Kim, Todd, Cindy, and I drove up to Tennessee for a day trip to the Aquarium at Chattanooga. The Aquarium is famous for its huge freshwater exhibits of lake and river fish, but they’ve also recently completed a saltwater aquarium, which made it double the fun!

The Aquarium is built on a complex down by the river, and sprinkled throughout the complex are fountains, pools, and streams built into the concrete and designed for children to play in them. All of the waterworks eventually led down to this fountain and pool that filtered out to the river. Moms, don’t worry – there’s a retainer wall hidden beneath the bridge that prevents children from drifting out to sea.

Each of the Aquarium buildings had a special exhibit seperated off from the major tanks. On the freshwater side, they displayed sea dragons and seahorses.

We quickly learned that the low lights in the aquarium and the glass walls of the tanks did not lend themselves to ideal conditions for photography. Some of the animals were kind enough to drift in place long enough for us to get off a good shot.

Most, like invertibrates in the saltwater special display, came out rather ghostly.

The freshwater side also had a good selection of alligators and turtles, but the turtles were rather active.

On top of the saltwater exhibit they had built a butterfly room. There were butterflies everywhere, and children and moms as well. They even had a display of active, living cocoons, which was very cool.

This guy thinks he’s a leaf, and he nearly had me fooled.

This is the one very large, very tame moth. He would walk from fingertip to fingertip, obliging whoever wanted to hold him at the moment. You can just make out on the picture of Cindy holding him that those four large spots on his wings are translucent!

I should describe the main tanks in the Aquarium now. There were two very large tanks on the saltwater side, and three or four on the freshwater side, and each was multiple stories and represented a particular location or type of habitat. The saltwater side was large enough for schools of fish to avoid the circling sharks, and for rays, barracuda, and several groups of two or more feet in length to swim without bothering each other.

The freshwater side showed the progression from a small mountain stream to a waterfall pool to a large, still lake and down to the delta. Each location had its own tank, and there were also numerous small tanks for specific environments (like a Japanese river or a Chinese river or a West African river).

After we’d left the aquarium, we stopped at the IMAX theater for 2 (two!) 3D movies in a row. The first was labelled “Sharks!”, but only about half of it was dedicated to sharks, and the rest of it made it’s way around the ocean. The second was a simulation of a safari through Southern Africa from the vantage point of the back of a jeep. Both were worth watching and a great way to end the excursion!