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[12/22/2015] Review of Aquarium of the Bay

Discussion in 'United States' started by jayjds2, 28 Feb 2016.

  1. jayjds2

    jayjds2 Well-Known Member

    10 Nov 2015
    Virginia, USA
    The Aquarium of the Bay is a small, non-profit aquarium situated on Pier 39 in San Francisco. It is accessed through an odd series of stairways, passages, and bridges. Its newest exhibit is for North American River Otters, and it has become quite popular.
    The Best:
    Offshore Tunnel:
    This tunnel, which goes through one of the aquarium's two largest tanks, provides viewing for most of its largest residents. It is themed after creatures which live in the deep waters of San Francisco Bay. There is simulated kelp throughout the exhibit, but the anemones are quite real. List of species (not much more to say): Pacific Mackerel, White Sturgeon, Shovelnose Guitarfish, Bat Ray, Striped Bass, Leopard Shark, Big Skate, Broadnose Sevengill Shark (the group of four were by far the most impressive things in the aquarium, sadly this species is only common along some coastlines), Lingcod, White Plumose Anemone, White Seabass, Soupfin Shark, Ocean Whitefish, Yellowtail Jack, and Sunflower Star. This wasn't bad, but like most things in the aquarium it was not quite up to the scale I am used to.
    The Average:
    Jellies Gallery, Bay Pipefish Exhibit, and Octopus and Friends Gallery:
    These are the three non-tunnel galleries on the bottom floor of the aquarium. The Jellies Gallery is the first that is encountered upon reaching the floor, and is not up to the scale of other jelly exhibits in the area. The three main tanks are for Japanese Sea Nettle, White Spotted Jelly, and Pacific Sea Nettle. Each is viewed through a rectangular glass viewing window. The backgrounds are either black or blue. An interestingly curved tank in the corner is home to Upside-Down Jellies. The last exhibit, a cylindrical tank in the middle, is home to the normal fluorescing Moon Jelly exhibit. It has an automatic light system that switches the color of the jellies. The lighting in this area is horrible for people like me who enjoy photographing jellies.
    The Octopus and Friends Gallery is a set of four exhibits that are home to a few different fish and invertebrates. The three smaller tanks are home to Red Abalone, Juvenile Rockfish (no species given, probably several), and Dungeoness Crab. Each could stand to be a bit larger. The other, larger exhibit in the gallery is home to the Giant Pacific Octopus and its poop-eating fishy friends. The exhibit is a large rectangle, with a generic pop-up viewing bubble for children in the middle. This bubble effectively ruins most photos. The fish of an unspecified species were clearly just there for filtration purposes, which was demonstrated after the octopus decided to give us all a nice show.
    The Bay Pipefish Exhibit has a fairly self-explanatory name. It is a small tank for a few Bay Pipefish. There is horribly artificial sea grass in parts of it, with maybe five Bay Pipefish in the tank. There was also a pop-up bubble in this tank.
    Overall, these three sections, even when combined, are still quite average when compared to many other exhibits. They had a nice assortment of species- nothing special with the jellies, nothing too rare with the octopus, and of course the common pipefish. They bring attention to some of the lesser-known animals in the bay.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Nearshore Tunnel:
    This tunnel is self explicably focused on displaying creatures of the San Francisco Bay that are found closer to shore. It is home to a wider variety of fish and invertebrates than the other tunnel, and is the first 350,000 gallon tank that the visitor encounters. It has more simulated kelp than the other tank, and is home to smaller sharks rather than the bigger ones. Species List: Giant Sea Bass, Club-Tipped Anemone, Warty Sea Cucumber, Swell Shark, Giant Spined Star, Ocean Whitefish, Tiger Rockfish, Blacksmith Chromis, California Sheephead, Opaleye, Bat Star, Barred Sand Bass, Kelp Greenling, Brown Rockfish, Garibaldi, Boccacio, Blue Rockfish, Rainbow Surfperch, Northern Anchovy, Striped Surfperch, Walleye Surfperch, Pacific Angelshark, Halfmoon, Pile Surfperch, Vermillion Rockfish, Cabezon, Pink Sea Star, Flag Rockfish, Black Rockfish, Pacific Sardine, Wolf Eel, Copper Rockfish, and Senorita Wrasse. While this tank certainly has a more impressive list of species, it is not as good as the other because there is so little movement (mostly rockfish and benthic sharks).
    Discover the Bay and Entrance Gift Shop:
    This is the first series of exhibits that the visitor sees upon entering. To reach the aquarium, the visitor actually has to go through a separate gift shop (no fee). The shop has one tank, and it is freshwater. Its contents are Longnose Angelfish, Peruvian Pufferfish, Gold Marble Angelfish, Cardinal Tetra, and Rummy Nose Tetra among a very lush setting.
    The Discover the Bay exhibit is not very extensive, and is the only other part of the aquarium to feature non-San Francisco Bay species (aka tropical fish). The center of attention after admission is a cylindrical tank holding hundreds of Northern Anchovies. Next was a flat-backed cylinder tank with a Moray Eel (unspecified, appeared to be California), Spiny Lobster, Blue-Banded Goby, Sea Hare, and Garibaldi. This was followed by a tank themed with bottom dwellers- Sand Dollar, One-Spot Fringehead, English Sole, and Tube-Dwelling Anemone. There was also a much larger cylindrical tank than previously, and it contained Giant Green Anemone, Swell Shark, Striped Surfperch, and a few unsigned fish. The only on-display tropical tank contained the normal tropical fish: Percula Clownfish, Pink Skunkfish, Maroon Clownfish, Blue Tang, and a few others. The last tank in this area was home to more Bay species: Shiner Surfperch, Red Abalone, Monkeyface Eel, Giant Green Anemone, more Rockfish, and Purple Urchin. These two sections set the precedent for the fairly average aquarium.
