Posts Tagged 'National Aquarium in DC'

Thoughtful Thursdays: Invasive Species Spotlight

As National Invasive Species Awareness Week draws to a close, we’re dedicating today’s “Thoughtful Thursday” post to an invasive fish found in our local waters – the northern snakehead.


This species is native to China and parts of Korea. It first appeared in the U.S. as an invasive species in Crofton, Maryland in 2002, and now can be found throughout the east coast, from New York to Florida.

Experts believe that snakeheads (also referred to as “frankenfish”) were introduced into our waterways by home aquarium owners and through the live fish food trade.


How snakeheads are negatively impacting our native ecosystems: 

  • These fish compete with native species for food. As snakehead populations continue to grow in U.S. waters, their predatory nature will continue to “knock out” a wide array of native species.
  • They are passing diseases onto other fish.
  • Snakeheads are air-breathers capable of on-land migration. This means that their reach to new waterways is virtually limitless! Researchers are now reporting that the species is slowly making their way out west, wreaking havoc on ecosystems as they go.

What’s being done (and what YOU can do) to help manage the population: 

  • Learn more!
    National Aquarium and like-minded organizations are working to raise awareness of this species. Our DC venue actually has a snakehead on exhibit to make visitors aware of its invasive status!
  • Fish responsibly!
    Both local and federal government agencies, like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are working together to manage current populations and prevent future introductions of the fish into native environments. If captured, it is now illegal to release snakehead back into native waters.
  • Eat it to beat it!
    Local restaurants are beginning to use snakehead as a sustainable seafood option! They were also the featured ingredient for one of the Aquarium’s Fresh Thoughts sustainable seafood dinners!

Have you ever experimented with cooking an invasive species? Tell us about it in the comments!


Announcing the Winner of Our #Roemantic Instagram Contest!

Thanks to everyone for celebrating our first-ever “Month of Love” at the Aquarium! Throughout the month of February, visitors also had the opportunity to enter our Roe-mantic Instagram Conest!

Here are just a few of the great entries we received from couples and families: 

We’re happy to announce the winner of a yearlong couples membership is Instagram user JillianDrew!!

Congratulations, Jillian! Please email to claim your membership!

Kicking Off March with National Invasive Species Awareness Week!

March 3-8 is National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW)! National Aquarium, Washington, DC is participating to raise awareness about this international environmental issue.

So, what is an invasive species? 

An invasive species is any species that is non-native to the ecosystem that has the potential to cause economic or environmental harm to the ecosystem, or to human health. Invasive species pose a great danger to marine ecosystems by altering the water quality and competing with native species for food and other resources.

red lionfish

Red lionfish

Possibly the most well-known of all invasive species is the red lionfish Pterois volitans. This species has made a long journey from their native home of Indo-Pacific coral reefs to the coral reefs of the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic Ocean.

Their venomous spines make the red lionfish inedible to most predators, which has lead to an exponential growth of this species since their introduction into these ecosystems. Efforts are now being made to educate local communities on how to catch and prepare lionfish as a sustainable seafood (Did you know? Lionfish was even one of the featured ingredients for a past Fresh Thoughts dinner!).

red lionfish

One of the most famous invasive species in Maryland is the Northern snakehead (Channa argus). Sometimes called the “Frankenfish,” this species is native to China, Russia, and North and South Korea.

Northern snakehead

Northern snakehead

In 2002, an adult snakehead was discovered in a pond in Crofton, Maryland, likely released into the water after being bought at a local fish market. Since first being found in local waters (including the Potomac), its territory has spread along the East Coast from New York to Florida, and the species is beginning to expand west! The snakehead is an apex predator and poses a serious threat to local fish populations.

Want to learn more? Join us at our DC venue for “Invasive Species on the Menu,” a discussion on methods of combating the rapid expansion of invasive species into local ecosystems.

Stay tuned for more updates during National Invasive Species Awareness Week! 

Animal Updates – February 15

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

New Finches in our Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes

We have new star and black-crowned finches on exhibit! Both species are native to Australia and prefer to make their homes in the dry grassland and savanna areas of the continent.

star finch

Star finches are easily recognized by their bright red “face masks.” Males typically have larger masks than females.

The next time you’re walking through our Australia exhibit, be sure to listen closely to the sounds coming from above! Male star finches in particular have a very interesting song (click here to hear an example)!


Brittle Star in our Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary gallery! 

We have a new brittle star on exhibit!

brittle star

Brittle stars are also known as serpent stars!

There are more than 1,500 species of brittle stars. They can be found in most parts of the world, from the Arctic waters to the tropics. Instead of crawling on hundreds of tube feet like starfish, brittle stars move by wriggling their long, serpent-like limbs!

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience for Educators!

National Aquarium’s Education Department has announced a new workshop adventure, Costa Rica: Showcase of Conservation!

Join our Director of Education at the National Aquarium in Washington, DC, Bill Simpkins, for a 9-day excursion (July 9-18, 2013) as he transforms the vibrant and diverse ecosystems of this Central American treasure into a classroom.

Educators will get to know many of the country's native species, including the squirrel monkey!

Educators will get to know many of the country’s native species, including the squirrel monkey!

Each educator on the tour will receive a certificate of completion for the hours spent in “classroom” activities for verification and credit, if accepted by their school. Non-educators interested in joining the group are also welcome!

Workshop highlights include:

This could be YOU!

This could be YOU!

