panther chameleon

Island Life

Dive into a world of uncharted wonders!

Island Life logoWhat is an island?

Scientifically, the term encompasses many kinds of environments. Biologically speaking, an island can represent any community of animals that has developed in isolation.

The Aquarium celebrates biological castaways of all sorts with the opening of a brand new gallery: Island Life. As they explore this exciting new space, visitors will expand their understanding of islands as they encounter a vast array of animals from all over the world.

During this island-hopping journey, guests will be led by a colorful new guide, Leon the Chameleon. This green-skinned guru of island knowledge will appear on graphics and interactive elements, sponsored by Unum, to point out fun facts, encourage interactive learning and pose questions that add new dimension to these fascinating ecosystems.

Vancouver Island

The centerpiece of the Island Life gallery is a massive tank that models the rocky shoreline of the Pacific Northwest — specifically around Canada’s Vancouver Island. This sprawling exhibit features regular wave action that sends water crashing along its curved acrylic walls before thundering dramatically into an upright viewing window at the opposite end.

anemones in Vancouver Island tank

Brilliantly colored anemones and starfish will dot the rocks while several species of Perch ride the waves like finned surfers.

Indo-Pacific Reef

Much of the open ocean is relatively barren, but coral reefs are underwater islands bustling with activity. The life-rich aquatic ecosystem of the Indo-Pacific includes The Coral Triangle. This marine area contains nearly 600 species of reef-building corals and is home for more than 2,000 species of reef fish.

blueface angelfish

Aquarium guests viewing this towering tank will see more than 30 dazzling species representing a cross section of the region’s incredible biodiversity.

Flashlight Fish

In the Indo-Pacific Ocean, the Split Fin Flashlight Fish spends much of its time in deep caves near reefs. At night, however, this large-eyed fish ventures outward and upward to feed in shallower water. When it does, the reason for its brilliant name becomes readily apparent.

Visitors will marvel at this luminescent school of fascinating fish which will appear to stretch into the distance like an endless galaxy of flashing stars.

Clownfish and Anemones

Clownfish lounge within the the comforting — and venomous — embrace of an anemone. This tiny “island” usually measures just a few inches from tip to tip, yet a clownfish can live most of its life surrounded by tentacles that can sting or even kill other fish.

Clownfish in anemone

Guests will learn how this remarkable symbiotic relationship works while observing this oceanic Odd Couple. Kids can do their best clownfish impression by weaving around and peeking out from a cluster of larger-than-life anemone “tentacles.”

Monitor Lizards

tree monitor

In this exhibit — sponsored by First Tennessee — a pair of lithe Emerald Tree Monitors race from limb to limb. With scales fading from pale turquoise to sea foam, these arboreal lizards are both beautiful and agile, with curling claws that help them to scramble up (or down) tree limbs with ease. This species is found in humid palm stands and rainforests on New Guinea and surrounding  islands, where it dines on frogs, geckos, small mammals and birds.

Marvelous Madagascar

The African island of Madagascar is home to an estimated 200,000 species of plants and animals, about 75 percent of whom can’t be found anywhere else.

In Island Life, guests will get to know some of Madagascar’s incredible amphibian and reptilian residents via a pair of exhibits sponsored by Unum.

Tomato Frog

Colorful — and poisonous —Mantella Frogs, the plump Tomato Frog, enormous Madsagascar Giant Day Geckos and vibrantly colored Panther Chameleons are among the many terrestrial creatures awaiting everyone.

bronze tortoise statue

Control the video action of a chameleon’s lightning-fast tongue, light up touch-sensitive Flashlight Fish and snap turtle-y awesome selfies atop an enormous bronze sculpture of a Galapagos Tortoise sponsored by Tennessee American Water.