity Case Study" (PDF). Brookings Institution. Retrieved February 13, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga Houses a Variety of Animals". BusinessClimate.com. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c North American Native Fish Association:The Tennessee Aquarium: A Must-See for Native Fish Enthusiasts. Retrieved 21 March 2014
  9. ^ a b Tennessee Aquarium: River Giants. Retrieved 21 March 2014
  10. ^ "Chattanooga Urban Design Studio: Collected Works, 1981-2004". Retrieved February 13, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Peter Chermayeff LLC". peterchermayeff.com. Peter Chermayeff LLC. 
  12. ^ Pare, Mike (April 29, 2012). "Tennessee Aquarium changed Chattanooga's cityscape and attitudes". Chattanooga Times-Free Press. Retrieved February 13, 2015. 
  13. ^ . Tennessee Aquarium http://www.tnaqua.org/protect-freshwater.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ . Tennessee Aquarium http://www.tnaqua.org/protect-freshwater/about-tnaci.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]