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How did we do that?

Frequently asked questions about the
Tennessee Aquarium’s new Ocean Journey building

Q: How long did the construction of Ocean Journey take?
A: Approximately two years. Groundbreaking for Ocean Journey occurred April 3, 2003 and the building opens to the public on April 29, 2005.

Q: How much did the expansion cost?
A: A total of $30 million. It was funded by a $10 million Aquarium bond issue and $20 million was raised as part of the 21st Century Waterfront fundraising campaign.

Q: How large is the expansion?
A: At 60,000 square feet and 700,000 gallons of water, Ocean Journey is half the size of the original River Journey building, but holds almost twice the amount of water.

Q: How many panels of glass are in the peaks of Ocean Journey?
A: Nearly 2,400 pieces, each weighing 450 pounds. More than 10,000 man-hours were invested in this part of the construction. The glaziers (glass hangers) came from Alexander Metals, Inc. While working 120 feet above the ground, the glaziers wore safety harnesses and were attached by lifelines and use safety nets below their work area.

Q: How large are the acrylic panels in the Secret Reef exhibit?
A: Constructed by Reynolds Polymer in Colorado, the largest panel weighs 14,500 pounds and is 9 inches thick. There are a total of 33 acrylic panels in the Secret Reef and more than 22,000 square feet of epoxy-laminate waterproofing was used to make the tank watertight.

Q: How much water pressure is exerted on those acrylic panels?
A: 1,800 pounds of pressure per square foot.

Q: How do you create the artificial coral in the Secret Reef?
A: It took 32 people about 14 weeks to create the coral in the Secret Reef exhibit. They used more than 1,400 tons of concrete. The coral formations were fabricated by pressing molds into wet concrete. The corals are attached to each other to form the reef and were then painted. Smaller tube corals and sponges were made from a urethane substance. The coral reef was meticulously created to mimic the real coral found in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, and experts were on hand to assure the coral was placed correctly.

Q: How much water is in the Secret Reef exhibit?
A: 618,000 gallons

Q: How large is the Secret Reef exhibit?
A: 97 feet long (slightly longer than an NBA basketball court), 50 feet wide and 30 feet deep

Q: How much salt did you use to create the seawater in the Secret Reef exhibit?
A: Approximately 100,000 pounds of salt. Additional trace elements were also added to create an environment that mimics natural seawater.

Q: Where did you get the sharks found in the Secret Reef exhibit?
A: The sand tiger sharks were collected in the Delaware Bay off the coast of Maryland. The sandbar sharks were collected in the Gulf of Mexico.

Q: How will you feed the animals in the Secret Reef?
A: The sharks will be fed a variety of mackerel, herring and other fish. They are fed from a pole at a specified feeding station. The reef fish and stingrays will be fed using special tubes that use water pressure to pump chopped seafood to locations within the exhibit. The injector tubes work much like the tubes that bank tellers use to reach customers – but instead of air pressure, the feeding tubes use water pressure. Divers will bring broccoli and lettuce to the lower parts of the reef each day. These vegetables will be offered to the smaller reef fish.

Q: Where do the butterflies in the Butterfly Garden come from?
A: The butterflies come from a number of different sources including butterfly farms in Costa Rica, Malaysia, the Philippines, Belize, Ecuador and suppliers in England. We’ll receive approximately 500 pupae each week.

Q: How many butterflies are in the gallery?
A: We will keep nearly 1,000 butterflies in the exhibit.

Q: What do the butterflies eat?
A: It varies by species. The butterflies are offered nectar from the blooming flowers in the garden, artificial nectar and fruit.

The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $17.95 per adult and $9.50 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $7.95 per adult and $5.50 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $21.95 for adults and $12.50 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online at or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.

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