This past week we visited San Diego to give you an idea of whats to come for next year’s MACNA conference. We found lots of great local fish stores and had a wonderful tour of the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography.
If you wanted to check out the aquarium before MACNA and you don’t live in San Diego, you can take a virtual tour, or tune into the live Kelp Cam. Here is our top five things to see at the Birch Aquarium in San Diego
5. Extra large and extra OLD Bubble Coral
You have to check out this bubble coral which is approximately two feet tall and 30 inches across. It may not stand out like some of the brightly colored fish and tropical corals but this massive pearl bubble has been with the aquarium for 27 years!
If you think about how big your bubble corals can grow at home, or even some prized specimens at your LFS, this one probably blows them all out of the water. The coral, along with a few other animals in the tank, were donated to the aquarium from a confiscated shipment and have called the Birch home ever since.
4. Catalina (Bluebanded) Goby
So we think these Gobies are something to look out for. We love the bright pink body and blue lined face. The Goby is found in cold water and can be found right off the coast in California.
There are quite a few Gobies in the tank, along with some tuna crabs, brittle stars, Corynactis, and gorgonians. As a bonus look out for the smaller bright orange dendrophyllia. This coral was found off the San Diego coast in a fisherman’s net around 600 feet deep. The Dendrophillya has been on display at the Birch aquarium for more than a decade.
3. Falcifer butterflyfish
We have always wanted to visit the Birch Aquarium just to see the Falcifer Butterfly. As far as we know there have only been four Falcifers on display in public Aquariums in recent memory in the U.S., and the Birch has two. The second pair was given to the Denver aquarium on a permanent loan, of which one is still on display.
The Falcifer butterfly is also referred to as the Scythe butterfly as the black marking on its side resemble a scythe. The Falcifer is a unique cold water species found at depths between 75-500 feet and it is closely related to Carlhubb’s butterflyfish.
This fantastic pair have been with the aquarium for over 20 years. The Falcifer was first chosen as the logo for the Birch Aquarium as the Scripps Institute for Oceanography played a major role in discovering and describing the species.
2. Seahorse Propagation
Who doesn’t love these darling little sea ponies, we sure do. The Birch Aquarium has a unique seahorse propagation facility located in the kids area. They also have a larger version behind the scenes but we have to say the display in the kids center is still pretty cool. The display has several tanks set up with bubbling plankton and seahorses in their different life stages.
Also in the Something about Seahorses exhibit room there are a pair of leafy sea dragons, and if you have never seen these elegant dragons you are in for a treat. They look like larger version of a seahorse only decorated in a few dozen fronds of seaweed, the perfect camouflage for living in the weeds.
As a bonus, the aquarium has set up a quite private tank home to some beautiful weedy sea dragons. The aquarium is trying to breed the beauties on site so their hot rod tank is set up behind the scenes away from the busy aquarium gallery. There are currently no weedy sea dragons on public display, however there is a live webcam feed in the Something about Seahorses exhibit where you can catch of glimpse of these unique animals.
1. Kelp Forest
You can’t miss this two-story 70,000 gallon tank, definitely one of, if not the main attraction at the Birch Aquarium. You can also check out the live Kelp Cam to get you excited about visiting the Aquarium.
The kelp forest is representative of the California and San Diego Coastline and inside the tank you first notice a giant pair of Black sea bass swimming in between the swaying kelp. There are also a pair of leopard sharks, some bright orange garibaldi damselfish, eels, barracudas, and more.
This tank is definitely cool and we got a topside view of how they create the rhythmic wave using a weighted lever, a process that warrants it’s own post altogether. Another feature we love is that the tank is completely open at the top, so no artificial lights are installed and the tank is illuminated by 100% sunlight.