    Touch the Bay:
    Until recently, this was the last section of the aquarium. It contains the aquarium's two touchpools, as well as a few other exhibits and a little kid "lab" area. The first exhibit (also the first exhibit on the top floor after ascending from the tunnel area) demonstrates why we should pick up after ourselves- it is a group of California Toads among a "polluted" habitat of artificial beer bottles. This is followed by the Shark and Ray Touchpool. This is the generic touchpool that allows visitors to go home and brag about how they touched a shark. The highlight species in here are Leopard Shark, Bat Ray, and Big Skate. Habitats in the area are a terrarium for California Kingsnake, a terrarium with plenty of space for Western Pond Turtles, a weird rocky exhibit for Chinchilla (the sign features a fun question- How many times do Chinchillas poop a day? Answer- almost 200), a large terrarium with a view for several (presumably rescued) Cherry-Head Red Footed Tortoises (color morph), a good exhibit for Rosy Boa, an exhibit with lots of vertical height for Pacific Tree Frogs, and one final exhibit for Blue-Tongued Skink. All of them are fairly adequate. The second-to-last exhibit in the aquarium is the California Touchpool- featuring lots of invertebrates from California. Some of the highlighted species are Giant Green Anemone, Giant Spiny Star, Purple Sea Urchin, California Sea Cucumber, and Sunflower Star. This section was much more educational than others in the aquarium, and (almost) stayed true to the California theme.
    River Otters: Watershed Ambassadors:
    This exhibit is a new exhibit, bringing North American River Otters to the aquarium. It is certainly spacious enough, but the land area sadly has no natural substrate :(. The water area, however, is a three level "stream" with underwater viewing. It was very nice, and the mock rock was actually pleasing. The land area is sort of formulated as a hill, but obviously on a small scale as the exhibit is indoors. There were den areas for the otters. Several days throughout the season, the otters were treated to a "snow day"- they received a small amount of snow as enrichment. This habitat was nice, but I wish they would have brought in some natural substrate for the otters. The lighting is also poor, and the viewing is entirely through glass.
    Unique or Rare Species:
    None. :(
    Tour Insight:
    This is a new section of my reviews. For facilities that I receive behind the scenes tours on (whether I pay or not) I will detail what the behind the scenes of the facility looks like. The tour I took at the Aquarium of the Bay was the shark feeding tour. The premise of the tour was that we'd get to feed sharks in the Offshore Tunnel, but it actually involved quite a bit more than that. The first thing our guide took us (me, my mother, two other customers, and a supervisor) to was the kitchen. Obviously, this is where the food is prepared for most of the animals in the aquarium. There were interesting informational signs up for the kitchen staff such as tunnel feeding diets, schedules, and other food-oriented information that the normal doesn't receive. When the aquarium receives the fish's food (restaurant quality fish), it is stored in a whopping -15 degree Fahrenheit freezer. Three days prior to feeding, the food is moved to a much warmer (still cold) refrigerator for thawing out. The guide then showed us the pumps and filtration room, explaining how the water was taken directly from the Bay. This was followed by a trip to the quarantine facilities- there are five quarantine tanks on two different ends of the tunnel tanks. As usual, the quarantine tanks are for new fish, sick fish, or hold fish that don't fit into other displays. An interesting thing that the Aquarium does is rotate its Wolf Eels. The quarantine tanks are colder than the tunnel tanks, so the wolf eels occasionally get uncomfortable in the tunnels and are rotated (I pity whoever has to catch eels on a regular basis). After this we got to go above the two tunnel tanks, but we only fed the Offshore tunnel. Despite the name of the tour, the visitor is rather unlikely to feed the sharks in the tunnel because a) faster fish get to the food first and b) sharks only eat when they need. The area on the other side of the tunnel holds a lot of things- a tropical tank, shark and skate eggs, and two more quarantine tanks. These quarantine tanks each held a Pacific Angelshark on my visit- two of the offspring from when the aquarium successfully bred the species for the first time in captivity (for whatever reason, they have gotten rid of the parents- not sure in what way- and there likely won't be any more attempts for breeding for a while). Back here was also the nursery for jellies- I saw Pacific Sea Nettle and White Spotted Sea Jelly. After crossing back to the other side, we saw where the remaining tropical tanks and Moon Jelly nursery was. We also performed a water quality test and we saw the clinical room. They have an interesting strategy for ridding new fish of parasites- give it a 15 second freshwater bath and all isopods and leeches will immediately die. This was the end of our tour, but it was a nice addition to this smaller aquarium.
    The Aquarium of the Bay, while a smaller facility, is still a nice one. However, I would recommend the CA Academy of Sciences (Steinhart Aquarium), San Francisco Zoo, or Oakland Zoo as better attractions in the area, even though I was only able to visit one of them. It ended with a score of 35, putting it at second place for aquariums. This is the second review in as many days, but don't expect another tomorrow. The previous facility I reviewed was the Los Angeles Zoo, and the next will be the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Have a nice day, everyone! ;)

    Also, photos will be up tomorrow or the next day.
    Last edited: 28 Feb 2016