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The Tennessee Aquarium is a public aquarium in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that is run by a non-profit organization. It first opened on the banks of the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga in 1992, and it underwent a major expansion in 2005. More than 12,000 creatures representing almost 800 species live at the aquarium, which has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1993.

The facility has been visited by over 20 million individuals, with the twenty-millionth tourist arriving in March 2013. It is routinely ranked as one of the best public aquariums in the country.

To examine species in their native habitats, researchers traveled to the Komodo Islands, Madagascar, and Indonesia.


The exhibits of the Tennessee Aquarium are situated in two buildings: the original River Journey building, which opened in 1992, and the Ocean Journey addition, which opened in 2005.

River Journey

River Journey features brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout.

The River Journey complex is a 130,000-square-foot edifice that is similar to a twelve-story building in height. When it first opened, it was the world’s largest freshwater aquarium, with a capacity of 400,000 US gallons (1,500,000 L). It follows the route of a raindrop from high in the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, and is organized around the topic of the River’s Story. This theme runs through around two-thirds of the facility’s exhibits, with the rest devoted to smaller aquatic exhibits featuring creatures from all over the world.

Major exhibits in River Journey include:

River Otter Falls is part of the Appalachian Cove Forest, which opened in 2014 and replaced a smaller display of North American river otters. There are also free-flying North American songbirds, natural fish species such as shiners, daces, darters, redhorse, hog suckers, and trout, as well as an artificial cascade cascading into a 30,000-gallon (110,000-L) mountain sink.

Delta Country is a museum dedicated to the wildlife of the Mississippi River Delta. Alligator Bayou, which opened in 2015 and boasts a group of baby American alligators and a couple of alligator snapping turtles, is the focus of the park.

Potbelly seahorses on exhibit in River Journey 

The Amazon River, Congo (Zaire) River, Fly River, and other rivers are represented in Rivers of the World, which includes numerous small to medium-sized aquaria. Miguel Wattson, the aquarium’s electric eel, is housed in this gallery and “communicates” with the public via a Twitter account to which pre-programmed tweets are sent whenever it discharges electricity. The eel’s electricity was also used to power the lights on a Christmas tree in December 2019.
The Tennessee River gallery features species that can be found in the Tennessee River valley. Its highlight is the 145,000-US-gallon (550,000-L) Nickajack Lake tank, which houses species that inhabit the Tennessee River’s intensively regulated waters, such as American paddlefish and channel catfish.

Alligator gar, arapaima, big pangasius, redtail catfish, and gigantic freshwater stingray are among the giant freshwater fish seen in River Giants.Turtles, seahorses, frogs, and other aquatic and marine life can also be seen on River Journey. 

Ocean Journey

Ocean Journey, a 60,000 square foot structure with a ten-story height, first opened in 2005 and holds 700,000 US gallons of water (2,600,000 L). It appears to continue the River Journey’s concept by following the river into the Gulf of Mexico. Hyacinth macaws, a touch tank with miniature sharks and rays, and a butterfly garden with free-flying South American species are among the attractions at this institution.

Major exhibits in Ocean Journey include:

Sea nettle on exhibit in Ocean Journey

The Secret Reef, with 618,000 US gallons, is the largest tank in Ocean Journey (and the Tennessee Aquarium) (2,340,000 L). It depicts the habitat of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico on three levels, including an underwater walk-through feature called the Undersea Cavern. Sand tiger sharks, bonnethead sharks, and green sea turtles are among the animals on display at the Secret Reef, one of which, Oscar, is a rescue animal lacking most of its rear flippers owing to injuries sustained from a boat and a predator.

Corals, jellyfish, cuttlefish, enormous Pacific octopuses, and Japanese spider crabs are among the invertebrates on display at the Boneless Beauties and Jellies: Living Art exhibitions. Jellies: Living Art is a collaboration with the Hunter Museum of American Art, and it contains rotating art glass displays in addition to the jellyfish. Penguins’ Rock, which has macaroni and gentoo penguins swimming in a 16,000-US-gallon (61,000-L) tank on the beach. 

Offsite activities

The Tennessee Aquarium has two public offsite facilities in addition to its exhibit halls. The River Gorge Explorer, a 65-foot catamaran tour boat, departs from the public pier in Ross’s Landing Park, adjacent to the aquarium, for daily tours of the surrounding Tennessee River Gorge and other sites along the Tennessee River. There is also an IMAX 3D theater at the aquarium.


1 Broad St
Chattanooga, TN 37402
+1 423-265-0695

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