Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Los Angeles, United States

The Aquarium of the Pacific is a public aquarium on a 5-acre (20,000 m2) site on Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach, California, United States. It is situated across the water from the Long Beach Convention Center, Shoreline Village, and the Queen Mary. The Aquarium of the Pacific is the fourth most-attended aquarium in the nation. Each year approximately 1.7 million people visit the Aquarium, making it consistently one of the leading attractions in the Los Angeles region.

The Aquarium of the Pacific displays about 12,000 animals and more than 100 exhibits. Its galleries represent the frigid waters of the Northern Pacific, the temperate Southern California/Baja region, and the warm coral reefs and lagoons of the Tropical Pacific. Beyond its world-class animal exhibits, the Aquarium offers educational programs for people of all ages from hands-on activities to lectures by leading scientists.

Throughout the year, the Aquarium features art exhibits, performing arts shows, and cultural and community festivals as a way to engage new audiences and make science accessible. Its Guest Speaker Series and Aquatic Academy courses offer opportunities to learn about ocean and environmental issues from the scientists and other experts studying them.

In 2019 the Aquarium opened its first major expansion since its founding, the new Pacific Visions wing. Pacific Visions is a 29,000-square-foot, two-story, sustainable structure. This new building houses a state-of-the-art immersive theater, an art gallery, and a culmination gallery with interactives, game tables, and live animal exhibits. Through Pacific Visions, visitors can explore the most pressing environmental issues of our time and alternative pathways to designing a more sustainable future.

The Aquarium of the Pacific is a community gathering place where diverse cultures and the arts are celebrated and a place where important topics facing our planet and our ocean are explored by scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders in the search for sustainable solutions. Through these programs and a variety of multimedia experiences, the Aquarium provides opportunities to delve deeper into ocean science and learn more about our planet.

The Aquarium of the Pacific was the first among museums, zoos, and aquariums in the nation to register its greenhouse gases and has won numerous awards for its sustainable practices. The Premier Watershed Classroom was the first building in Long Beach to earn LEED Platinum certification. The new Pacific Visions wing earned Two Green Globes certification from the Green Globes building rating system for demonstrating leadership in best practices regarding environmental efficiency.

In addition to its public programs and exhibits, the Aquarium is involved in numerous conservation efforts, including breeding and rehabilitating endangered species, sustainable seafood, watershed education, climate resilience, community science, and more. Our team of scientific divers collects critical data used by a variety of ocean research institutes and reporting agencies. And through our Aquatic Forums, the Aquarium brings together scientists, educators, community leaders, and policymakers to develop solutions to complex environmental issues.

The aquarium architecture is inspired by the towering, breaking waves of the Pacific and mirrors the fluid and dynamic temper of the ocean, a movement in design called biomorphism. The latest addition to the aquarium is Pacific Visions, a wing that helps aquarium visitors better understand the challenges the ocean faces and the opportunities it holds.

Pacific Visions is a space for imagination, innovation, and creativity. The expansion, sheathed in a striking blue-green biomorphic shell, includes a state-of-the-art interactive theater, a larger exhibit gallery with live animals, and an art gallery. The blue glass façade evokes the Pacific Ocean and responds to changing light and weather conditions throughout the day.

Pacific Visions was conceived as an example of what aquariums could be in the future, integrating elements of science centers, arts venues, and museums to explore solutions to our world’s biggest challenges, including climate change and its impacts. It is designed to serve as an adaptable platform, with spaces that can be redesigned to accommodate new exhibits and shows and methods of storytelling. The technology available in each space, from massive LED video walls to interactive projections and immersive multisensory theater effects, can serve to immerse visitors in stories that engage and inspire.

Pacific Visions’ unique silhouette and modern design make it an architectural landmark for Long Beach and the region. EHDD also designed the Aquarium’s original building. The firm’s design for Pacific Visions was inspired by organic forms found in nature, and its complex glass-panel façade suggests the color and shimmer of the ocean.

