Waikiki Aquarium

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Waikiki Aquarium
Waikiki Aquarium Entrance
Date opened 1904
Location Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Coordinates Coordinates: 21°15′57″N 157°49′19″W / 21.2659°N 157.8220°W / 21.2659; -157.8220
Website www.waikikiaquarium.org

The Waikiki Aquarium is an aquarium in Honolulu, Hawaii, United States. Founded in 1904, it is the second oldest public aquarium in the United States. Since 1919, the Waikiki Aquarium has been an institution of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Built next to a living coral reef on the Waikiki shoreline, the Waikiki Aquarium is home to more than 3,500 organisms of 490 species of marine plants and animals. Each year, over 330,000 people visit, and over 30,000 schoolchildren participate in the Aquarium's education activities and programs. The Waikiki Aquarium was designated a Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center of the Coastal America Partnership federal program.


The Waikiki Aquarium was established on March 19, 1904, by the Honolulu Rapid Transit Authority, a forerunner of the present-day TheBus. Then known as the Honolulu Aquarium, its purpose was to entice travelers to ride the trolley all the way to the end of the line at Queen Kapiʻolani Park. It was built on land donated by James Bicknell Castle with funds from Charles Montague Cooke and his wife Anna Rice Cooke.[1] In 1955, the Aquarium moved to its present location, a 2.35-acre parcel of land two hundred yards south of the original site, and changed its name to Waikiki Aquarium.

The aquarium opened in 1904 with 35 tanks and 400 marine organisms, and during its first year, biologist David Starr Jordan proclaimed it as having the finest collection of fishes in the world .[citation needed] Considered[by whom?] state-of-the-art at that time, the aquarium also received positive comments from such notable visitors of that era as William Jennings Bryan and Jack London.

The Aquarium has had five directors. Frederick A. Potter, a clerk for the Honolulu Rapid Transit Company, was transferred to manage the Aquarium, becoming the first director in 1904. Despite his lack of formal training in marine sciences, Potter was a vigorous supporter of Hawaiian ichthyology, and served as director until May 1940. Potter's Angelfish (Centropyge potteri), was named in his honor.

In 1940, Spencer Tinker was appointed the second director of the Aquarium, after serving on the faculty of the University of Hawaii Zoology Department. Tinker was well known for his books on Hawaiian fishes, Pacific crustaceans, and other marine life: his book Hawaiian Fishes remains a classic.[citation needed] Tinker's Butterflyfish, Chaetodon tinkeri, was named after him. Tinker retired in 1973. The Hawaiian butterflyfish is named Chaetodon tinkeri in honor of Spencer Tinker, who became the aquarium's second director in 1940.[1]

During those early years (1919–1973) admissions to the Aquarium were deposited to the State General Fund and did not return to the Aquarium for upkeep. This lack of investment resulted in the Aquarium falling into disrepair and it was in urgent need of a new purpose and vision.[citation needed] In 1975, Dr Leighton Taylor was appointed the third director. An ichthyologist by training, and a world-renowned expert on sharks, Taylor understood the need for a new Aquarium vision committed to education, conservation and research, and he realized the need to diversify revenue sources. The logo, Education Department, Volunteer Program, library, research facility, gift shop, Friends of the Waikiki Aquarium support organization, and the first Exhibits Master Plan (1978) all came into being during his tenure. By accepting donations, memberships and grants, the Aquarium was able to fund increased services and to renovate exhibits. Taylor's goby, Trimma taylori, is named in his honor.

In 1990, Dr Bruce Carlson was appointed the fourth director, a post he had held in an interim capacity since the departure of Dr Taylor in 1986. Carlson had previously worked closely with Dr Taylor and others to design new and more naturalistic exhibits that focused on the marine life of Hawaii and the western Pacific. Carlson developed a set of clearly defined goals and plans, and initiated the coral propagation program, for which the Aquarium is now world-renowned. From 1992 to 1994, Carlson oversaw the aquarium's most extensive renovation since 1955. The $3.2 million investment from the Legislature served the Aquarium's responsibility to research, education and conservation through living collections and new visitor facilities. In 2000 the Aquarium was designated a Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center of the Coastal America partnership. Three reef animals are named after him: the damselfish Paraglyphidodon carlsoni, and anthias fish Pseudanthias carlsoni, and a nudibranch Halgirda carlsoni.

In April 2004, Dr Andrew Rossiter was appointed the fifth director, joining the Aquarium at the onset of its 100th anniversary celebrations. His long-term ambition at the Aquarium is to increase public awareness of the ecology and conservation of marine life and reef habitats through aquarium exhibitory, research and education. His goal is to consolidate and build upon the existing exhibitory expertise and the solid foundation laid down by his two predecessors, and to modernize, diversify and expand the aquarium's facilities through a program of gradual renewal, renovation and replacement

Development and conditions[edit]

Coral reef exhibit at Waikiki Aquarium

The Waikiki Aquarium developed displays of living corals starting in the middle to late 1970s. These aquarium structures were reliant on a permanent provision of seawater and therefore the aquarium seawater situation was not so different from the ones on the reef just outside.

Living corals are more complex to sustain in aquariums than most marine fish. Aquarists must be more aware of the physical, chemical and natural necessities of corals if they hope to accomplish success. Lighting, water chemistry, water motion, and temperature are the main features of concern to aquarists preserving living corals.[2]

The Waikiki Aquarium was the first aquarium in the world to maintain the chambered nautilus and the first in the United States to breed them.[3]


Art at the Waikiki Aquarium includes:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "History of the Waikiki Aquarium" (PDF). University of Hawaiʻi. 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-03. 
  2. ^ Bruce A. Carlson (February 1999). "Organism responses to rapid change: what aquaria tell us about nature" (PDF). American Zoologist 39 (1): 44–55. doi:10.1093/icb/39.1.44. 
  3. ^ "Nautilus Nursery" (PDF). Kilo iʻa. Friends of the Waikiki Aquarium. Spring 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-03. 

External links[edit]