The National Aquarium in Baltimore’s newest exhibit, Blacktip Reef, opened July 30 after a $12.5 million, one-and-a-half year upgrade that replaced the Wings in the Water ray exhibit. Designed to emulate an Indo-Pacific reef where blacktip reef sharks are found, the 13,500 square foot aquarium holds 260,000 gallons of water, more than 600 animals (including 20 blacktip reef sharks responsibly collected in Australia under government supervision) representing 65 species, and 3,000 faux corals. Jack Cover, the aquarium’s curator told National Geographic that the faux corals are intricately detailed, from the color and texture of each piece to the placement order on the reef exhibit. Cover said as a conservation organization, the aquarium didn’t want to harvest wild corals for this particular exhibit, though there are live corals in other exhibits at the aquarium.
Aquarium patrons can view the reef via a 27-foot viewing window that curves four feet into the water as well as above on an upper level viewing platform. Also featured are daily dive presentations and feedings. A unique aspect of the aquarium is the feeding of the blacktip reef sharks. The sharks have been trained to respond to a colored hexagonal plate that is lowered into the aquarium at feeding time. The sharks line up and all get fed at four different feeding stations.
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The exhibit marks the first stage in the aquarium’s efforts to renew the National Aquarium. The last time the aquarium’s exhibits were upgraded was in 1981.
A list of featured animals at the exhibit:
•Blotched fantail ray (Taeniurops)
•Blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)
•Bluefin trevally (Caranx melampygus)
•Bluestripe seaperch (Lutjanus kasmira)
•Clown triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum)
•Emperor angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator)
•Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas)
•Reticulate whipray (Himantura uarnak)
•Napoleon wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus)
•Ornate wobbegong (Orectolobus ornatus)
•Tasselled wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon)
•Potato cod (Epinephelus tukula)
•Semicircle angelfish (Pomacanthus semicirculatus)
•Spotted unicornfish (Naso brevirostris)
•Zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum)