Toledo Zoo Aquarium Renovation – Update 2: Where did the fish go?

Toledo Zoo Aquarium - circa 2012

Toledo Zoo Aquarium – circa 2012

The Aquarium building at the Toledo Zoo opened in 1939. Originally housing only freshwater fish, this W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) building gradually had marine exhibits added starting in the 1970’s. Through the 1990’s to 2012, the animal collection housed in the building more than doubled.

The below graph tells quite a bit about the recent history of the animal collection at the Toledo Zoo Aquarium. In purple, the graph lists the number of individual specimens in the collection. The blue line is the number of species in the collection at a given point in time. This number is multiplied by ten in order to bring it into the same scale as the number of specimens (for easier viewing).

Toledo Zoo Aquarium collection summary (1970-2012)

Toledo Zoo Aquarium collection summary (1970-2012)

You can see that through the 1980’s, the Aquarium had a smallish collection of around 140 species and 1,200 specimens. This was typical of city-run aquariums at the time. In 1982, there is a drop in animals, the result of a tragic building fire that year. Beginning in 1989, after the Zoo had become a private, not-for-profit facility, the animal collection began to grow. New insect exhibits continued the growth over the years, as did increases in the Aquarium collection supported by additional staffing.

In 2005, plans began to fall into place to renovate the historic Aquarium building. Major animal acquisitions slowed down and even began to reverse as we prepared to decommission the building. We did want to keep the Aquarium fully operational for as long as we could, so major fish moves out of the building did not commence until the end of 2012. You can see that the collection did not drop to zero. That is because we are housing roughly 1,700 animals of 150 species in our off-site holding facility—where they await their new digs when the Aquarium re-opens in 2015.

Where did all the fish go, and how did you move them?
– Inquiring minds

All of the animals needed to be moved out of the historic Aquarium by mid-December, 2012. We had 3,900 animals of 380 species in 2010. This dropped to 1,500 animals of 140 species in 2013. Where did they go?

  • Some were loaned to other aquariums
  • Some were donated to other aquariums
  • A few went to local fish stores (LFS)
  • The remainder went to our new holding facility

The series of photos below highlight the efforts required to remove specimens from an exhibit and send them on their way to a new home at another aquarium. Click on any photo for details.

Check out the Toledo Zoo Aquarium renovation page for all updates.

Photo Credit: Toledo Zoo


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About Jay Hemdal

Jay Hemdal is the Curator of Fishes and Invertebrates for the Toledo Zoo. He has written over 150 articles and six books on aquariums since 1981.

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