Aquarium of the Pacific: Best Time to Visit and 14 Coolest Animals to See

Snow-capped mountains, gorgeous beaches, and everything in between may all be found in California. The Aquarium of the Pacific is among the top attractions for aquarium enthusiasts in this lovely state. It is the biggest aquarium in Southern California and is home to a variety of exquisite and fascinating animals. Before setting off on your adventure to view some of the most amazing animals California has to offer, it’s advisable to have a loose plan of action because there are so many fascinating species in store.

The most tranquil, soothing atmosphere can be found when visiting around 3:00 p.m. As a result, visitors will be able to enjoy the sights without feeling hurried or pushed aside by large crowds.

The aquarium’s collection of animals can be divided into three sections: the Galleries of Southern California, the Northern Pacific, and the Tropical Pacific. The aquarium just added a new section called the Southern California Gallery. You can explore all of these sections as well as touch tanks and miniature exhibits to get a tour of the odd and fascinating world of marine life. To get a glimpse of some of the most amazing animals you can see, continue reading.

Giant Pacific Octopus

The aquarium’s Northern Pacific Gallery is home to the enormous Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini). With a three to five year lifespan, they are also among the octopus species with the longest lifespans. Not only are these enormously intelligent creatures, but they are also among the coolest around. This octopus species has a maximum length of 16 feet and a maximum weight of 110 pounds! They can also solve simple puzzles and open jars. For an invertebrate, not too terrible!

Sea Otters

The marine otter is adored by all. Interestingly, these adorable and energetic creatures are members of the weasel family. The Sea Otter Habitat in the Northern Pacific Gallery is home to the Southern Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris nereis). You may notice that these creatures clean themselves often when you watch them. Maintaining the health and condition of their fur depends on their fixation with grooming, akin to that of cats.Because they don’t have a layer of blubber to protect their bodies from heat, sea otters rely on this fur.

Magellanic Penguins

Twenty Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) live in the June Keyes Penguin Habitat at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Some of the penguins in the environment are wild birds, but most are rescues from captive breeding programs. This species of penguin may live up to 35 years in captivity, compared to a maximum of 20 years in the wild.

Check out this list, which includes the names of each individual penguin and some identification tips, if you visit the June Keyes Penguin Habitat.

Pacific Sea Nettle

Perhaps this is one of the most visually stunning jellyfish that can be seen. Their long limbs can stretch up to 15 feet in length, though they are typically closer to 3 feet. They have a vivid pink-orange color. Chrysaora fuscescens, the Pacific sea nettle, is a carnivorous jellyfish. It eats snails, fish eggs, and other jellies.

The Northern Pacific Gallery is home to the Pacific Sea Nettle as well as a few other interesting jellyfish and jelly-like creatures.

Day Octopus

Those who enjoy nature documentaries may be most familiar with the Day octopus (Octopus cyanea). This octopus has a reputation for changing colors faster than you can see in order to blend in with its environment. The chromatophores in their skin, which may also alter the texture to further aid in blend-in, are responsible for the color-changing magic. If you have a sharp eye, you can discover this octopus in the Tropical Pacific Gallery!

Green Sea Turtle

This big, long-living turtle can grow up to 4 feet long and weigh 440 pounds. With the leatherback, it is now the second largest species of sea turtle. According to some specialists, it is unknown how long this species truly lives. Its typical lifespan, though, might reach 80 years.

Regrettably, there is a threat to this type of marine turtle. The green sea turtle’s population in the wild is declining as a result of human-caused activities including egg harvesting and nesting ground damage.

The aquarium’s Tropical Pacific Gallery features a Tropical Reef environment where visitors can witness the magnificent size and grandeur of these turtles.

Flashlight Fish

Anomalops katoptron, often known as the splitfin flashlight fish, is an interesting-looking fish that lights up the sea with bioluminescent bacteria. The bacteria-containing organs are located behind their eyes, giving the impression that they are large, brilliant eyeballs staring back at the observer. Finding prey is the ultimate use for this illumination feature. They are nocturnal animals that live in dark places in their natural habitats, as one might expect. They are located in the Tropical Pacific Gallery’s Glowing Reef exhibit within the aquarium.

Zebra Sharks

The zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) is among the most amiable shark species you may encounter. The Shark Lagoon and the Tropical Reef exhibit are the two areas of the aquarium where you can find this shark. This shark has a distinctive and unique appearance compared to other sharks because of its creamy tint with dark patches or open circles. It also looks far less menacing than what most people imagine when they think of sharks, thanks to its small eyes and big (but tiny) mouth.

Epaulette Shark

The epaulette shark is a nighttime predator that lives in shallow seas.

You may pet this tiny shark in the touch pool at Shark Lagoon. This shark is fascinating not only because of its small size and peculiar yet cute appearance, but also because it can walk! The epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) “walks” around shallow places with its fins, usually in search of food. They are primarily found in shallow places, such as tidal pools. Because of this, in addition to walking on its fins, it has developed some adaptations to deal with low tide. The epaulette’s capacity to endure low oxygen concentrations for around sixty minutes is one of these adaptations.

Bat Ray

Rays are a family of animals closely related to sharks.

The bat ray (Myliobatis californica), another creature that calls the touch pool home, navigates the water with the help of its broad, triangular fins. They move by using their “wings” to not only navigate about but also to reveal prey hiding beneath the sand. Perhaps the rays will bury themselves in the sand as well. Beachgoers in their natural area are advised to shuffle their feet in the sand to scare these rays away or uncover themselves to prevent getting stung, even though this isn’t a problem in controlled settings. Although their barb doesn’t pose a serious threat to life, it sure hurts!

Pacific Cownose Ray

The Pacific cownose ray (Rhinoptera steindachneri) is another fascinating creature that you should definitely see. Its facial rostrum, or nasal projections, are the source of its common moniker, “cownose.” Additionally, this species like traveling in groups, which in the wild can resemble an underwater bird migration. This animal can be found in the aquarium’s Shark Lagoon and Tropical Pacific Reef sections.

Harbor Seal

The Southern California Gallery’s Seals and Sea Lions habitat is home to harbor seals (Phoca vitulina sp.) and sea lions. This species of seal is indigenous to Mexico, Canada, and the western coast of the United States. It likes warm weather, just like the sea lion. Their lengthy whiskers are essential for swimming and hunting. Another trait of harbor seals is their tenacity—they may pursue fish for miles.

California Sea Lions

California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) are native to the state and may also be seen in the Southern California Gallery. They socialize with other animals in their herd and take pleasure in the warm waters of the coast.

Twice daily, audiences can enjoy shows showcasing sea lions and seals, where they can enjoy tricks performed by the animals and treats they get to consume after a great show.

Staghorn Corals

You may not even recognize some of the aquarium’s most fascinating creatures as “animals.” Discover more about these unusual creatures by visiting the Live Coral exhibit at the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Tropical Pacific Gallery.

Acropora sp., or staghorn coral, is one of the best coral reef builders. They are able to create a stunning underwater sanctuary in a variety of shapes and hues. Numerous aquatic creatures depend on corals, such as the staghorn coral, for their habitat. Additionally, they can shield the coastline from damaging waves and disturbances from the ocean. With zooxanthanelles, which photosynthesize to supply energy for the coral colony, most corals have a symbiotic relationship. To help meet their energy requirements, they also consume phytoplankton.

Corals are delicate organisms. They react poorly to changes in their surroundings, yet they are also quite sensitive to touch. Coral reefs have sustained extensive damage as a result of these sensitivity.