China’s Shanghai Ocean Aquarium is in Lujiazui, China’s financial district. As one of the largest aquariums in Asia, it is the biggest in Shanghai. The 220,000-square foot aquarium, spanning two pyramid-shaped buildings, is visited by more than 2 million guests annually. The aquarium is home to over 15,000 marine animals, which represent four oceans and over 450 different species.

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The Shanghai Ocean Aquarium is divided into nine exhibits, each one designed to closely represent a real world aquatic habitat. Visits begin with an exhibit on China’s Yangtze River and then continue with exhibits that tour the world. First up is an exhibit on South America’s Rainforests, followed by the billabongs and mangroves of Australia. Exhibits continue with the rainforests of Southeast Asia, Africa’s ancient rivers and the icy waters of Antarctica, which includes the Penguin Encounter exhibit. An exhibit on the ocean’s deepest environments includes jellyfish and the giant Japanese spider crab.

Highlights of the exhibits include the green sea turtle, black tip reef shark, sand tiger shark and giant grouper, as well as the electric eel, South American lungfish and spotted eagle ray. Rare animals on display include Antarctica’s Emperor Penguins, an albino barramundi, the poison dart frog, and a sunfish, which are known to be notoriously difficult to keep in captivity.

The Ocean Aquarium’s China Zone is an exhibit on the ecology of the Yangtze River and highlights endangered species of China including the giant salamander, Yangtze alligator, Chinese water dragon and the Chinese sturgeon. This is the only exhibit in the world focused specifically on Chinese aquatic life, and is split into endangered freshwater fish of China, alongside exhibits on the Chinese alligator.

The aquarium is home to the world’s longest underwater viewing tunnel, which is over 550 feet long. Visitors walk through four intersecting tunnels while marine life swims above their heads in over 550,000 gallons of seawater. The tunnels traverse through kelp beds, shark coves, coral reef and coastal reef environments.

History: The Shanghai Ocean Aquarium was designed by Advanced Aquarium Technologies and opened in 2002 after nearly five years of planning and construction. Advanced Aquarium Technologies has built several aquariums throughout Korea, China and Australia. The $55 million aquarium was built in partnership with investors China Poly Group and Singapore’s Straco Corporation Limited.

Shanghai Ocean Aquarium’s conservation efforts include the My Green program, which is designed to increase awareness of current challenges to the global environment. Guided tours and charity events promote marine life education and conservation of aquatic life. In 2008, the aquarium was the first in China to host the annual International Aquarium Congress, and the Aquarium has been awarded the title of Base of Science Education by the Chinese government.

Ongoing Programs and Education: The Shanghai Ocean Aquarium has participated annually in several national science and educational events, from National Science and Technology Week, to Shanghai Science Week and the annual Shanghai Science Festival. Programming at these events has included underwater robot demonstrations, educational programs on sustainable seafood, and the urgent need to protect aquatic environments in the face of global warming.

The Teacher’s Marine Club is a program for primary school educators to encourage education on aquatic life, conservation and marine biology. Teachers are invited to special programming to learn more about how to bring these topics into their classroom, and membership includes My Green Planet training courses, learning kits, and discounts on group field trips for students.

Public feedings take place in many of the exhibits and are popular times to view the animals. The sharks, spotted seals, penguins, and deep ocean zone fish are all fed twice daily during operating hours.

Past and Future Exhibits: Special exhibitions at the aquarium include the SOS-Save our Sharks exhibit, which educates guests on the impact of humans as super-predators, and the species of sharks that are threatened by extinction. The Martial Arts Championship of Aquatic Animals is an exhibit that highlights the survival tactics of aquatic species by comparing their behaviors to martial arts moves.

What’s Nearby: The Shanghai Ocean Aquarium is located in China’s famous financial and trade district, surrounded by some of the most luxurious shopping and hotel destinations, including Nanjing Road, China’s premier shopping destination. Tourist attractions nearby include the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, a 1,500-foot tall TV and radio tower with a viewing deck, restaurant and indoor roller coaster, and the Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai’s third tallest building, which includes a hotel, restaurant and viewing deck.

No.1388 Lujiazui Ring Road, Pudong New Area, Shanghai 200120, China, Phone: 86-21-58-77-99-88