The first time you venture through the entrance to the aquarium, we guarantee you’ll jump! That’s because our first exhibit is Ireland’s largest “Splash” tank! This tank is designed to be an imitation of the climate of the west coast of Ireland. It is home to our large Sea Bass, and comes complete with one tonne of crashing salt water! The tank “splashes” every forty seconds, to recreate the atmosphere of waves crashing against the shore. If you aren’t quite alert when you enter the aquarium, you soon will be! But for all the noise and commotion, our Sea Bass love it, as it is just like their natural environment amongst the crashing and splashing waves of Ireland’s west coast.
The Ray Pool covers the largest floor space of all our tanks. It is large, but shallow, and has been specially designed for the fish which like to have space to move around in; namely our Rays, Dogfish and large flatfish such as Turbot and Halibut. It is an open tank, allowing visitors to come literally face to face with the fish. We have five species of Ray in our Ray Pool: Thornback, Spotted, Blonde, Undulate and Painted Ray. These all react well to visitors, particularly the Thornback and Undulate Rays, and will often stick their noses out of the water to say “hello” when there are people around.
This is our largest tank, 4 metres deep and containing over 120 tonnes of sea water! It is home to some of our largest, predatory fish including our Cod, Pollack, Wrasse and small Sharks. It is situated on the ground floor, but can also be viewed from above. At any one time their can be over 200 animals in this tank, with a combined mass of a quarter of a tonne. The Ocean Tank  s run at room temperature during the winter, and the water temperature can fall as low as 10°C in February. During the warm summer months, the water is run through a special chiller, which cools it, preventing it from going any higher than 16°C. If we didn’t have a chiller, the water temperature could reach as high as 20°C, which would be too warm for many of our fish such as the Cod and Halibut.
We have fourteen different species of native Irish fish in the Ocean Tank, including five species of Shark. There are also several types of Crab living in the Tank: like in most of our tanks these act as cleaners, scavenging on scraps of uneaten food, which is a great help keeping in the tank hygienic!
Our Fin Whale skeleton is 60 feet long and weighs five tonnes. The live animal weighed 40 tonnes. The whale was only nineteen years old when she died. It is thought that she suffered from an ear infection while migrating past the coast of Ireland and so took a course of action common to many distressed whales - she headed towards shallow waters. She was beached in Ballyheigue, Co. Kerry in April 1994. If she had lived a full life she would have grown to over 80 feet long and 70 tonnes in weight - bigger than any dinosaur!
There are hundreds of wrecks of boats littering the bays and seas around the Irish coast. And every one of these is home to a variety of animals, which make use of the nooks and crannies, bolt-holes and turrets of each wreck. On the hull and masts, Barnacles, Anemones and Soft Corals dominate, stuck fast to the boat, using their tentacles to filter the water for passing plankton and other food. Under the boat lie Crabs, Prawns, Lobsters and other invertebrates such as Worms and Sea Slugs. They are able to use the boat as protection, while utilising the mud and sludge which is trapped by the hull of the wreck as an ideal place to make a burrow. Round the periphery of the boat live fish such as Cod, Pollack, Wrasse and Ling.
The wreck is an ideal place from which to mount hunting sessions, and offers an excellent hiding place for when the hunter becomes the hunted!
And then there are the big guys, the large, powerful hunters for whom the wreck is their lair. A place to rest and sleep, and an ideal hunting ground from which little travel is required in order. to find food. These big predators who rule the wreck include Ling and Bullhuss.
We have always found that the best way to learn about something is to get to grips with it – quite literally! And what better way to find out about the sea than to investigate some of the amazing creatures that inhabit the rock pools of the shoreline of Galway Bay?Our three Touch Pools are in the shadow of our model of Mutton Island Lighthouse, and contain just about all the fish and invertebrates you could hope to find down on the sea shore. Under the supervision of one of our expert aquarists, you can hold sleepy Starfish and secretive Hermit Crabs, and search under the rocks and weed for Spider Crabs, Blennys and even Sea Scorpions! Everywhere you look you will be able to spot a new creature, where it has made its home in our cleverly crafted Touch Pool.
The Weir is our largest Fresh water tank, and is a replica of one of the Weirs on the River Corrib. The River Corrib has a dam made of approx. 20 Weirs, and these can be lowered or raised individually or collectively to control and monitor the water flow from the River, down into the estuary at Galway Bay. At full flood, more than 260,000 litres of river water per second flow down over the Weirs! As these Weirs effectively form a river-wide dam, fish passes have been built it the side of the river to allow migrating Salmon and Common Eels to travel back up the river to their breeding grounds on the other side. An estuary is where the mouth of a river meets the sea. In Galway Bay, there is a far reaching, life-rich estuary where the River Corrib reaches its conclusion. It is home to dozens of species of animals: crustaceans such as Shore Crab, Prawn, and Shrimp; small fish including Common Goby, Dragonet and Lesser Weever; and juvenile fish such as young Cod, Whiting and Plaice. Our Estuary exhibit offers a glimpse of the animals which make the mouth of the River Corrib their home.
They are shy, but inquisitive fish, and as a group of visitors forms round the tank, they will come to the front in hope of a morsel of bread to nibble on. Indeed, they are so used to people by now that they will come right to the surface and take bread, one of their favourite foods, straight from your hand! Lying camouflaged amongst the sand we have Plaice, Flounder and Dover Sole, and slowly crawling among the rocks and weed are Crabs and Whelks. But it is our Grey Mullet, of which there are literally thousands in the Corrib estuary, which immediately catch the eye. Harbours (such as the docks in Galway Bay) have a reputation for being dirty uninhabited wil.dernesses, full of diesel, noisy boats and rusting bikes. And while this sometimes may appear the case, old-fashioned Harbours such as the Claddagh in Galway are as rich with marine life as anywhere else in Ireland .

Dozens of different species of fish such as Mullet, Whiting, Pipefish and Cod  live round the Claddagh shores, and Salmon, Sea Trout and Common Eels pass the Claddagh each year on their way to or from their home of the River Corrib. Our harbour tank exhibits a section of the nearby Claddagh.