Toledo Zoo Aquarium Renovation – Update 15: Grand Opening Today!

Mosaic walkway in the renovated Aquarium

Mosaic walkway in the renovated Aquarium (Credit: Toledo Zoo/Andi Norman)

Virtually since we launched Saltwater Smarts back in April of 2013, we’ve been bringing you regular updates on the progress of the $25.5 million renovation of the Toledo Zoo Aquarium. Today, we’re thrilled to announce that this ambitious project has finally come to fruition with the grand opening of the new Aquarium taking place.

Congratulations to all who were involved in this ponderous undertaking—and special salty kudos to our friend and regular contributor Jay Hemdal, Curator of Fishes and Invertebrates for the Toledo Zoo.

I’ve always had a special affinity for the Toledo Zoo. Not only was my first home as a child situated literally a stone’s throw from the Zoo (escaped peacocks, a common occurrence back in those days, would often land atop neighborhood houses, ours included), but I’m also proud to say that from May of 2002 to December of 2005, I had the privilege of working in the Zoo’s marketing department as Writer/Publication’s Coordinator.

Panoramic shot of the new entrance

Panoramic shot of the new entrance (Credit: Toledo Zoo/Bruce Burkhart)

The Toledo Zoo boasts many world-class exhibits, but, perhaps not surprisingly, the Aquarium has always been my favorite. If ever my workload got the better of me, I could step away from my computer, walk the short distance from my office in the Museum of Science to the Aquarium, immerse myself (figuratively) in the captivating exhibits, and let the stress just drain away. I’ll take a moon jelly tank over meditation any day!

But enough of my reminiscing! Getting back to the renovation, the new Aquarium houses 3,000+ aquatic animals in 178,000 gallons of water. Highlights (with exhibit descriptions provided by the Zoo) include:

The Reef

At 90,000 gallons, the Aquarium’s largest exhibit features colorful fish, sleek sharks, and Zoo divers who interact with visitors. (Note: “Caribbean Chris” will literally be immersed in this exhibit, being one of said divers.)

Touch Tank, Ocean Lab

Visitors get close to sharks, rays, sea stars, and more in a hands-on environment.

Toledo Zoo Aquarium touch tank

Guests touching sea stars (Credit: Toledo Zoo/Andi Norman)

Gulf of Mexico

Featuring sharks, rays, and a sea turtle, this is the Aquarium’s second-largest exhibit. The sea turtle is part of a conservation education program to help wild turtles.

Bonnethead shark and spotted eagle ray at Toledo Zoo Aquarium

Bonnethead shark and spotted eagle ray (Credit: Toledo Zoo/Jay Hemdal-Kandace York)

Reef Crest and The Lagoon

Chemical warfare is the theme here, with living corals, a giant clam, and more.

Kelp Forest

Leopard sharks and bat rays are among the featured species of this exhibit.

And for all you freshwater aficionados:

Flooded Forests

From the piranhas of South America’s Amazon ecosystem to Asia’s mangrove forests, aquatic life thrives in remarkable ways.

Electrifying Experience

Visitors will remember this encounter with the Zoo’s new electric eel.

Not only am I extremely grateful that the Zoo has made this investment in the future of the Aquarium, but also that they made every effort to maintain its unique Works Progress Administration (WPA)-era architecture. In fact, if you’re interested in architecture, it’s worth visiting the Toledo Zoo just to see the large assortment of historic structures from this era (which also includes the Reptile House, Amphitheatre, Museum of Science, and Aviary), most of which are still used for their original purpose.

So, fellow salties, if ever you should find yourself in the Toledo area, do make a point of visiting the newly refurbished Toledo Zoo Aquarium. You won’t be disappointed. Plus, if you can spot and photograph “CC” in the Reef Exhibit while you’re there, he and PaulB will come to your house and perform competing interpretive dances to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.


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About Jeff Kurtz

Jeff Kurtz is the Co-founder/Editor of Saltwater Smarts, former Senior Consulting Editor for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, and the aquarist formerly known as “The Salt Creep.” He has been an aquarium hobbyist for over 30 years and is an avid scuba diver.


  1. We have a local aquarium that just built a new facility. It’s a big hit with families and schools. They have professional diving contractors that are on hand for any repairs or maintenance for their tanks and exhibits. These individuals are seriously skilled and fun to watch.

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