Georgia Aquarium

It’s open!” With those words, volunteer Bryan Shaw of Duluth welcomed the first of more than 10,000 people expected to visit the Georgia Aquarium when it opened in 2005.

The world’s largest aquarium at that time opened to the general public with a fantastic show. The Aquarium is located just north of Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, and holds eight million gallons of water and more than 100,000 fish.

What to see in the Georgia Aquarium

Are you hooked yet? Drop your cursor down and see what could lurk in the waters of the Georgia Aquarium, based on a list of sea creatures the aquarium has proposed to acquire.

GOLIATH GROUPER: Formerly known as the Jewfish, this gamefish ranges in the Atlantic Ocean from New Jersey to Brazil and in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. it feeds primarily on crustaceans, as well as turtles and fishes, including stingrays.

LOGGERHEAD TURTLE: The majority of loggerheads in the United States are found in Florida. Loggerheads are a threatened species, primarily because of shrimp trawling, coastal development, increased human use of nesting beaches and pollution. Adults weigh 200 to 350 pounds and measure about 3 feet in length, while hatchlings are only about 2 inches long. Loggerheads’ powerful jaws crush mollusks, crabs and encrusting animals attached to reefs and rocks.

GIANT PACIFIC OCTOPUS: Ranging along the Pacific coast from southern California to Alaska, this octopod grows to about 16 feet from the tip of one arm to the tip of another. Record-setters reach as much as 600 pounds, but the average is below 100 pounds. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, it is highly intelligent and has demonstrated skill at navigating mazes and can unscrew jar lids to reach food inside.

BRAIN CORAL: These reef-building animals of the genus Meandrina form rounded colonies that resemble the convolutions of the human brain. Slow-growing, they are strong enough to withstand the storms that pound more delicate corals to rubble.

SOUTHERN STINGRAY: Up to 5 feet wide, this creature ranges in the Atlantic Ocean from New Jersey to Brazil and in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Lying partially buried in the sand, the ray uses its fins to dislodge mussels, worms, and crustaceans. Its spiny tail can be dangerous to unsuspecting humans swimming in the stingray’s habitat.

VIPER MORAY: Reef-associated eel has arched jaws that touch only at their tips when the mouth is closed. The moray, generally harmless to humans, lives in the Western Atlantic from Florida to South America.

FRENCH ANGELFISH: Commonly found in shallow reefs, these fish feed on sponges and algae. They typically travel in pairs and grow to about 16 inches long. Found in the Atlantic, from Florida to Brazil, as well as the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

BLUE TANG: This surgeonfish has nothing to do with a certain powdered drink. It does have a distinctive blue color with a conspicuous yellow caudal spine. The fish goes about in small groups and inhabits coral reefs and inshore grassy areas, feeding entirely on algae. Found from New York to Brazil.

GREAT HAMMERHEAD SHARK: You don’t want to mess with these monsters, the biggest of which have reached 20 feet long and nearly 1,000 pounds. They’re found all over the world, in warm and tropical waters, both inshore and well offshore. They prefer to feed on stingrays, groupers, and sea catfishes, but also prey on other small bony fishes, crabs, squid, other sharks, rays, and lobsters. Potentially dangerous to people.

WHITE SHRIMP: Georgia harvests Atlantic white and brown shrimp. They grow very rapidly, doubling or tripling their weight every month and assuming the adult form. As the water turns colder in October and November, they move to deeper waters offshore.

LANE SNAPPER: A popular fish to eat, lane snapper can reach up to about 7 pounds. They’re found mainly around coral reefs and on vegetated sandy areas and typically feed at night, on small fish, bottom-living crabs, shrimps, worms, gastropods, and cephalopods. They are most abundant around the Antilles, on the Campeche Bank, off Panama and the northern coast of South America.

MULLET: Striped mullet, which travel in schools, are known to go several hundred miles up rivers, but spawning always takes place in the sea. They are found in the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Cod to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico.

FISH WISH LIST:
The Georgia Aquarium has sought permits from state and federal agencies to capture or raise hundreds of species of aquatic life, from the exotic to the common.

EXOTIC SPECIES
• Sharks, including a great hammerhead shark, bonnethead shark, horn shark, and blacktip reef shark
• Rays, including a manta ray, southern stingray, and a cownose ray
• Giant guitarfish
• Largemouth sawfish
• Giant Pacific octopus
• Giant cuttlefish
• Foureye butterflyfish
• Orangespine unicornfish
• Redlip blenny
• Harlequin tusk fish
• French angelfish
• Leafy sea dragon
• Viper moray

COMMON SPECIES
• 1,000 ocean sturgeonfish
• 1,600 blue tang
• 1,100 doctorfish
• 4,000 Atlantic bumper
• 5,000 bigeye scad
• 5,000 French grunt
• 5,000 tomtate
• 4,000 pigfish / yellowtail
• 2,000 lane snapper
• 3,000 mullets
• 2,000 neon tetra
• 3,000 glassy sweeper
• 2,000 bluebanded goby

The following is a tale that relates to the opening back in 2005:

While its Website and call center continued to respond slowly to demand for tickets, the hundreds of people who had made reservations and had lined up outside the massive fish tank well before the 9 a.m. opening had little trouble making their way inside.

Once inside, they were wowed by the massive displays.

“Daddy, look at the jellyfish,” cried Christian Jones, 4, pointing above his head. The Sandy Springs child was mesmerized by the glowing jelly fish in the dark tank while his father, Chris Jones, 32, tried to coax him to move on.

Jones, who purchased tickets online three weeks ago, said his family took MARTA and arrived at the aquarium at 8:15 a.m. He said it only took him 30 minutes to get in when the doors opened.

“I expected it to be longer,” Jones said.

Several kids immediately flocked to the touch pool, waiting for a personal encounter with stingrays and bonnethead sharks. Nicolas Reich, 4, of Duluth, eagerly kept his hand in the water until all of a sudden he felt the back of one of the sharks. “He feels, like, smooth,” the giggling child told his father, Vince Reich, 43. “He knows sharks better than his ABC’s,” the father said.

The rush to get tickets to the hottest attraction in town has been fueled by the national attention the aquarium has generated. CBS, CNN, the “Good Day Atlanta” TV show and six radio stations were broadcasting from the aquarium, today, once again inflating interest.

Aquarium spokesman Dave Santucci said the facility is fully booked through the weekend, and only those who have made reservations are getting in. Still, many people have flocked to the aquarium’s Web site and called its offices hoping to buy tickets, only to find trouble getting through.

The Web site (www.georgiaaquarium.org) and call center were still swamped early today. Officials late Tuesday increased the Web site’s bandwidth twelvefold and added a subcontractor to their call center operations. Many callers, however, were getting busy signals when they dialed the call center (404-581-4000).

Shaw, one of more than 700 volunteers working at the aquarium, was just as excited about the opening as those passing through the doors.

“I just wanted to be a part of this great feature to this city,” the BellSouth project manager said.