Text and photographs by David Marshall
Ryedale A.S.

The Aquarium of the Lakes is situated on the quayside of Lakeside, Lake Windermere, Cumbria.
With the Lake and its surrounding beauty as a backdrop, you could not wish for a better place to site a Public Aquarium. This Aquarium in turn has broadened its scope in order to display a wider variety of natural wonders from the 'local' area and a little further a field.

Visiting in early June 2007 Sue and I would be very surprised to find a number of changes had taken place since we were last there.
The first of these we found before entering the Aquarium as the car park facing wall now displays a very informative, and impressive, notice which explains the displays inside, a different notice explains that visitor toilet facilities (much improved) are situated on the quayside and your entrance ticket now entitles unlimited return to the Aquarium upon the day of issue.

So what about the Aquarium displays? Although still centered around 30 major exhibits, varying in size and dimension, the raindrop theme of a journey from mountain to sea now, on the whole, plays much less importance than it did and although this means a decrease in fish-based exhibits, the addition of more small mammals, insects and amphibians has made for a greater all round attraction.

The displays begin with a mountain stream occupied by Mirror Carp, Golden Rudd and a lone Koi.

Ascending a staircase (or using the lift facility) you find yourself staring at a very impressive mountaintop tarn, which leads onto the display area for a young pair of Asian short-clawed Otters.

On the day of our visit the Aquarium was fairly quiet so we were able to see these delightful creatures out-and-about digging in soil for food and enjoying quick visits to the stream section of their enclosure.

Several themed aquariums follow and these mainly display European freshwater fish – both endemic and feral species. The most beautiful fish here are the Russian Sturgeon and Long-nosed Siberian Sturgeon while Pike and Anguilla Eel share a strange co-existence in a beautifully arranged display, which allows them the space and opportunity to blend superbly in with riverbank décor.

Now we reach a number of displays under the title of mini-animals that include playful Polecats, menacing-looking Stick Insects, several types of mice. Red-eared Terrapins, Common Toad, Common Frog and all sorts of weird creatures found in garden ponds.

A columned aquarium containing a variety of Goldfish species heralds our arrival at a viewing platform that looks down into the walkthrough tunnel. Down another flight of stairs . . . .

and we are inside this tunnel, which for me was the real highlight, surrounded by fish species from Lake Windermere which include Sturgeon, Common Bream (complete with spawning tubercles), Brook Trout and Common Carp.

An increased amount of natural light entering the display means increased growths of algae that, in turn, make the Tufted and Pochard Ducks dive more frequently into the water from their dry land area.
A spectacular sight!

The freshwater displays end with a beautiful aquarium that presently houses Perch, Common Carp and a small Wels catfish that was well camouflaged against a tree trunk.

Now we move onto the Morecambe coastline displays and encounter Rock Pools. Among the various fish displayed are Grey Mullet, Pipefish and Marine Sticklebacks. Plenty of Hermit Crabs and invertebrates etc. add to the interest. Here are the main activity areas for young visitors.

The final exhibit comes in the form of a wonderfully set-out Ray Pool that is home not only to various types of Ray but also Pollack, Dogfish, Cod and some very playful Wrasse.

Throughout the Aquarium are excellent information boards and audio-visual presentations, guided tours of the exhibits are now in regular operation (although we did not go on one of these) and the whole place just seems to have had what we will class as a renewal of enthusiasm.

On a final note I believe that although the changes to the exhibits may disappoint the purist aquarists among us they have enhanced the overall visitor experience continuing to make the Aquarium of the Lakes a wonderful place to be.

Last updated July 2007

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