I recently started a job at Bristol Aquarium as a guest experience assistant, so I thought I’d take you on a virtual tour of the place, starting with the biggest tank in the aquarium, the natives tank.
As a UK diver I love that the aquarium showcases how impressive our British marine life is. Four of the eight shark species in the aquarium are in this tank. My favourites are the starry smooth hounds, which are so incredibly pretty. I haven’t been lucky enough to see one in the wild on my diving adventures yet, but I will definitely have to keep an eye out as they are found around South and West England, so very close to home for me!
There are also a lot of very impressively sized fish in this tank. When taking kids on school tours it’s always good fun to point out the massive pollock and explain that these are their ‘fish finger fish’, helping them to make the connection between animals and food.
We also point out the flatfish – sole and plaice – and explain how when they are born they swim upright, with an eye on each side of the head. However, at about two weeks old, one eye migrates to the other side and they become ‘flat’ (a fun point of contention between creationists and scientists over the years, as you might imagine, but also a fun way to gross out small children).
In the same area (the “Sunken Ship”), although a different tank, is Dale the lobster. At 80, Dale is the oldest animal in the aquarium, who was donated by a fisherman. Fact for children – lobsters wee out of their eyes! A firm favourite, although not strictly true – they have urine release valves under their eyes. They do urinate in each others faces to communicate when fighting or mating, however, which I imagine would go down just as well, but I wouldn’t want to be responsible for anyone deciding to ‘play lobster’.
Upstairs in the “Bristol Harbourside” area you can look down on the open top of the large Natives tank, while around the side you can find our baby sharks and rays, wolf fish, and the giant Pacific octopus, Gloria. Everyone wants to see Gloria but since she can squeeze down to the size of a 50p, and change the colour and texture of her skin to match the background, the question is more whether Gloria wants to see everyone. Occasionally she obliges and puts on a good show, doing a few laps of the tank or playing with the aquarist up at the top. She’s more active mid-afternoon since she is largely nocturnal (and that’s when she gets fed).
Next up – the Bay of Rays and Amazing Amazon!