Something Fishy… The Sealife Aquarium in Charlotte, North Carolina

We met this handsome Nautilus at the Sealife Aquarium in Charlotte, N.C.

I wasn’t expecting much from the Sealife Aquarium in Charlotte, North Carolina. It wasn’t because it was in Charlotte. After all, I had already been to the city’s small but impressive aviation museum that housed the plane that Captain Sully landed on the Hudson River. No, my prejudice was based on the fact that the aquarium was located in a shopping mall. I also had a slight bit of snobbishness because my go-to place for watching sea life up-close-and-personal is the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, recognized as one of the world’s best.

I did expect that the gift shop at the aquarium with its shopping center location would be packed with sea life made for snuggling.

Like how can you resist these eyes?

I am pretty sure that this octopus had a thing for seahorses.

None of this mattered, however. Peggy and I were on an outing with our grandkids Ethan and Cody, our daughter Tasha and her husband Clay. The aquarium was simply an excuse, something that the kids would probably get a kick out of. When I was their age, chasing crawdads in Webber Creek for our cookpot at home was about as exciting as life got. The little buggers had tiny claws that could pinch. They’d zip under rocks backwards so their weapons were facing out. I was cautious. Who knows what my reaction might have been had I come face to face with an actual shark.

Ethan and I share a moment in front of the major aquarium while a small shark and other fish swim by. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Our daughter Tasha with Cody. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The whole family (Cody, Peggy, Tasha, Clay and Ethan) poses in this ‘under sea’ shot.

Some Jaws music please. While Webber Creek had its share of crawdads, trout, and suckers, there were no sharks like this one at the aquarium. Had there been, I expect some of our old swimming holes wouldn’t have been old swimming holes.

So, I was surprised when we entered the museum. It wasn’t the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but it was pretty darn good. The display tanks were well done, the sea life plenteous, and the educational materials informative. I had as much fun as Ethan and Cody. I was also impressed that the aquarium had a strong conservation/environmental-action element to it. Here are a few of the sea creatures we met and enjoyed:

Peggy caught this Lionfish. It’s easy to see why it is a popular fish in home aquariums.

Here’s my shot of the lion fish. An old anchor cuts across the right of the photo.

I didn’t know that seahorses had freckles. They always look pregnant to me. The one on the lower left looks like it is puckering up for a kiss. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I like the way seahorses are always wrapping their tails around something, including each other. Question: Are several seahorses known as a herd like horses or a school like fish?

Weird. This appears to be an octopus that Peggy photographed. Maybe it flies.

My own octopus was a little weird as well. It appears to be doing a face plant.

I was really impressed with the colorful, ocean-like setting of the aquarium. An angel fish, fins aflutter, checks me out.

This spiny lobster did not meet my definition of what lobsters should look like. Where are the big, edible claws? When I looked this up, I also learned that our crawdads were in the lobster family! No wonder their tiny tails tasted so sweet.

This common sea-snail also goes by the name of marine gastropod. I wonder if it prefers the fancier name? Anybody who has played in tide pools knows that hermit crabs love to borrow these shells for their homes, preferably once the snail has vacated the premises.

A stingray with its potent, poisonous tail. The general rule is that if you leave them alone, they are happy to leave you alone. You don’t want to step on one however.

Nor do you want to mess with this fellow, a moray eel. Divers feed them on occasion. Not smart. They also lose their fingers on occasion. It’s like feeding a hotdog to a bear. Also not smart. Where does the hotdog end and the fingers begin?

Many aquariums have learned the magic of adding jellyfish tanks and adding colored lights for effects.

As beautiful as they are, they also pack quite a wallop if you manage to come in contact, a lesson I sadly learned when I was swimming in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa.

I’ll conclude our visit to the Sealife Aquarium in Charlotte with these beauties.


NEXT BLOG: The next to the last installment of my Sierra Trek Series. As we enter the foothills on our backpack trip across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, temperatures climb above 100 and one of my participants decides to go shoplifting in the foothill town of Foresthill. Hello Sheriff!


43 thoughts on “Something Fishy… The Sealife Aquarium in Charlotte, North Carolina

    • I was quite leery of its mall connection to start with, Suan. I felt it was too commercial to be serious. Afterwards, I changed my mind. It was a good aquarium. But more importantly, Sealife brought the aquarium to where people were. I suspect lots of families visited the aquarium that otherwise might not have. The children (and the adults) were introduced to the beauty of the ocean— and to the importance of protecting it. –Curt

  1. It looks like a very fine aquarium. And a very fine family. We went on a snorkelling tour in the Cook Islands a few years ago. The guides had been regularly feeding a moray eel, and we watched as the guide teased it out from under some coral with food. He still had all his fingers. It’s the only way I’d ever get to see one I guess, except for in an aquarium. The same guide surfaced holding an octopus to his chest. If you want to see that go to the post called “A Tropical Paradise and My Aussie Home Town”.

  2. Wow fantastic colours. Looking at this early in the morning with sleepy eyes you did have me for a minute there on the first couple of photos…… Morning coffee helped put it into perspective lol. What a nice experience to share with the grandchildren.

  3. Curt, thank you for sharing your day out with your family – the aquarium looks so interesting and a lot of fun. You all look happy and content! The photos are beautiful and some of the colours sublime. I too would have balked at the thought of an aquarium in a shopping mall but so happy it turned out such a hit with everyone. I had to smile at your comment about the jellyfish – understandably for you, this would seem rather tame to be looking at the jellyfish rather than swimming with them in the Indian Ocean!😀

    • You are welcome, Annika. And thank you. It’s a good family. Tasha and Clay are great parents and have provided their children with opportunities I couldn’t have imagined as a child.
      As for tamer, a bit. 🙂 –Curt

  4. There are great aquariums in Texas, but one of my favorites is very near here, in Lake Jackson. The Sea Center of Texas has one as an adjunct to their primary purpose, which is raising speckled trout, redfish, and flounder for release. It’s all very scientific — what is being raised at any one time depends on how the populations are fluctuating in the bay system.

    In any event, they have something you didn’t mention — a touch tank. It was the most fun: filled with hermit crabs, sea urchins, lightning whelks (the state shell of Texas) and so on. And the aquarium proper, though small, is beautifully done.

    One of the many side benefits of my work is getting to watch jellyfish in season. We have cabbage heads and moon jellies that will come into the bays, particularly as the salinity of the water increases during the summer. And on the coast we can find the glorious blue buttons. I haven’t been to the beach in forever, but your post makes me think it’s time.

    • I should have shown some photos of the kids using the touch tank— or me as far as that goes. (grin) Sounds like lots of areas are coming up with quality aquariums, Linda. They must be successful financially. Lucky you with the jelly fish. And by all means, head for the beach. –Curt

  5. Pingback: Something Fishy… The Sealife Aquarium in Charlotte, North Carolina | Pauguste2008's Blog

  6. Pingback: Something Fishy… The Sealife Aquarium in Charlotte, North Carolina — Wandering through Time and Place – Cynthia

  7. What a great place to see with grandkids — or just by yourself, for that matter. Your pics make me want to travel to Charlotte which is really not too far away. But if I could get my granddaughter out of there without going through the gift shop, I’d be way ahead of the game, for sure.

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