Zoo Watch: Underwater world of wonder opening soon at Whipsnade

A species of killifish, named after Ian Sainthouse, a ZSL volunteer that discovered it in the wild.

A species of killifish, named after Ian Sainthouse, a ZSL volunteer that discovered it in the wild. - Credit: Archant

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is opening the UK’s first aquarium dedicated to conserving the world’s most astonishing and endangered freshwater fish.

Fish that can jump out of the water to pluck fruit from trees or even live out of water for two months are among the species that will call the aquarium home.

Visitors can explore ten of the planet’s most extreme and fascinating aquatic habitats. From a vibrant flooded forest in Brazil, to an African puddle, the aquarium will bring families face-to-face with some of the rarest and most unique fish in existence.

Showcasing a secret world beneath the water, the aquarium will be home to fish which have developed astonishing abilities in order to survive, including the dusky narrow hatchetfish, which jumps out of the water in the flooded forests of Brazil to pluck low-hanging fruit and seeds from trees.

Caribbean mangrove killifish can survive out of water for as long as 66 days, while Omani blind cave fish navigate through pitch black caves without eyes.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s aquarium team leader Alex Cliffe said: “It will be the first aquarium in the zoo’s almost 90-year history, and it will be an incredibly vibrant, colourful, sensory experience that not only reveals the secret life of fish, but gives an insight into the conservation work underway to rescue some of the world’s most incredible fish from the brink of extinction.

“As well as making their way around the world, through Caribbean mangroves, Middle-Eastern caves and Vietnamese streams; visitors will be able to look into the ‘engine room’ of the breeding centre and see whole life cycles of threatened species.”

Most Read

As well as fish, visitors will encounter the wildlife that scuttle alongside the water’s edge. Endangered Chinese crocodile lizards will roam around a Vietnamese-inspired stream habitat, while Mexican red-kneed tarantulas will most likely be spotted keeping cool around the Mexican desert spring.

Whipsnade Zoo’s new aquarium opens this summer, and access is included in the zoo entry price. Book tickets at zsl.org