EXHIBITS AND EXPERIENCES
Here at the aquarium, we have a total of 20 exhibits full of magical sea creatures excited to meet you! We’re still growing, so keep a sharp eye out for any newbies that might swim their way home.
If you don’t hear them first, you’ll walk around the corner to meet a group of our rescued macaws. Don’t let their loud mouths fool you, they are gentle and beautiful animals who will happily pose for a picture or two. They are silly, sweet, and stunning animals - we’re lucky to have them call the Encounter home!
Poe is our Russian tortoise. He’s most commonly sighted sleeping under his beloved heat lamp, or his even more loved food bowl. A bit on the slow side, Poe is a sweetheart and loves to be admired for his shiny shell and ability to sleep through anything
ZEBRA MORAY EELS
One of the first predators you’ll see in our aquarium, we currently have three big, beautiful moray eels that call us home. They may strike an intimidating figure under their black lights. However, don’t be alarmed – be in awe! These snake looking creatures sport a stripes like zebras and can curl and twist their way through almost any obstacle. Come see for yourself!
THE FLORIDA RIVER WONDERS EXHIBIT
One of our first circle tanks, in this beautiful green tank you’ll look up and see a habitat not too unlike what you’d see in the wonderful springs that surround us here in Lecanto, FL! We host a few tortoises, right next to Gar fish and natural spring grass. This exhibit encourages everyone to take care of the ecosystem all around us!
PEACOCK MANTIS SHRIMP
Home to our fiercest predator, Mike Tyson is our one and only Peacock Mantis Shrimp. He is a beautiful array of different colors, and due to his amazingly good eyesight he can see colors we humans never could! His grip strength is equal to the power of a bullet. Don’t be alarmed however – Mike Tyson loves to be admired in his little home. Come meet him!
TIDE POOL FINDINGS
The first of our two available touch tanks, here guests can experience exactly what a sea star’s suckers feel like. After washing hands, guests are always encouraged to come forth to this cold tank and pet sea urchins, sea stars, anemones, and other Echinodermata!
TWO SPOT OCTOPUS
Wanna know her favorite joke commonly heard at the Encounter? “How many tickles to make an octopus laugh? Ten-tickles!” Octavia is our one and only two spot Octopus, named for her two blue spots on each side of her head. She can change color as well, and currently lives in our Kelp Forest. Can you spot her hiding amongst the leaves? Also, kindly don’t laugh at her Mr. Potato Head – it’s her absolute favorite toy.
Ray Bay is our spot and yours for the second touch tank in our aquarium. Here, we host a variety of stingrays who are super friendly! Southern Stingrays, Atlantic, Cownose, Yellow, Blue spotted, and Bat Rays all frolic and play in this huge tank. Guests are welcome to give them a gentle stroke along their wings or middle after washing their hands thoroughly. All of our stingrays have been de-barbed – but don’t worry, this is a process no different than clipping their nails. One of our most popular exhibits for good reason! Come learn a thing or two about these beautiful creatures.
Home to an actual mangrove tree, this exhibit hosts a wide ecosystem of plants and animals. Some of our most notable are our horn sharks and our horseshoe crabs. Here you will see schools of fish swim all over, while some of our guitar sharks flutter around the bottom. This exhibit is so beloved because of its wonderful culture. In the wild, estuaries are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. They serve as cleaning stations, mating grounds, and migration stopovers.
Surrounded by little anemones, our clownfish are absolutely adorable and sweet as guppies. You’ll commonly see them hiding among the electric fronds or arguing over which fish gets which anemone. This tank is also black lit to help highlight their amazing stripes and colors.
LIONFISH AND SCORPION FISH
Our most poisonous exhibit yet, here you will meet two kinds of fish that pack a mean punch. Not that they look it – our Scorpionfish are known for sitting on the ground and staring up at the world around them with a grumpy looking face. The lionfish like to sit up on their higher perches, looking down and around while their poisonous tendrils filler around them.
Seahorses have been quoted as one of the most graceful creatures in the sea, and despite their small size do they make quite an impression. In this exhibit, you’ll meet our sweet little floating seahorses as they wander about their days. With prehensile tails, these seahorses are commonly sighted wrapped around coral and leaves. Come fall in love with their sweet noses and beautiful wings!
Here is a strong mix of hermit crabs, sea stars, shrimp, and scallops. This is the tank to watch as a scallop swims around from time to time – be wary if you’re in the splash zone! Watch our brittle sea stars slowly move their wide limbs around, or the hermit crabs of all sizes walk over one another.
A FLORIDA REEF
Home to our Caribbean spiny lobsters, this large exhibit shows our native Floridan lobsters who are found all around the waters of the state. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see our lobsters take part in molting!
SPOTTED GARDEN EELS
If our Zebra Eels are too big for you, you should come meet our tiny Garden Eels! Small and adorable, these eels bury themselves in sand tail first and wait. Using the slime their scales secrete, they create a smooth tunnel in the sand for them to pop up and snatch their prey, and then slide back down where they are super easy to miss. Can you spot them?
BALOON PORCUPINE FISH
Our Puffer fish always steal hearts. Most surprising to our guests are their eyes, which shine in a beautiful blue haze. Porcupine fish are able to “inflate” themselves by inhaling a bunch of water, causing them to look rounder and the spines along their bodies to stick outwards. They only enact this defensive mechanism when threatened, however, and thankfully ours are very comfortable in their home of the Encounter. Come see for yourself!
Just when you think you’ve seen all our seahorses, you’ll stumble upon a little porthole showing off these adorable tiny seahorses! Smaller than your pinkie finger’s nail, they are just darling babies. Like our larger Lined Seahorses, our Dwarf seahorses use their prehensile tails to wrap themselves around coral and kelp vines. You may need a magnifying glass to see them, but we assure you the sight of them will melt your heart!
GIANT HERMIT CRAB
Wandering around his shallow water exhibit, Crayton is our one and only giant hermit crab! Currently he is around eight inches wide – we first got him when he was only a few centimeters! His favorite game is trying to pull himself over the walls of his enclosure – but don’t worry, his shell is too heavy for him to lift out of the water!
UPSIDE DOWN JELLYFISH
Always the life of the party, these little guys sit on their heads and wait for the current of the water to bring them their prey of zooplankton and light! They can grow to the size of a pie plate, though ours are still small enough to get tangled in the filter if they flitter off too far! No worries however, our staff is always ready to catch them and get them back into the light.
EPAULETTE AND BAMBOO SHARKS
Did you know a group of sharks is called a shiver? This tank is low to the ground and currently houses a shiver of Epaulettes and Bamboo Sharks. From the same family tree, these sharks are bottom feeders who love to hide under coral formations. They are able to filter water through their gills without moving, unlike their more famous shark cousins. Right now, we’re lucky enough to have a mermaid purse incubating in the water with them! A mermaid purse is a little egg sack with a baby shark inside. They’re due to come out in October, we invite you to come meet them!
THE PERFORMANCE TANK
Our largest exhibit doubles as our underwater theater. With over ten species of fish swimming around, including Spade, Angelfish, and Grunts, it’s always busy inside! It is also home to our biggest sharks, Finnegan and Willow. Two nurse sharks that have been with us since we opened! Our newest family member, Deliah the Southern Stingray has also claimed this exhibit as her home. This tank is over 13,000 gallons. Here our mermaids will dance and perform for you! Come in at the right time, and you’ll even get to witness Finn and Willow be hand fed by our Diver Chelsea.