Text by David Marshall
Photographs Sue and David Marshall,
Ryedale A.S.

The Cheshire town of Ellesmere Port is famous for its Narrow Boat Museum, Cheshire Oaks shopping centre and as the home of the largest Public Aquarium in the U.K.

You enter the Blue Planet to begin an incredible journey that mirrors a drop of water travelling through fresh, brackish and marine environments. The wonderful displays are spread over an upper and lower floor.

The first gallery is named Northern Streams. Here you will find 5 aquariums displaying fish from temperate freshwater. View these aquariums from the balcony area and you will be amazed at how large the Barbel, European Chub, Xanthic Channel Catfish, Sturgeon and Golden Tench they house actually are.

- Sturgeon

- Northern Shores as viewed from the balcony

Now we move past an Axolotl display and into Exploring the Amazon.
The various fish on show share their displays with all manner of Amazonian 'mini-monsters'. The main aquarium is home to a stunning 2m-long Arapaima that has a shoal of Black Pacu, Redtail Catfish, Granulated Dora and Amazon Pictus Catfish for company. To add to the effect authentic Amazonian jungle sounds are constantly played.

Now no serious Public Aquarium would be without a Red-breasted Piranha display so these menacing fish, which have a shoal of Mexican Ameca splendens for company, end this particular gallery. Take the time to watch the short documentary film that accompanies this display.

The third gallery is named Life in Lake Malawi. The first of two large displays is like a 'dream aquarium' for me. Among the residents here are huge Nile Perch (famous for their destructive activities in Lake Victoria), Short-nosed Clown Distichodus, a very boisterous Clarias and some wonderful, and very large, Giraffe Catfish.

- Giraffe

The Mbuna display, with its above and below water escarpment, is a sight to behold. There are so many species and colour forms of species here that we would need a large space to list them all. I just enjoyed their myriad of colours.

- The Lake Malawi    exhibit

- A selection of   the wonderful   Mbuna

With Amazing amphibians 12 vivariums have a main focus upon Dart and Tree frogs.

Now we descend, via lift or stairs, to the lower galleries. The displays here begin with Creatures of the Swamp. The first of these displays houses a large number of Red-eared Terrapins. I love the second display, which sees a two level vivarium, of water and land, that is home to Mudskippers (hence the need for land), Shark Catfish, Tigerfish and Scats.

Now we enter the Rocky shoreline gallery. Native marines and crustaceans abound here. Coral Bay is a new display, and a true highlight, which Sue adored. As you stand inside a Caribbean hut you are looking down upon various Tang, Pufferfish, Goatfish and Fingerfish to name a few. The movement in this display is amazing.

- Coral Bay

The coral propagation gallery holds a number of tropical marine exhibits and leads you into the spectacle of the Aquatheatre.
This is a huge window that leads you into a walk through tunnel (where you can stroll or use a moving floor) that brings you so close to many species of fish including French Angels, Squirrelfish, Jacks, Trevallys, Queen Triggerfish and the famous Blue Planet Shark collection

- Fish shoaling in the Tunnel

Halfway through your tunnel journey you come to a newly created exhibit featuring various corals and their associated Clownfish.


Getting close to Sharks!

The tunnel ends in the cafeteria area. Up the stairs and we are in the Gift Shop area. Outside now to the final exhibit of Asian Short-clawed Otters and the pair housed here has a paradise area in which to roam.

The great thing about the Blue Planet is that once around you are not forced to exit the building so, as I did, you can make return visits to your favourite areas. I love the Blue Planet and always look forward to our visits.

Review of a visit made in early August, 2006
and originally written for Ryedale Reporter magazine.

FBAS Video V18 'Fishkeeping through the Millennium' features the Blue Planet and the Weekend of Fishkeeping held there in 2000

Last updated August 2007

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