Key West Aquarium

November 22, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Key West

The Key West Aquarium is located at the foot of Whitehead Street in downtown Key West. The historic building is located adjacent to the Clinton Square Market and just behind the Shipwreck Museum.

The aquarium opened to the public in 1935 after a two-year construction phase. The building was the first of its kind to use an open air concept that let natural light illuminate the tanks. Unfortunately only a few months after it opened a hurricane struck the middle Keys and crippled the economy in Key West. In 1943 the US Government leased the Aquarium building and it was used as a rifle range by the Navy and Coast Guard. After the lease was up the building was returned to the city and restored to its original Key West aquarium in 1946. At this time the aquarium had become a very popular Key West attraction and continues to be to this day.

The aquarium in Key West is open from 10AM – 6PM daily

Tours and feedings commence four times a day starting at 11AM, 1PM, 3PM and 4:30PM. A guide will meet those interested in taking the tour in front of the touch tank at the entrance to the aquarium. Here the tour guide will go over what it in the touch tank and allow adults and children to pick up and handle conch, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, starfish and horseshoe crabs.

The tour guide will then proceed to the next tank behind the touch tank to feed the sting rays. With the sting rays there are two albino sea turtles, sea trout, ladyfish and lookdowns. This is not a touch tank. Next the guide will turn to the next pool in the center of the main aquarium building. This is where the nurse sharks are. There are several larger ones but if there is a smaller one willing the tour guide will catch it in a net and while holding it he or she will allow guests to touch the marine animal on it’s tail. Nurse sharks have sand-paper like skin.

Next the tour will proceed outside to view the two rescue turtle tanks and visitors can view a shark feeding in the main outdoor area. There is also a newer sting ray tank where visitors to the Key West aquarium can actually feed a sting ray.

The tour will then go back through the aquarium to the side outdoor area. The large pool in this area is home to several large tarpon, barracuda, redfish, parrotfish, snapper and grouper. There are also several large jack crevalle that patrol the waters.

A newer addition to this section of the aquarium is the American Alligator and slider turtle exhibit. This exhibit allows viewers to see the alligators and turtles in and out of the water. At the opposite end of this section of the building there is a very large albino python. Occasionally the tour guides will take the reptile out of its habitat for some show and tell in front of the aquarium.