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St. Petersburg Oceanarium (Saint Petersburg)

86 Marata Street, Saint Petersburg (tel.: +7 812 448-00-77, +7 812 572-44-47), Metro station: "Pushkinskaya".


The idea of a Saint Petersburg Oceanarium belongs to the Rubin Closed-Jointed Stock Company, and this idea was implemented by the Finnish architect Hannu Laitila. Saint Petersburg Oceanarium (the Oceanarium, for short) displays a living collection that contains over 4,500 exhibits of fish and water invertebrates belonging to almost 150 species.

Visitors of the Oceanarium have an opportunity to see common as well as exotic freshwater dwellers, to get acquainted with sea, tropical fish and other rare fish, to visit sharks and to escape into the magic world of coral reefs.

The area of 5,000 square meters (54,000 square feet) houses 32 aquariums that contain over 1.5 million litres (330,000 gallons) of water. The largest aquarium contains around 750,000 litres (165,000 gallons) of water, while the smallest one contains 300 litres (66 gallons).

An aquarium is a small part of a real lake, river or sea placed into an artificial environment. Its condition must be managed continuously. Special departments of the Oceanarium are responsible for managing and maintaining the living patches of nature.

Everything starts from planning: animals of which geographic area do we want to settle in the aquariums?

The chief aquarian selects fish, decides on which species occupy a particular aquarium and manages the conditions of these artificial ecosystems. It is also him or her who inspects newly brought fish and other water creatures and ensures their acclimatisation. Employees of the Professional Fishkeeping Group work directly with animals under his supervision. These employees are responsible for maintaining the aquariums and feeding their dwellers.

The chief ichthyopathologist ("fish pathologist") is the one who continuously monitors health conditions of the fish and other water creatures. He or she determines the time and procedure of letting the water animals to the aquariums on display. If needed, employees of the Professional Fishkeeping Group take medical measures — preventive and treatment — under his or her supervision.

Water quality is an important aspect of the aquarium maintenance. The water for the aquariums is taken from the water supply system of Saint Petersburg, but is subjected to additional treatment such as filtration using coal, sand or membrane osmotic filters, depending on how the water is used. The sea water is prepared using the real sea salt from the Red Sea. All the aquariums of the Oceanarium employ a closed circuit method. As the water evaporates from the aquariums of the sea area, fresh water is added to these aquariums in order to maintain a natural level of salinity.

The environmental support systems of the aquariums include mechanic and biological filters as well as protein skimmers. In addition to classical filters, the large aquariums are equipped with ultraviolet water treatment systems in order to prevent development of infectious diseases.

Employees of the hydro-chemical laboratory analyse the quality of the aquariums' water on a daily basis.

The diver department is responsible for maintaining the large freshwater and seawater aquariums. The tasks of the divers include managing conditions of internal walls and bottoms of the aquariums and their underwater decorative elements as well as direct monitoring of behaviour and condition of the fish.

A unique show featuring trained sea predators, sharks, attracts a multitude of visitors to the enormous glass wall of the Main Aquarium. It was always considered that sharks were primitive animals that did not lead themselves to training. However, it only takes several minutes for visitors to see with their own eyes that man undeservingly did not recognise abilities of these most ancient dwellers of the oceans. Moreover, people are surprised to realise that every shark has its own character and that sharks, just like people, may be jealous, attached and like enjoying themselves in diver's arms.

Every employee of the Oceanarium involved in maintaining the aquariums and attending to the animals has a higher biology education and is a specialist in his or her area of expertise.

The exposition of the Oceanarium is fascinating. It is divided into the following sections:
– Russia's North West;
– Tropical Forests;
– Life in Caves;
– Rocky Coasts;
– Main Aquarium;
– Coral Reefs.

Russia's North West.

This area is a starting point for the journey around the enigmatic underwater world of our planet. By the very entrance, visitors encounter the most typical dwellers of the North West waters.

The natural conditions of the Russia's North West are extremely varied and favourable for the dwellers of the underwater world. This enormous area contains a multitude of rivers, large and small lakes where one may find various species of the freshwater fauna, and at the same time this area includes the Gulf of Finland with its sea animals.

Leningrad Region alone features around 110 species of fish. The greatest number of species, 58, falls onto the Gulf of Finland. This is due to the fact that the gulf is a temporary or permanent home for all kinds of fish: freshwater fish, migratory fish and sea fish.

The carp family fish amount to almost a third of all the fish of the North West region. This includes species that prefer fast-flowing water (such as vimba vimba, ziege, gudgeon, the European chub, and the common carp) and species that usually inhabit rivers with slow, peaceful water current or in small lakes (such as tench and crucian carp). Some species of fish (such as ide, bream, roach and the common bleak) may inhabit very different types of water bodies.

