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Seattle Aquarium & Butterflies

March 17th, 2009

Last week, my wife and I visited a friend in Seattle, and while I was there, I was able to visit the Seattle Aquarium and the butterfly exhibit at the Pacific Science Center. Upon entering the Seattle Aquarium you come to a huge floor-to-ceiling aquarium with all kinds of fish in it. After spending some time in front of that large tank, and walked around to a number of smaller saltwater aquariums.


Many of the saltwater aquariums there are the type that many hobbyists seem to be able to procure. They have a number of fan favorites including eels, clown fish, tangs, and various other fish you’d see in the movie Nemo.

Saltwater Aquarium

I was a little bit disappointed at the complete lack of freshwater exhibits at the Seattle aquarium, although they did have a nice focus of fish native to the northwest region. In particular, they had a number of features surrounding salmon, for which the area is well-known for.


They had salmon at various stages of their lives, along with descriptions about what wild salmon would be doing, including whether or not they would be in fresh of salt water at the time. The aquarium also exhibited a large number of salmon ladders, which during the proper time of year would show the fish returning home from the wild to their hatchery. I hope to get back to Seattle sometime in the future during the salmon migration.

Salmon Fry

And of course, no aquarium would be complete without their water birds and mammals. The otters were particularly active that day, swimming back and forth, chasing each other, and seemingly having a grand old time.


While the aquarium didn’t have a single planted aquarium exhibit, the native habitat exhibits were worth the price of admission. All of the exhibits there were well-done, and the building itself is a modern facility. Overall, I would recommend visiting the Seattle Aquarium. After visiting the aquarium, I decided to walk across town to the Pacific Science Center, where I had previously spotted their beautiful glass-enclosed butterfly exhibit.


The science center features an IMAX theater, and a huge array of science-related exhibits. This facility is no-doubt largely targeted toward kids, but I still had a nice time browsing what they had to offer. Of course, the main thing I came to see was the butterfly exhibit.


To enter the butterfly room, you have to first go into an adjacent room, where the doorways have blowers to prevent the butterflies from escaping. Once inside, you are in a beautiful 2-3 story glass sun room with a number of tropical flowering plants. At first, I didn’t see any butterflies, but then I realized that they were all around.


They had quite a variety of different butterflies, a few that I recognized from when I spent some time down in the Peruvian Amazon. I’m not sure if some of them were actually moths or not, but all were very pretty. Some folks seemed to attract the butterflies to them, so when everyone left the room they were inspected by the staff to ensure that no critters were tagging along.


I really enjoyed my visit to both the aquarium and the science center. I have a few other photos from my trip on Flickr. If anyone else has been to these places, and would like to add anything I missed, feel free to do so in the comments.

6 Responses to “Seattle Aquarium & Butterflies”

  1. Phillip Brown Says:

    Terrific photographs.

  2. Jason J Brunet Says:

    I volunteer @ the Seattle Aquarium!

    Honestly, I just don’t think there’s a whole lot of freshwater plants and animals that live around here. There’s a huge amount of biodiversity in the Sound, but the only place I’ve ever managed to find any aquatic plants was in a mountain lake in Eastern Washington, and then I didn’t see any fish.

    Also, the salmon ladders at the Aquarium are just for show nowadays. If you want to see salmon climbing a ladder, you can go to the Ballard Locks at the right time of year.

    Let me know next time you’re in town (if you’re not too creeped out by me)!

  3. Jason J Brunet Says:

    Also, if you remember that stream exhibit in the hallway next to the river otters, I can’t tell you how I’ve fantasized about turning that into an awesome exhibit.

    Oh! Also! Do you remember the Closer Look Table at the back of the touch pool area? It had the tank with the tiny red octopus and the squat lobsters, etc?

    I really like that set up, and have thought about how I could make a system like that of my very own, but with freshwater. An obvious limitation is that I wouldn’t be piping water directly in from Elliot Bay and piping it straight out.

  4. guitarfish Says:

    Thanks for the comments! Jason, actually I have to disagree with you. According to USDA’s site, there are at least 100+ species in freshwater aquatic plants in Washington State, with many of them residing in the northwest corner of the state. Granted, many of them are not currently in the hobby, and may require a cold-water setup, but they’re intriguing nonetheless. Pondweeds by themselves account for a large number. Check out this resource:


    I heard about the Ballard Locks, but didn’t make it down there due to time constraints. I didn’t know that the ladder at the aquarium were just for show. That’s too bad.

    I agree with you that the exhibits you mentioned are pretty cool, as are you ideas for updating them.

  5. Jason J Brunet Says:

    Oh man, I’ve been living a lie! Maybe I just haven’t gone to the right places. Now I have something to pursue. Perhaps a nano planted tank in the fridge?

    I’m a nobody @ the Aquarium now, but when they promote me to owner, as they inevitably will, I will fill it w/ plants. Let me know if you need a job.

    Have you been to the Monterrey Aquarium? They have an amazing and beautiful wetland tank. IMO, it was the best tank on the premises.

  6. jeffry r. johnston Says:

    Echoing Phillip’s comment:

    Terrific photographs!

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