To learn more about this workshop and how to reserve your spot, click hereSpace is limited and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

National Aquarium Stays Safe During Hurricane Sandy

Good Morning! All is well at the National Aquarium. Despite several strong wind gusts of between 60-70 mph through the night, our building and animal care facilities sustained NO damage! We are pleased to report that all of our animals and staff are safe and are getting back to their regular morning care routines. THANK YOU to our amazing, dedicated staff, especially the 21 staff who stayed overnight with our animals, and to Baltimore City Police and Fire for checking up on us and ensuring our safety. We are grateful to the community for sending us positive vibes! Hope everyone is safe this morning, and we are keeping our east coast neighbors in our thoughts today.

Our preparations for the weather began last week as our emergency team gathered managers from other essential departments such as biological programs and facilities. The larger team met to discuss our plans for the incoming storm. Many lessons were learned following our experience with Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

The line marking where Hurricane Isabel flooded our Baltimore venue in 2003

Even though the storm wasn’t set to hit until Sunday/Monday, our team took immediate preventative actions starting on Friday,  to prepare:

  • Aquarium vehicles and boats were moved to high and dry areas.
  • Flags and banners on our piers were taken down.
  • Facilities topped off generator fuel for generator use, if needed.
  • Outdoor equipment and materials, including construction items for our Blacktip Reef project, were secured or moved to safe internal areas.
  • Buckets of water and ice were made and stored.
  • Sufficient oxygen supplies were gathered and staged strategically throughout animal areas.
  • We also worked closely with the Baltimore City Police and Fire departments. We were happy to see them frequently thought the day and night yesterday for coffee and conversation – all other Inner Harbor coffee cafes were closed.
National Aquarium vehicles

National Aquarium vehicles on high ground in preparation for Hurricane Sandy

ice buckets

5 gallon ice buckets

At our Animal Care Center, our staff worked closely to determine all husbandry needs for both our quarantine animals and the Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) animals. Like at our main building, separate oxygen supplies were placed throughout the facility. Our team’s main concern were our blacktip reef sharks and stingrays destined for our new Blacktip Reef exhibit opening in summer 2013. Detailed plans for monitoring and administering sufficient oxygen for these animals were in place in the case of loss of power or life support systems. Our lizards and turtles are a bit more forgiving in these situations because they are air breathers, but our team still had plans in place for them as well to continue their comfortable, temperature controlled environments.

oxygen preparation

Aquarium staff prepping extra oxygen tanks

After carefully considering weather reports and information from local and state officials, the decision was made to close our Baltimore and Washington, DC venues to the public on Monday. Our number one priority is the safety of our animals and staff. Our emergency plans continued at this time, starting with the raising of our built-in flood gates.
flood gates

Aquarium staff work to prepare flood gates in Baltimore.

flood gates

Outdoor flood gates preparing for Hurricane Sandy

A critical team of 21 staff, including two team members at our Animal Care Center, prepared to stay overnight with our animals and guard against rising water and other possible emergencies. We closely monitored the water levels outside and reconvened for regular reports throughout the night. Winds were high, getting up to 60-70 mph between 11:00pm and 1:00am but our team, and animals, were safe inside riding out the storm! It was a long night but staff moral was high.
sleeping fish

Shhh! The animals are sleeping!

This morning, as we reported, we had no damage or issues to report! We continued to watch as high tide came and went and early morning husbandry tasks have already started taking place.
green sea turtle

Calypso enjoying a hearty post-hurricane breakfast!

We are pleased to say National Aquarium will be open tomorrow, Wednesday, October 31.
Again, we are truly grateful to our dedicated staff, as well as Baltimore City Police and Fire departments for checking in on us and ensuring our safety. We are also grateful to our online community who provided an outpouring of support and positive thoughts throughout the storm. We hope everyone is safe this morning and we are keeping our east coast neighbors affected by the storm in our thoughts.

Thoughtful Thursdays: Green DIY Halloween Decor

In the spirit of this upcoming weekend full of Hallowmarine fun, we’re sharing some of our team’s favorite eco-friendly, decoration ideas! Not only are these decorations a great way to use recyclable materials, they are also more cost-effective than buying traditional decorations AND the steps are simple, making this a great project for families to do together!

Floating Ghost


  • cheesecloth or old fabric cut into a 12″ x 12″ square
  • an old tree ornament (preferably a clear globe)
  • string
  • a glow stick (optional)**
  • a permanent marker


1. Draw two large oval eyes on the ornament with permanent marker.

2. If using a glowstick, activate it and place it inside the ornament. We used a shorter, thicker glow stick like this one, but the thinner variety work as well!

3. Cover the lit ornament with your fabric, if you are using an old sheet, make sure it has a small hole cut in the center of the square to fasten the string to the ornament.

4. Attach string to the ornament’s top hook and hang your ghost! These make great outdoor ornaments for trees and look great on banisters or doorways.

**Stick your activated glow sticks in the freezer to keep them glowing longer! 

Box Mummies


  • a cracker or cereal box**
  • old white fabric such as sheets or pillowcases
  • googly eyes or eyes drawn onto scrap paper
  • tape and/or hot glue


1. Tear the fabric into strips approximately three inches wide

2. Wrap the strips around the box, securing with tape or tying them together (as seen above), until the entire box is completely covered!

3.  Attach the eyes to the top half of your box mummy!

**If you use an empty box, you’ll want to put something in the bottom as a weight so your mummies don’t tip over!

Milk Gallon Ghost


  • Plastic milk jugs (washed out)
  • Scissors
  • Permanent Marker
  • A glowstick (optional)


1. Make sure your gallon is washed out and completely dry

2. Cut off the top of the milk jug, making an approximate six inch hole

3. Draw a ghoulish face on the front facet of the milk jug, opposite sides of the handle

4. Activate the glow stick and drop it in!

Join us this weekend for more exciting crafting at our Hallowmarine events in DC and Baltimore!  

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