There are more than 800 uniquely shaped glass panels covering Pacific Visions. The glass is made up of three layers. The innermost layer incorporates a subtle reflective finish, the middle layer is tinted blue, and the outer layer is made of low-iron, acid-etched glass, which eliminates direct reflection of the trees and sky to make it bird-friendly.

The aquarium features a collection of over 11,000 animals representing over 500 different species, including sea otters, sharks, sea jellies, frogs, and more in our Tropical, Northern, and Southern California/Baja Galleries, in exhibits ranging in size and capacity from about 5,000 to 350,000 gallons.

Exhibits introduce the inhabitants and seascapes of the Pacific, while also focusing on specific conservation messages associated with each region. The Pacific Ocean is the focus of three major permanent galleries, sunny Southern California and Baja, the frigid waters of the Northern Pacific and the colorful reefs of the Tropical Pacific.

In the Southern California/Baja Gallery, you can meet giant sea bass, leopard sharks, eels, seals, sea lions, white abalone, and other species found locally or in Baja. Explore the cold-water habitats of the Northern Pacific Gallery to meet playful sea otters, diving birds, sea jellies, giant spider crabs, and other animals. Travel through the Tropical Pacific Gallery to see colorful fish and other species that inhabit those warm tropical waters.

Visit the Aquarium’s latest expansion—Pacific Visions. The 29,000-square-foot sustainable expansion includes an art gallery, orientation gallery, the Honda Pacific Visions Theater multimedia experience, and the Schubel Family Culmination Gallery, which features interactives, displays, educational game tables, and live animal exhibits.

Coral Reefs: Nature’s Underwater Cities
Explore the beauty and diversity of coral reefs and their animal residents in the Aquarium’s newly reimagined Tropical Pacific Gallery. Learn about coral reefs, the threats they face, and what you can do to help save them. And meet some new residents, like a green sea turtle, flashlight fish, and red-footed booby, and see some old friends in a whole new light. Explore coral reefs in Pacific Visions through a new show in the Honda Pacific Visions Theater and an interactive exhibit in the art gallery.

Pacific Visions
Discover the aquarium of the future. Journey inside the new stunning glass building to experience a state-of–the-art immersive theater, interactive art installations, engaging multimedia displays, and live animal exhibits. Explore underwater realms, future possibilities, and help create a new planet right here on Earth.

FROGS: Dazzling and Disappearing
Discover the dazzling diversity of frogs and their amphibian relatives at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Close to two dozen species in thematic displays, educational graphics, and interactive exhibits highlight the beauty of and threats to these remarkable animals. The exhibit traces the history of amphibians, their life cycles, the different environments they live in from deserts to rainforests, the diversity of species, and their surprisingly uncertain future.

Shark Lagoon
This expansive outdoor exhibit is home to large sharks and rays, shark touch pools, interactive displays, an amphitheater, the Pacific Treasures gift store, and the Bamboo Bistro outdoor café. Looking through a viewing window into the large shark exhibit, guests will be able to come nose-to-nose with zebra and grey reef sharks. Daily presentations and feedings will showcase the power and beauty of these remarkable predators. Bamboo and epaulette sharks glide around the three shallow touch pools, where guests can reach in and touch these gentle and graceful animals.

Various interactive displays will highlight sharks’ senses, sizes, teeth, and reproduction, as well as their importance in the ocean’s food chain. A giant water-squirting squid playground sculpture allows children of all ages to have fun while learning what it takes for an animal to avoid becoming a shark’s next meal. Each display reveals fascinating facts about sharks.

The 10,000-square-foot Shark Lagoon is an outdoor educational adventure that also features the Aquarium’s Lorikeet Forest aviary. Together, Shark Lagoon and Lorikeet Forest represent the ultimate experience in animal interaction.

June Keyes Penguin Habitat
Get up-close with twenty Magellanic Penguins both above and below the water in the June Keyes Penguin Habitat. The exhibit is home to twenty Magellanic Penguins and includes a crawl-in space. Exhibit panels and interactive touch screens provide information about penguins and issues that are affecting their survival in the wild. The exhibit features a rocky area and beach that resembles the penguins’ natural habitat, a pool for swimming, and nesting areas. Life-sized models of penguins representing other species are also on display in the exhibit area.

