New aquarium makes a splash with more than just fish
With its 53 aquariums and seven million litres of salt and fresh water, Den Blå Planet, home to 540 different species of fish, marine animals, birds and even crocodiles, opened on Friday. As the largest aquarium in northern Europe, it is expected to attract 700,000 visitors a year, which would make it one of Denmark’s five most popular attractions.
The architecturally-striking aquarium is located beside Kastrup Harbour, within easy travelling distance of Copenhagen Airport and Amager Beach Park. As Christian Yssing, a spokesman for Den Blå Planet, explained, the existing aquarium in Charlottenlund had simply become too small.
“When the land became available, we jumped at the chance to move here – with 3,000 fish and other animals along for the ride and a further 17,000 ‘relatives’ due to join them by the time we open,” Yssing said at an advance tour.
The brand new building was designed specifically for the purpose to reflect not only the climate, whether a blue sky or cloudy afternoon, but the shape of a whirlpool. It can be extended as required at a later date.
Biologist Anders Kofoed described the overall concept to The Copenhagen Post.
“With open-air as well as indoor displays, we want visitors to feel as if they are diving underwater and coming up for air. Our focus is on more than just fish,” Kofoed said. “We’re hoping the open-air Faroe Island tank will encourage puffins to display natural diving behaviour in full view. Sea lions will be fed in another part of the aquarium and in our Amazon jungle section, visitors will feel the heat and hear jungle sounds while spotting lizards as butterflies and exotic birds fly past their ears.”
“We want our young visitors to make friends with our animals and see all sides of their different personalities up close. Especially in the Ocean Tank, where you can walk through a 16 metre tunnel surrounded by shoals of beautiful fish, graceful rays and young hammerhead sharks swimming lazily round in four million litres of water.”
Another aim is to teach visitors how they can help save the planet on a small, everyday scale, with a primary focus on conservation. Though it looks robust, the 18-metre long live coral reef on show is actually a fragile ecosystem. Another tank reveals the effects of pollution in a mock-up of Lake Victoria in Africa. “Ultimately, we plan to engage in programmes to help reintroduce endangered species,” Kofoed said.
But don’t expect to see that ‘reintroduction’ in action.
"Naturally, the basement breeding area is off limits to the public,” Kofoed said with a wink. “We don’t want to disturb them. But if our weedy sea dragons manage to breed, for example, we will be releasing them back into the wild. We are also hoping to find a mate for our female rock hyrax, which is like a small furry elephant.”
Visitors opting for special behind-the-scenes guided tours will also be able to meet a large friendly Pacific octopus, and at some point sponsors will be able to ‘adopt an animal’. In the meantime, everyone will be able to touch a crab, hold a lumpfish and learn about nature from the hands-on interactive screens and exhibits. There, visitors can finger paint with squid ink or get manicures by cleaner shrimps.
An ocean of ideas – some up and running and many more in the pipeline – are intended to keep people coming back for more to this unusual architectural landmark by the sea.