Toledo zoo putting finishing touches on $25M aquarium redo


First Posted: 1/18/2015

TOLEDO (AP) — An aquarium that has been closed since 2012 will reopen soon with the completion of a $25.5 million renovation of the facility at a zoo in in northwestern Ohio.

The Toledo Blade reports that the exterior of the Toledo Zoo’s historic aquarium remains intact, but the interior will showcase a new underwater world.

The aquarium built in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration was formerly set up like a gallery, with small tanks set into the walls. The newly renovated building set to open March 27 will more than triple the amount of water to 175,000 gallons, with 32 main exhibits and numerous smaller tanks.

“It’s going to be an experience like they’ve never had here before,” zoo spokesman Andi Norman said.

A saltwater Pacific Reef display holds 90,000 gallons, almost 12 times that of the largest previous tank.

Two “touch tanks” will allow visitors to interact with sharks, stingrays, starfish, horseshoe crabs, and other undersea creatures. Staff members last week added epaulette sharks to the larger touch tank where they joined southern stingrays, a yellow stingray, and a guitar fish.

Planning the species for a new aquarium began years ago.

“We literally spent 15 years playing around with different animals to find out which ones would be the best for a new aquarium, which ones visitors were most interested in,” said Jay Hemdal, curator of fish and invertebrates.

The zoo relocated about 80 percent of its previous animals, housing the remainder in a temporary aquarium in the zoo’s warehouse. It kept legacy animals, such as the snapping turtle and species that would be difficult to acquire again. Those include the Australian lungfish, endangered African cichlids, and white-blotched river rays from the Amazon.

The underwater habitats are still being assembled, but the major construction is finished.

About 80 percent of the money for the project came from proceeds of a Lucas County tax levy, with the rest from private donations.

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