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Anton Dohrn Aquarium Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn: My Review

Discussion in 'Italy' started by Bradipo, 18 Apr 2012.

  1. Bradipo

    Bradipo Active Member

    Joined:
    7 Dec 2007
    Posts:
    28
    Location:
    Italy
    I apologise if another Zoochatter has posted something similar before (and also for my spelling/grammar), but I couldn’t find anything about the aquarium in Naples on this site and I thought it was about time we had a review of this little gem!


    L’acquario di Napoli is located within the semi-formal park, Villa Comunale, overlooking the Bay of Naples. It is easily accessible by public transport from both the central train station and the city centre, a 10 min walk from either Mergelina or Piazza Amedeo Metro stops (Linea 2). Established by the German scientist Anton Dohrn in 1874, the institute has significant historic and scientific importance, and to this day it operates as a centre of modern science. As well as the host of research projects coordinated by the institute, L’acquario di Napoli is affiliated with organizations including EAZA, EUAC and the local coastal watch authorities, providing rescue assistance and rehabilitation of local marine life, with an emphasis on sea turtle conservation.

    The aquarium building holds historic monument status and consists of two sympathetically restored ‘wings’ either side of a central courtyard, fenced with wrought iron Neptune tridents. Both the entire left hand wing and the upper floor of the right hand wing are for operations and behind-the-scenes laboratories, dedicated to the scientific work of the institute. The lower floor of the right hand wing is the site of the public aquarium.
    Once paying the very reasonable entrance fee (standard adult: 1.50 euro), the visitor enters what is, if not especially flamboyant, a wonderfully atmospheric example of late 1800’s architecture, that is the most subtly beautiful of any aquarium I have visited. Simple brick walls and pillars hold slightly vaulted ceilings and the floor is of stone. Approximately 23 display tanks in total are arranged in a long rectangular pattern around the perimeter of the building, with a central block of smaller tanks in the middle. Salt water is pumped directly from the sea in front, cleaned and circulated through the tanks, which are naturally lit by skylights. In keeping with the scientific and conservation roles of the institute, all of the inhabitants are Mediterranean species, found in the Gulf of Naples. All of the signage is of a good standard, backlit and provides basic information on the inhabitants (usually including the English name), however, due to the aquariums rescue and rehabilitation work, the regularly changing stock often makes labeling a little out of date: it is well worth spending some time looking for any surprises.

    The first exhibit encountered houses a range of rockpool species in a small, artificially lit, circular acrylic aquarium. Continuing in a clockwise direction around the perimeter of the building are larger tanks lined with volcanic rock and furnished to varying standards with rocks, planting, the occasional prop and sandy substrate. Along this wall, amongst many others, Conger Eel, John Dory, Stonefish and several marine invertebrates can be found as well as a beautiful display of Neptune Grass with interpretation explaining its importance to the Mediterranean Marine Ecosystem (in Italian only). On occasion, a large number of Squid shoal here, demonstrating their color-changing ability brilliantly and the odd rescued sea turtle. A particularly well planted tank houses a large number of Mediterranean Rainbow Wrasse.

    The back wall consists of the largest tank in the aquarium and houses many large fish species such as grouper, bass and remora. Partitions can be inserted into the tank walls, allowing the flexibility of being able to divide the tank into three sections, which seems very useful when the aquarium is hosting Green and Hawksbill Sea Turtles (which it does regularly) as they are normally located here.

    The last wall of larger tanks houses large Moray Eels, Spider Crabs and Grouper. Particular highlights include a quartet of Eagle Rays sharing a tank with Spotted Dogfish, a small but well-themed tank for Grey Mullet and Mediterranean Mussels in an under-harbor setting and a beautiful aquarium with a sunken fishing boat for the fascinating Flying and Tub Gurnards. At the end is a small touch pool with tidal pool species.

    The central rectangular block of exhibits house an interesting and diverse selection of smaller marine species, including the most active octopus I have ever seen, maybe I have been lucky, but it has never failed to be in motion on every one of my visits. Cuttlefish, Lobster, Seahorse, Gorgonian and the dinosaur-like Slipper Lobsters can be found in these tanks. One very effective display has a sandy substrate divided in half, with white sand on one side and black sand on the other, highlighting the color-changing camouflage abilities of Flounder excellently.

    On exiting the building there is a small, but very interesting, museum showcasing a selection of preserved specimens from the scientific library including fish embryos at various stages of development, taxidermy sea turtles from egg to adult and a preserved dolphin calf. Just outside here, is a live display of endangered Red Coral, which is more famous in Naples for being sold as jewelry, highlighting the importance of local marine conservation.

    To conclude, I have a strong affection for this small, but very important establishment and it’s work. Unless you are keen aquarium history fan, it is probably not worth visiting Naples solely for the aquarium, however, if you are in the city, it is well worth a visit – a fantastic little place!
     
  2. Bradipo

    Bradipo Active Member

    Joined:
    7 Dec 2007
    Posts:
    28
    Location:
    Italy
    You can also find some great photos of the acquarium from other members in the gallery Italy - other
     
  3. Goura

    Goura Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    20 Mar 2012
    Posts:
    301
    Location:
    Perth, WA, Australia
    The photos were taken on a visit to Naples a few years ago and after reading about the research institute i was keen to visit - strangely enough, my friends who had been born and have spent all their lives there hadn't even heard of it! It was their first ever visit.