20 Creatures You’ll Find When You Visit Blue Planet Aquarium
The underwater world is a fascinating place, home to thousands of unique creatures, from the ferocious-looking to the awe-inspiring. Blue Planet Aquarium brings the magic and mystery of the ocean to Cheshire, with more than 100 living displays of a whole host of sea creatures and other wildlife. You can also wander through the incredible Shark Tunnels, home to Europe’s largest collection of sharks.
Whatever the weather, the aquarium offers the perfect day-trip for families with children of all ages. We’ve explored 20 of the amazing creatures that live at Blue Planet Aquarium to get you excited ready for your visit.
Sand Tiger Shark
One of the stars of the show (in the aquarium’s Shark Tunnels and Aquatheatre) are the sand tiger sharks. Weighing up to a hefty 350lbs and growing as long as 3.2 metres, these sharks can look particularly fierce in the ocean – watch out for their some 250 needle-like teeth! Head over to the tunnels to meet Wilma, Flare, Alfie, Fergal, Storm and Betty!
In spite of its name, the lemon shark is not bright yellow – in actual fact, this shark can appear yellow at certain times, when light interacts with water. Their unusual colouration helps them to camouflage along the sandy seabed in shallow waters. They are rather picky eaters, tending to favour a specific type and size of food, such as bony fish, mollusks, and crustaceans.
Arguably one of the most distinctive sharks, the zebra shark (also called the leopard shark) has a series of patterns on its back. Fascinatingly, this pattern changes as the shark grows older; juveniles have stripes on their skin, whilst adults’ skin becomes more spotted. In the wild, you’ll usually find them along coral reefs and sandy flats.
One of the most incredible things about nurse sharks is that they can continue breathing when they are motionless, resting on the seafloor. Nurse sharks do this by facing against the water flow, pumping water through their mouths and gills. Most fish, including plenty of shark species, have to stay swimming to breathe.
Often considered one of the most beautiful and elegant sharks in the whole ocean, the blacktip shark has unusual markings on its fins, which make it easy to spot by divers as it glides through shallow waters. They are quite a sociable species too, seen swimming together.
Found in the mangrove swamps and tropical rivers of Central and South America, caiman crocodile species can measure anything from one metre to five metres in length. Astonishingly, female caimans can lay as many as 50 eggs, which can be more than 1.5 metres wide. They are carnivorous predators, often considered top of the food chain, but, sadly, caimans are hunted and exploited for their meat and skin.
Red-Eye Tree Frog
One of the most iconic frogs, the red-eye tree frog is a beautifully bright mix of colours and is just smaller than a teacup in size. Their vibrant bodies are thought to act as a way to thwart predators, distracting them so that the tree frogs can jump to safety in their tropical homelands of Central and South America. In spite of their colouration, these frogs aren’t actually venomous.
Golden Dart Frog
Considered the most poisonous creature on Planet Earth, the golden dart frog’s bright yellow colour goes hand in hand with its toxicity. Despite their tiny size (no more than 6cm long), what makes these frogs so deadly is the poison kept in glands beneath their skin. Just one milligram of its poison can kill 10 to 20 humans!
Arguably one of the most majestic-looking creatures in the ocean, starfish are completely unlike other fish – in fact, they’re technically not a fish at all, they’re more closely related to sand dollars and sea urchins. Just a few things that make this specie so incredible is that they have no brain and no blood, they eat inside out, and they can regenerate (albeit slowly).
There are more than 600 different species of cichlid in the while, 100 of which you can spot at Blue Planet Aquarium. One of their most noticeable features are their two sets of teeth – the front set are used to collect food, and the other set (in their throat) help to grind the food down. Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake, is abundant with cichlid species, inspiring the exhibition at the aquarium.
Due to thornback rays spending most of their time along sandy and muddy seabeds, and being rather large at up to 4 feet from wingtip to wingtip, they are often caught as bycatch by fishers, causing them to be near-threatened across UK shorelines. These rays get their name from the series of horns and spikes covering their bodies.
The long, skinny legs of spider crabs make these creatures look like everyone’s favourite creepy crawly. In spite of their numerous legs, the crabs are quite slow-moving. Their size makes them rather conspicuous, which is why they plant a garden of seaweed and sponges on their backs for camouflage. When they molt, they transfer this ‘garden’ to their new shells.
There are more than 120 species of pufferfish around the world, but what makes them all alike is their famous ‘inflatability’. As rather slow and clumsy swimmers, their skill of inflation is a way to protect themselves against predators and aid escape. Their highly elastic stomachs allow them to quickly ingest huge amounts of water, turning them into rotund ball-shapes. Many species contain a toxic chemical called tetrodotoxin, which is up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide! Some also have spines as an added deterrent for predators.
Found in coral reefs, queen triggerfish are considered ‘workers’ of the reef, turning over rocks, stirring up the sand, and biting off bits of coral. Their beautiful markings – a mix of yellow, blue-green, and purple – and large size of up to 60cm make them one of the more striking fish among the plethora of creatures living in coral reefs. Interestingly, they blow water at sea urchins – causing the sea urchins to turn over and allowing the queen triggerfish to attack the soft area underneath the urchin for food.
Piranhas have a rather fearsome reputation, and red-bellied piranhas are no different. Their infamous razor-sharp teeth are startlingly self-sharpening and are so efficient that the fish can cut through steel. When they move in shoals, these piranhas are known to strip an unsuspecting creature to a skeleton in a matter of minutes.
The serpentine freshwater predators, electric eels, are infamous for the enormous electrical current that can run through their bodies to help stun prey and fend off predators. The electric organs in their bodies are sometimes likened to tiny batteries, storing power ready to invoke shocks of up to 600 volts. Strangely, these fish cannot survive underwater forever – they have to come to the water’s surface frequently to breathe.
One of the most popular and instantly recognisable fish, thanks to its starring role in the Finding Nemo franchise, the clownfish is even more incredible than you might think. This bright orange coral reef fish is one of the few creatures that can change gender. If the dominant female in the group dies, the male becomes the alpha female and the next largest fish transforms into the breeding male.
Sometimes called saucer jellies, moon jellyfish are found in many oceans around the world, and have become more common along British coasts. They appear almost translucent with four beautiful purple-coloured circular parts in their centres, which are their reproductive organs. In terms of size, these ethereal creatures can be as small as 5cm or as big as 40cm in diameter.
The dazzlingly vibrant eyelash viper has another distinguishing feature aside from its colour – a set of modified scales above each eye make the snake look as though it has eyelashes, which help it to better camouflage. Its very large fangs allow it to inject prey with venom, making the snake a deadly (but incredibly successful) hunter.
Also referred to as a spotted catshark, the spotted dogfish is one of the most common sharks found in UK waters, especially along the south and west coasts. Their slender tan or light brown bodies are covered in small dark spots, giving them their name. They’re well-known for being scavengers, feeding on pretty much anything they can find, whether that’s other fish and crustaceans or even worms.
You can see all of these 20 fascinating creatures – and many more – at Blue Planet Aquarium. Book your tickets online for special offers and seasonal discounts throughout the year.