One of the highlights of the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park is the Steinhart Aquarium, which not only celebrates the significant part that water plays in the world, but also houses a living collection of animals and marine-creatures from across the globe. From watching the antics of the African penguin colony to viewing the graceful movements of sharks and stingrays, visitors gain access to a wealth of captivating galleries and exhibits from both the first floor and the basement floor of the Academy.
Highlights of the Steinhart Aquarium
To enjoy the many features of the Steinhart Aquarium, you must purchase a ticket to the Academy of Sciences. In addition to the special exhibits and programs held at the Academy, the Aquarium is home to a collection of fascinating sea-dwelling creatures, as well as animals that live outside of the water. As you tour the various galleries, you’ll have a chance to learn about and experience the diversity of plants, creatures and landscapes from around the world.
Galleries and primary exhibits of the Aquarium include:
• Philippine Coral Reef Gallery – As more than 4,000 vibrant-colored reef fish and other interesting creatures swim about; the 25-foot Philippine Coral Reef Tank not only accommodates a diverse collection of marine creatures with 212,000 gallons of water, but is also one of the largest displays of a living coral reef in the world. In addition to the more than 100 species of fish decorating the tank (such as Skunk Clownfish and Unicornfish), other creatures found in the Philippine Coral Reef Gallery include soft and hard corals, brownbanded bamboo shark, blue-legged hermit crabs, blacktip reef sharks, and stingrays.
• Northern California Coast Gallery – In an attempt to bring visitors closer to the habitat of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, the Academy created the Northern California Coast Tank to mirror the rocky landscape of the state. Creatures calling the 100,000-gallon tank their home include eels, Swell Shark, anemones, Giant Spined Sea Star, rockfish, herring, snails, rockfish, and purple sea urchins. Nearby tanks feature a giant Pacific octopus and giant sea bass. Kids especially enjoy the Discovery Tidepool, where visitors are allowed to touch and inspect a range of marine creatures.
• Water Planet Gallery – The Water Planet Gallery zeroes in on the role that water plays in the world and helps sustain the survival of all living things. Here, visitors encounter and can explore dozens of tanks in varying sizes– some holding up to 5,000 gallons of water. The variety of fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and other invertebrates contained in the tanks are constantly changing, and have housed the likes of the Burmese Vine Snake, Desert Pupfish, Glass Catfish, and Vietnamese Mossy Frog.
• Rainforests of the World Gallery – Not all of the creatures in the Aquarium have fins and swim in the water, the Academy is home to an exciting lineup of live animals that include exotic reptiles to free-flying birds and butterflies. There’s even a cave with bats to enter…if you dare. The Rainforests of the World Gallery highlights some of the impressive plants and animals that thrive in locales such as Borneo, Madagascar, and Costa Rica. Creatures found in the Rainforests of the World include the Blue and Gold Macaw, Eyelash Viper, Giant Owl Butterfly, Peacock Bass, and electric eel.
• Tusher African Hall – Visitors have the chance to explore the natural setting, plants, and animals of sub-Saharan Africa at African Hall, where the star attractions of the show are the colony of 20 or so African penguins that delight visitors of all ages. Throughout the day, you can enjoy watching the penguins at feeding time. Some of the other sights at the African Hall include cichlids, Jackson’s Chameleons, Pancake Tortoises, and the White-throated Monitor Lizard.
• The Swamp Gallery – One of the features of the Swamp Gallery that calls the most attention is the albino American alligator named Claude – a rare find and favorite of Aquarium lovers both old and new. Take pleasure interacting with creatures that inquisitively stare back from an underwater window. Despite their name, take a gander at the curious-looking alligator gars, which are actually fish that look like gators. The Swamp Gallery is also home to venomous residents, such as the black widow spider and the Eastern Diamondback snake.
Programs at the Aquarium
In addition to seasonal and holiday-related activities and exhibits, Steinhart Aquarium also hosts regular programs at the Academy, such as:
• Penguin Feedings take place daily at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. with available audio. During feeding time, visitors catch a glimpse at the intriguing behaviors of the penguins – including the juicy romantic details and family quirks of the colony, as told by staff. The Aquarium has also set up a ‘penguin cam’ to deliver wide view angles of their habitat at the Academy, as well as underwater views to see the creatures swim and dart through their liquid surroundings. There’s even an app to download for Androids and iPhones, in case you’d like to take a peek at what the penguins are doing while you’re on the go.
• Coral Reef Dives are held on a daily basis at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., where the Academy’s divers entertain visitors with information and tales of the reef, including coral spawning and the activities of the resident clownfish.
Golden Gate Park Aquarium (Steinhart Aquarium)
Address: 55 Music Concourse Drive – inside the California Academy of Sciences
Phone: (415) 379-8000
Hours: Open daily from 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sundays (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.)
Cost: Included in price of California Academy of Sciences admission.