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Take the Family on a Seahorse Tour at Birch Aquarium

by Debra Bokur

Jul 14, 2020

Photo: Sonyavraykova | Dreamstime.com

Travel Tips

What kid doesn’t love horses — especially tiny, magical sea horses? Once reopened to the public, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, offers Seahorse Tours uncovering the lives and habits of these unique creatures, showcasing more than 12 species and their close kin, including seadragons.


Birch Aquarium happens to be the location of one of the world’s most important seahorse breeding conservation programs, actively breeding seahorses for more than 25 years. It’s part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plans. During the program’s life, Birch Aquarium has supplied more than 5,000 seahorses to 100 locations around the globe.


In fact, scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography discovered a previously undocumented type of seadragon, dubbed the Ruby Seadragon in honor of its ruby red hue. It’s native to Australia’s southern coast, and while the Ruby Seadragon can’t be seen in captivity, visitors to the aquarium can view its close relatives — known as weedy and leafy seadragons — and search for them among their kelp forest environment where they’re beautifully camouflaged by nature.


Each morning at 10:30 a.m., The Growing Up Seahorse Behind the Scenes tour is offered, finishing up in the breeding room where families can get a close-up look at seadragons, baby seahorses and have an opportunity to feed older seahorses by hand. To participate in the hour-long tour, children must be at least 8 years old and everyone must be wearing closed-toe shoes.


While you’re there, be sure to explore the aquarium’s other outstanding exhibits, including the Preuss Tide Pool Plaza, where sea cucumbers, sea stars, hermit crabs, lobsters, sea anemones and other creatures live in the shallow waters. In the two-story Giant Kelp Tank, residents include Leopard Sharks, Giant Black Sea Bass and Moray Eels. Visitors can watch divers enter the waters at feeding time during Kelp Tank Dive Shows, and learn about the Giant Kelp plant, which can grow an astounding three feet in a single day.


At the Shark Shores exhibit, Leopard sharks, other shark species and graceful rays are on view. For an even deeper look into ocean research, children can dress up like ocean scientists, and learn through a virtual exhibit about the process of ocean exploration aboard the newest addition to the Scripps research fleet, the R/V Sally Ride. The interactive exhibition includes video and stories from the ship’s crew, artifacts and specimens recovered during deep-sea exploration, displays of seafloor mapping, plus a virtual tour of the ship.


While temporarily closed to the public, future guests can learn more here and even support the aquarium in the meantime.


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