Giant Ocean Tank at the New England Aquarium

Myrtle swims past a crowd of tropical fishes in the newly renovated Giant Ocean Tank.

The New England Aquarium (NEA) has undergone renovations to the tune of almost $18 million over the course of the past 10 months, including the exciting transformation of the popular Giant Ocean Tank. University of Massachusetts Boston students can visit the new and improved NEA for a discounted admission fee of $8 with a valid student ID.

The Giant Ocean Tank, the main attraction of the NEA, reopened July 1 after undergoing serious reconstruction. While it was previously home to about 700 fishes, the tank now holds 2,000 thanks to the new expanded Caribbean coral reef. Prior to renovations, the Giant Ocean Tank contained about 90 species, whereas now there are close to 130 different species in the exhibit, including blacknose sharks, trumpetfish, and yellow goatfish.

Since being renovated, the tank now has crystal-clear acrylic windows, a reflective ceiling dome, and a ramp providing access for wheelchairs and strollers. At the very top of the tank is the Yawkey Coral Reef Center, a new exhibit featuring aquatic animals such as frogfish and the dwarf seahorse. This new attraction gives visitors the chance to see some of the smaller animals up close behind a vibrant Caribbean reef.

The new Blue Planet Action Center is another impressive addition to check out at the NEA. This interactive exhibit highlights the impacts of climate change on corals, threats facing the endangered North Atlantic right whale, and efforts to protect seafood resources through sustainable fishing practices. At the Blue Planet Action Center, visitors get to see juvenile sharks and lobsters between one and two years old.

It may be easy to get carried away with all of these new attractions, but don’t forget to explore some of the older exhibits during your next visit to the NEA. After all, the Giant Ocean Tank would be nothing without Myrtle, the 560-pound green sea turtle who is between 80 and 90 years old, making her the oldest animal at the NEA.

The adorable waddling penguins are reason enough to get over to the NEA as quickly as you can. A lively colony of more than 80 adult and juvenile penguins can be spotted bustling around their rocky home on Level 1 surrounding the Giant Ocean Tank. Three species live there — the rockhopper, African, and little blue penguins.

Head over to the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center, an open-air exhibit where seals and sea lions make a splash. There you’ll see the sleek stars play and learn new skills from their trainers. Then check out the Pacific Reef Community, home to 70 different kinds of tropical rainbow-colored fishes.

Make it a point to stop by the Amazon Rainforest, where you’ll find piranhas, electric eels, and poison dart frogs. And don’t be afraid to head over to the Trust Family Foundation Shark and Ray Touch Tank, where you can feel rays glide under your hand while learning interesting facts about the fascinating creatures.

Free with a valid college ID, students can check out the newly renovated Giant Ocean Tank and view a screening of Great White Shark 3D in IMAX on Sept. 17 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at College Open House. No registration is required for this event.

For more information about the aquarium and its new features, visit neaq.org. Go to umb.edu to learn more about student discounts and activities. 

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