Sea Otter Habitat
Peer underwater and discover the busy world of sea otters as they swim and interact amongst kelp and fish. Discover their above-water home with realistic rockwork, murals, and lighting. Meet our energetic and curious sea otters. Engage in friendly competition in an interactive game to learn about sea otters and their natural habitat in kelp forests. And browse exhibit graphics to dive deeper into their habitat, eating habits, and conservation issues.

Northern Pacific Gallery
The Bering Sea is home to over 450 species of fish and invertebrates, 50 bird species, and 25 species of marine mammals. At the Aquarium, it’s home to the adorable otter and the mysterious giant Pacific octopus. The Aquarium’s Northern Pacific Gallery represents the northernmost region of the Pacific Ocean, specifically habitats in and around the Bering Sea. The Northern Pacific Gallery features 16 exciting exhibits, including the Northern Pacific Preview, Surge Channel, several species of sea jellies, and others.

Sea Otter Exhibit is home to four of these amazing marine mammals that are native to the chilly Pacific waters. Guests are captivated by their constant rolling motion in the water, which serves to keep their lush under-coat dry and their bodies warm. This gallery also displays our elusive giant Pacific octopus. The largest species of octopus in the world, these intelligent and mysterious creatures grow to over 20 feet (6.1 m) and may weigh more than 100 pounds (45 kg). Living on remote mainland cliffs and islands along the Northern Pacific coast, puffins and auklets build their nests in rocky cavities and crevices during the summer months. Otherwise, these seabirds spend most of the year at sea.

Tropical Pacific Gallery
Featuring over a thousand colorful fish the 16 exhibits in the Aquarium’s Tropical Pacific Gallery represent the beautiful marine life you would find off the coast of Palau. Holding 350,000 gallons of water, this exhibit features over a thousand colorful fish and beautiful coral, including sea turtles, zebra sharks, porcupine puffers, and a large blue Napoleon or humphead wrasse.

The Tropical Pacific Gallery also displays venomous creatures, groupers, clownfish, and many exhibits with live coral in the Aquarium. There is much to discover in this colorful paradise, such as daily dive and feeding presentations and opportunities to learn about the many species of fish that are able to change sexes and others with remarkable camouflage and defense capabilities.

Lorikeet Forest
Lorikeet Forest, a 5,400-square-foot outdoor aviary. More than 100 lively lorikeets fill the trees. Measuring approximately 10 inches in length, lorikeets exhibit a dazzling color combination, ranging from brilliant blues and greens to exquisite reds, yellows, and deep purples. When seen in full sunlight, these beautifully colored birds almost radiate an iridescent glow—a bright contrast to the thick, dark trees of their natural habitat.

Jellies and comb jellies have lived on Earth for at least 500 million years, play an important role in the ocean as food for other animals, like sea turtles and mola molas. Humans also rely on jellies for food and other uses. They are also considered an indicator of ocean health. The Aquarium’s aquarists have successfully cultured several species of jellies for many years. Find out the fascinating truth about these beautiful yet mysterious animals and their importance to our ocean planet.

Southern California/Baja Gallery
The Southern California/Baja Gallery represents this diverse marine environment in 18 exhibits. At the entrance of the gallery is the impressive Honda Blue Cavern. This 142,000-gallon, three-story high exhibit stands at the end of the Aquarium’s Great Hall of the Pacific and features ocean inhabitants found off the coast of Catalina Island.

Entering the gallery, one is greeted by the Amber Forest. Featuring a beautiful bed of giant swaying kelp, this exhibit offers a glimpse of the colorful garibaldi (California’s state fish), giant spined sea stars, California scorpionfish, and many other examples of local Southern California ocean life. Also in the Southern California/Baja Gallery is the 211,000 gallon Seal and Sea Lion Habitat. The Aquarium’s Gulf of California exhibit features some of the variety of one of the most biologically productive and diverse seas in the world. It includes unique species of butterflyfishes, and large silvery fish called Mexican lookdowns.

