Two Saltwater Aquariums Installed at Home Plate of Miami Marlins Stadium

Aquariums will serve as backstop and will showcase species native to Florida and the Pacific

Written by
John Virata

Miami Marlins Stadium, the new home of the Miami Marlins baseball team, will host several unique features that are not usually found at other professional baseball stadiums in the United States. The stadium, completed in three years and finished this month, features a retractable roof, a swimming pool on the left field side, 500 photographs and more than 15,000 square feet of art-based wall treatments. The most unique feature to the stadium is the addition of a pair of saltwater aquariums that serve as the home plate backstop, a one of a kind installation that no other stadium features.

The brainchild of David Sampson, Marlins team president who is also an avid marine aquarist, the dual aquariums are positioned on each side of home plate, with the aquarium to the right holding more than 600 gallons of saltwater and measuring 34 feet long, and the aquarium to the left holding more than 450 gallons of saltwater and measuring 24 feet long. FishChannel spoke with Francis Yupanco of Living Color Aquariums, the company that designed and built the aquariums in Florida, on the installation and what went in to building this unique aquatic habitat right at home plate of a new professional baseball stadium.

FishChannel: Are the aquariums both saltwater and freshwater or are both saltwater?
Francis Yupangco: Both Aquariums are tropical saltwater. A live reef aquarium would be impractical for this application  for numerous reasons including maintenance.  As such, Living Color’s museum-quality replica corals and reef inserts are used for the aquarium décor.  The artificial  corals  are cast  in urethane and epoxy from real coral skeletons and researched for biological accuracy.

FishChannel: How many gallons is each of the aquariums and how are they constructed?
Francis Yupangco: The aquariums have been installed in place of  standard backstops behind home plate and have been positioned to prevent disruption to players on the field. Each aquarium is mitered and has a 13 degree angle in the middle to follow the dimensions of a major league regulation backstop. The twin aquariums each measure 22 feet long and hold over 450 gallons of water. The aquarium frames are constructed with durable fiberglass structures; while cast acrylic panels 1 ½” thick provide unobstructed  viewing windows running the entire 22 foot length of the aquariums. 

FishChannel: How are the aquariums protected from such things as foul balls? 
Francis Yupangco: To safeguard the animals and exhibits from unexpected impacts; Lexan- the material used in bullet proof windows, has been installed in front of the acrylic panels to protect the aquarium from foul balls, errant pitches or any other unexpected contact. An air gap between the aquarium acrylic and Lexan shield isolates the aquariums from vibrations should an object strike them. The system has been carefully engineered and extensively tested. A pitching machine and a Marlin’s player have hurled fast balls against the aquariums without leaving a mark. The protective Lexan has been installed at a 2 degree angle to reduce the possibility of on-field glare. Dimmable LED lights are controlled by the stadium’s central control room and allows officials to adjust the aquarium lighting as needed.  Protective covers are placed over the aquariums during non-game times to protect the panels and limit ambient light.

FishChannel: What kind of filtration systems are used to keep the water pristine?
Francis Yupangco: The advanced aquarium filtration systems that will keep the fish thriving in their new home are a technological marvel.  Living Color is renowned for designing and building aquariums in challenging locations, and the Miami Marlins Aquariums are no exception. Each aquarium runs on a separate system and water from the aquariums is pumped to a Life Support System Filtration room located behind the visiting team’s dugout. A window into the filtration room has been placed in the hallway leading to the visiting team’s dressing room which allows players to see the filtration room as they pass. Some equipment required to keep the fishes happy and the aquariums crystal clear are: foam fractionators, ultra-violet sterilizers, micron filters, titanium plated heat exchangers, bio towers, an RO/DI unit, water storage vats with automated top-off and electronic aquarium monitors. All told, more than 30 separate types of aquarium filtration equipment plus hundreds of feet of piping are required to support the marine life in these extraordinary aquarium exhibits. Additional fish-friendly features include: a remote feeder that pumps New Era Marine Pellets directly into each aquarium from the filtration room. Polycarbonate lids on top of each aquarium prevent fertilizers or chemicals from entering the water. To ensure the smooth operation of the aquariums and to monitor fish health, Living Color’s aquarium husbandry team inspect and service the aquariums 2 hours prior to each game.

FishChannel: What are the species of fish that can be found in the aquariums?
Francis Yupangco:  In a further measure to ensure that the aquariums are as environmentally friendly as possible, the Miami Marlins Aquariums feature some  fish species that were raised in captivity from some of Florida’s leading aquaculture facilities including Porkfish, a popular local gamefish bred at the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory.

FishChannel: What kind of learning materials regarding the aquariums, if any will be available to those who attend baseball games?
Francis Yupangco: No learning materials have been printed/distributed to date. However a complete fish portfolio has been provided to the organization for their reference.

FishChannel: Will the aquariums be available for fans to see up close and personal?
Francis Yupangco: Fans seated in the stadiums Diamond Club will have seats right behind the aquariums and will be able to go right up to the aquariums to enjoy the fish close up and personal.

Below is a partial list of species that will be housed in the new Marlins Stadium aquariums:

Article Categories:
Fish · Saltwater Fish
Common NameScientific Name
Queen AngelfishHolocanthus ciliaris
PorkfishAnisotremus virginicus
French AngelfishPomacanthus paru
Magestic AngelfishPomacanthus narvacus
Threespot AngelfishApolemichthys trimaculatus
Longfin BannerfishHeniochus acuminatus
Orangeshoulder SurgeonfishAcanthurus olivaceous
Sailfin SurgeonfishZebrasoma veliferum
Spotted Unicorn SurgeonfishNaso brevirostris
Vlamingi SurgeonfishNaso vlamingi
Sohal TangAcanthurus sohal
Undulate TriggerfishBallistipus undulatus
Pinktail TriggerfishMelichthys vidua
Yellowtail Coris WrasseCoris gaimard
Lunare WrasseThalassoma lunare
Clown Coris WrasseCoris aygula
Spanish HogfishBodianus rufus
Cuban HogfishBodianus pulchellus
Racoon ButterflyfishChaetodon lunula
Threadfin ButterflyfishChaetodon auriga
Saddled ButterflyfishChaetodon ephippium
Blue Ring AngelfishPomacanthus annularus
Achilles TangAcanthurus achilles
Convict SurgeonfishAcanthurus triostegus
Bird WrasseGomphosus varius
Slingjaw WrasseEpibulus insidiator
Pastele Ring WrasseHologymnus doliatus
Checkerboard WrasseHalichoeres hortulanus