The Tennessee (AKA Chattanooga) Aquarium isn't the largest in the country and isn't the most popular attraction in Tennessee. However, it is something that's entirely worth seeing for those who are in Chattanooga, and even those who aren't easily impressed by marine life will agree. According to one review left by a visitor on TripAdvisor, who said, 'it is pretty amazing and attractions like this usually do not impress me,' it's well worth the trip.

But why?

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Freshwater Exhibits At The Tennessee Aquarium

The aquarium can be explored in a minimum of two hours for those who move briefly through each exhibit area, or as long as four and a half hours for those who opt for immersive experiences. The wide range of exhibits is one of the most intriguing parts of the aquarium, which features freshwater marine life that other aquariums don't.

Discovery Hall

The aquarium sits right on the shores of the Chattanooga River which also gives it access to local marine life. Discovery Hall is where guests can see the swamp-like area where the Tennessee River meets the Ohio River to flow into the Mississippi.

Also known as River Journey, guests will see sunfish, baby alligators, lake sturgeon who have made a miraculous comeback in its waters, local frogs (poison dart frogs among them), and the world's largest salamander species.

Delta Country

Walking along the outdoor boardwalk through what's known as Delta Country, visitors will see a slew of marine life and wildlife that do not dwell in the water - just on its shores. This diverse species list is what makes the Tennessee Aquarium so wholly unique.

In this cypress swamp, guests can expect to see alligators on the bayou, alligator snapping turtles, sunfish, ducks, rat snakes, alligator gar, tortoises and turtles, corn snakes, and a range of birdlife including the hermit thrush, northern cardinal, the gray catbird, and the wood duck.

River Giants, Rivers Of The World, Turtles Of The World, Appalachian Cove Forest, & Tennessee River

Throughout these exhibits, guests can see giant fish species native to the river such as catfish, arapaima, and barramundi. Rivers of the World includes species such as piranha, electric eel, and West African dwarf crocodiles.

Turtles of the World features four unique species of turtles, while Appalachian Cove Forest is home to trout and the North American River Otter. Finally, the Tennessee River exhibit is home to a variety of unique - albeit slightly strange - species of fish that live in the local river system.

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Ocean Journey Exhibits

This aquarium is home to five separate exhibits that are just as enticing as the freshwater tanks and habitats. Among them, guests will come face to face with coral reefs, exotic and tropical fish species, and larger marine life that many rarely have the chance to see in their lifetime. A tropical botanic garden is also part of this area of the aquarium, giving a unique twist to the term 'marine plants.'

Penguins Rock

This exhibit is home to two species of penguin: the macaroni penguin and the gentoo penguin.

In this frigid wonderland, guests can see both of these large-species animals diving in and out of icy water and generally enjoying life in their habitat.

Secret Reef, Boneless Beauties, & Island Life

When it comes to exotic, tropical life, Secret Reef is the exhibit to find. This vast tropical world is home to the green sea turtle, cownose ray, sandbar shark, sand tiger shark, queen triggerfish, yellowtail snapper, southern stingray, and sergeant major.

Boneless Beauties is as it sounds, including backboneless marine species such as the moon jelly, toadstool leather coral, leather sea star, giant Japanese spider crab, giant Pacific octopus, and the giant green anemone.

Tropical Cove

Tropical Cove is a unique exhibit within the Tennessee Aquarium that's home to a range of rainforest species, including the ring-tailed lemur, red-ruffed lemur, epaulette shark, coral catshark, radiated tortoise, and a slew of tropical plant life.

This is also home to the aquarium's touch station, at which guests can interact with more than 100 feet of shoreline filled with shark and stingray species.

So, Is It Worth It?

In short, the answer is an overwhelming yes. Not only are these exhibits home to some of the most unique and interesting species on the southeastern coast of the U.S., but it's also home to many tropical and exotic species that are rarely seen in an aquarium setting. The interactive nature of many of its exhibits provides a hands-on experience (literally, in some cases), along with an insight into each habitat and environment.

Hours & Other Info

  • Admission Cost: $34.95 for adults, $21.95 for children
  • IMAX Experience: $8 for adults & children
  • Hours: Entry into the aquarium is based on timed tickets, which can be purchased here. Timed entry varies from 9 AM - 5:30 PM Sunday - Friday, 8 AM - 5:30 PM on Saturdays.

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