Harbor Terrace
Harbor Terrace is located on the ground floor on the east side of the main Aquarium building. Overlooking Rainbow Harbor with a view of Shoreline Village, this outdoor space features tables and seating for visitors wishing to take a break, in addition to two popular exhibits: the Moon Jelly Touch Lab and an exhibit featuring two species of amphibious mudskippers.

Southern California Steelhead Story
This immersive exhibit communicates the history of local waterways and tells the story of the Southern California steelhead fish species and its importance in the local ecosystem. The Aquarium’s steelhead exhibit transports visitors along a mountain path, allowing them to view these fish in three areas, representing the species’ journey from freshwater to brackish water, and finally to the ocean. Through this exhibit, the Aquarium hopes to reveal the secrets of a little-known fish that lives amongst us in our urban environment and inspire conservation of this unique animal.

The steelhead is an indicator species—its survival relies upon a healthy ecosystem. Over the years they have faced many threats such as pollution, drought, and physical barriers, including dams and concrete channels, which have prevented them from traveling upstream. The exhibit will document their resilience in the face of these challenges, forecast the species’ ability to adapt to future changes to its habitat, and offer what we can do to help.

Molina Animal Care Center
The 14,000-square-foot Molina Animal Care Center at the Aquarium of the Pacific provides enhanced healthcare to our animals as well as opportunities for our guests to view veterinary medicine in action. Located behind Shark Lagoon, the hospital features a 1,800-square-foot examination area. Opened in 2010, the building meets LEED Platinum standards, fulfilling the Aquarium’s commitment to environmentally sensitive building practices for all new structures.

The Aquarium’s veterinary hospital features advanced digital equipment. With an Eklin digital radiography system, x-ray film does not need processing and images are easily stored for diagnostic and record-keeping purposes. This equipment also speeds up the entire process of taking x-rays, which is better for the animals. A high-tech microscope with a camera imaging system can take pictures of slides. Just as with the x-ray machine, this microscope allows images to be e-mailed to colleagues. Endoscopy and laparoscopy equipment provide opportunities to perform minimally invasive techniques and view the patient internally with a camera.

Holding and quarantine areas for fishes, marine mammals, and birds are housed in the Molina Animal Care Center as well. The biggest tank at the Aquarium, a 40-foot diameter tank that holds 56,000 gallons of water, will open in spring 2012 and will provide critical holding space for the Aquarium’s sharks and larger animals. For new Aquarium arrivals, there are two rooms for animals undergoing the required quarantine. There is also a reptile room and holding cages for shorebirds and raptors.

The treatment center offers unique insight into the world of aquatic veterinary care. It also showcases the Aquarium’s dedication to stewardship to its wide array of mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes, and invertebrates. The Molina Animal Care Center reaches beyond the confines of a place to care for animals. In the spirit of interactive learning, it allows visitors to watch surgeries, animal examinations, and even interact with the Aquarium’s veterinary staff on occasion.

Each day a staff member explains a live procedure or offers one of several educational shows. As guests pass the hospital viewing windows, the veterinarian could be working on an animal. Maybe a surgery on a fish will be in progress. Maybe an otter will be getting its teeth cleaned. Windows and overhead computer monitors will make it possible for everyone to see.

Activities of the Aquarium of the Pacific employees and volunteers extend far beyond exhibits. The diverse marine science and conservation ventures include: breeding and conservation programs for endangered marine animals and habitats; housing of unreleasable seals, sea lions, and sea otters from local care centers and marine parks; beach and habitat cleanups; a variety of green business practices; and continuing efforts to educate visitors on the importance the ocean, its threats, and conservation, including the hazards of marine pollution, over-harvesting, habitat destruction and global climate change.

The Aquarium of the Pacific is also home to many cultural events throughout the year, such as the Pacific Islander Festival in the summer, the Moompetam Festival in the fall, special treats for the animals at Christmas, the Festival of Human Abilities in January, and the African Heritage Festival in February.