The North West is also inhabited by fish that has moved in from other regions. For example, lately European water bodies have widely been settled by the extremely colourful Japanese carp. The story of the American brown bullhead is particularly interesting. In 1947, during the hungry post-war years, it was brought to Russia with an intention to breed it for food. However, it did not become widely spread, but sometimes it may be encountered in Russia's water bodies. The exhibition is regularly updated, which makes it possible to see various fish of Russia's North West.

Apart from familiar fish, visitors may see fish that has become very rare: the aquarium possesses several species of sturgeons, including paddlefish, or the American sturgeon, which has a striking appearance.

Tropical Forests.

The name of this section reflects the fact that it contains various species of both freshwater and saltwater ichthyofauna ("fish fauna") from various geographical regions. Most species come from the tropical region, but the section also contains fish from the African Great Lakes, Asia's monsoon forests, South America's selva and mangroves.

Stretching along the equator, there is a belt of vegetation with wet and warm climate. These conditions are perfect for tropical rainforests. During the rain season, rivers and streams break their banks and flood enormous areas. Different species of fish used different methods to adapt to these conditions.

The River Amazon stretches for 6,565 kilometres (4,079 miles). The dense network of bends, turns and dead channels covering an enormous area, constantly changing living conditions when showers alternate with periods of fervent heat, turned out to be the perfect environment for the Earth's richest and most varied ichthyofauna. Ichthyologists ("fish scientists") counted around 2,500 species of fish in this area, which makes a third of all the freshwater fish of our planet. The Oceanarium displays such unique Amazon's dwellers as the famous piranha, dragonfish, freshwater stringrays and other exotic species of fish.

Mangroves are trees and shrubs that grow on periodically flooded sections of sea coasts and river mouths as well as on coral reefs or offshore islands protected from breaking waves and storms. Mangroves are widely spread primarily in wet tropical regions, along the coasts of East Africa, South Asia, Australia, and Oceania.

The Oceanarium displays such curious mangrove dwellers as discuses, several species of shrimp and archerfish (small-sized schooling fish that "shoot" insects by spitting jets of water).

Life in Caves.

In this section, visitors find themselves in a cave that brings them to a rocky sea coast. Here, one may see the seahorse, which is the emblem of the Oceanarium, and the very frightening sea devil.

Rocky Coasts.

Having entered the Rocky Coasts section, visitors if lucky may see how the famous anglerfish hunts its prey. This fish received this name because of its peculiar hunting method: the first ray of its dorsal fin has moved to its head and has turned a "fishing rod", which has a bait at its end that serves to attract unwitting prey.

Having visited the Oceanarium's cave, one will feel first-hand the unlimited power of breaking sea waves.

The sea coasts are arguably the most interesting places on the planet. They come in different types: steep and low-sloped, sandy and rocky. The animals that inhabit these places are also varied and curious.

Open aquariums allow visitors to see how starfish feed itself; what the life is like for very small (not exceeding 50 cm (20 inches)) bamboosharks; and how hermit crabs try on their new shells. Most probably, from the very beginning visitors will not notice attentive eyes of rays and flatfish observing them closely from the deceptively empty aquarium.

Main Aquarium.

The Main Aquarium is the "gem" of the Oceanarium; the Main Aquarium's volume is 750,000 litres (165,000 gallons), and it features the only Russia's underwater tunnel, which is 35-meter long and is equipped with a moving walkway. The depth of the Main Aquarium ranges from 3 metres (10 feet) to 5 metres (16.5 feet), and visitors are separated from dwellers of the underwater world with a 8-centimetre (3-inch) acrylic glass. It is absolutely safe and extremely exciting to stay in the tunnel: one may see the underwater life with his or her own eyes.

The Main Aquarium is inhabited by 5 species of sharks, with their length ranging from 50 centimetres (20 inches) to almost 2.5 metres (8 feet). Morays hide in secluded caves; and groupers, giant sea perches that hunt at night, sleep during the day in the shade of flat corals. Having lost its host, suckerfish rush about in search of a new "taxi cab", suitable in size.

Visitors may see The Shark Show, an unforgettable spectacle where professional divers prove that not only seals and dolphins, but also sharks, the legendary sea predators, let themselves to training.

Coral Reefs.

Coral Reefs is the last section of the Oceanarium's exhibition. A coral reef is a complex natural community of various animal species that cooperate like different parts of the same organism. A coral reef is formed by millions of very little animals called coral polyps. The polyps extract calcium from seawater to form a lime "capsule" around each organism. New coral polyps develop on top of remains of previous generations, thereby adding to the reef. Coral reefs are directly interdependent and live in a very delicate balance. Coral colonies provide fish and other living creatures with shelter and protection, while receiving food and chemical substances necessary for life.

In the aquariums of this section, visitors may see rare exotic fish, underwater thickets of swaying corals of unbelievable colours, sea anemones, and clownfish, their permanent "tenants". The visitors will be amazed with incommunicable colourfulness and smartness of this corner of the tropical nature placed under the bleak sky of Saint Petersburg. Come here, have some rest for your soul, enjoy the colours of life, leave the Oceanarium and... come again!

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St. Petersburg Oceanarium