Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies,Gatlinburg,TN
Happy June! This month’s feature comes from Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, TN! Thank you so much to Mary Phillips and her staff who helped put this together.
Please enjoy this month’s feature article!
Q: How many different species and galleries do you have in your aquarium?
A: Over 400 species, 10 galleries with over 58 exhibits, hands-on & interactive stations containing more than 44 interactives plus a new yearly exhibit in the changeable exhibit room. Each new changeable exhibit contains hands-on & interactives.
Q: When planning & designing the aquarium, what was a definite must-have exhibit?
A: Shark Lagoon with underwater acrylic tunnel with a 340-foot glide path and touch pools such as Touch-A-Ray Bay and Horseshoe Crabs in the Discovery Center.
For Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies’ 10th Year Anniversary, Penguin Playhouse was a must-have with underwater acrylic tunnels including a full acrylic tunnel so that everyone could enjoy seeing penguins swimming from all angles. Penguin Playhouse supports SANCOBB and the African Black-footed Penguins as part of the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium.
Q: What was the most challenging exhibit to install?
A: Shark Lagoon with underwater acrylic tunnel with a 340-foot glide path. Shark Lagoon required the most theming, had the most acrylic panels to set and seal, and largest number of animals to be quarantined for exhibit.
Q: What is the most popular exhibit?
A: Shark Lagoon with underwater acrylic tunnel with a 340-foot glide path, Penguin Playhouse and Touch-A-Ray Bay.
Q: What types of hands-on experiences does the aquarium offer?
A: Daily – Touch a stingray, pet a horseshoe crab, multiple interactives throughout the entire aquarium
Additional programs that individuals can reserve – Penguin Encounter, Penguin Painting program, Splash with a Stingray, and various educational programs.
Q: How much food does the aquarium go through in one week for all of the species?
A: 1566.4 lbs.
Q: What are some of your top most unique species at the aquarium?
A: Seadragons, sawfish, flashlight fish, penguins and cuttlefish.
Q: What types of conservation programs does the aquarium do or participate in?
A: Green Initiatives & Conservations Efforts:
- LED Conversion
- Reduced electrical usage by 601,922 kwh annually
- Use waterless urinals reducing water consumption by 360,000 gallons of freshwater per year
- Recycle light bulbs, cooking oil, etc.
- Compost organic waste accumulated from exhibits to use as landscaping fertilizer
- Support SANCCOB through various events, fundraiseres and retail items made by our very own African Penguins
Partnership & Community Involvement:
- Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains
- Discover Life in America
- Friends of the Smokies
- Ijams Nature Center
- Keep Sevier Beautiful
- Knox County School District
- Leadership Sevier
- Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic
- National Marine Educators Association
- Sevier County Food Ministries
- Sevier County Humane Society
- Sevier County School District
- Smoky Mountain Home Educators Association
- Tennessee Educators of Aquatic & Marine Sciences
- Tennessee Science Teachers Assocation
- University of Tennessee Vet School
- Volunteers in Parks
Q: What is the one most important educational fact you hope visitors take away with them?
A: Conservation: What people do on a daily basis does affect the world oceans and all the animals within it. A better understanding of the animals and their environment.
Q: What is your personal favorite aspect of the aquarium?
A: Gives people a chance to see amazing animals that they would not have the opportunity to see on a regular basis or sometimes not at all.