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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Blue Planet Aquarium’s Freshwater Oddballs



In the last few Blogs I’ve covered our Main Tank here at Blue Planet quite extensively, but I haven’t really managed to show you some of our other inhabitants. In this blog I want to show you some of the animals we have in our freshwater tanks and seen as half of the Aquarium is freshwater its pretty fair to say that we have quite a few of them.

When Blue Planet Aquarium was built back in 1998 it was built to loosely replicate the water cycle, so our first area is an area that mimics highland streams and rivers, before it moves down through the Jungles and Rainforests, then into the world’s great Lakes and finally the mangrove swamps and brackish swamps… before finally ending up in the ocean.

The first area we’re going to talk about is the first zone at the aquarium and that’s Northern Streams. This area is themed around highland rivers and streams and is mainly British Freshwater species including Carp, Sticklebacks, Sturgeon and Silver Orfe. The exhibit is split into three sections with different species in each section. Each section is split by a wall with a small gap over the top with fast flowing water. This is to imitate the natural currents that the animals would get in the wild and they do have the option to swim over them if they want too.

In this exhibit we have around 250 Silver Orfe and a handful of Golden Orfe or as they’re otherwise globally known as “Ide”. They’re a species that need fast flowing water with lots of oxygen and swim between the three sections all the time. We also have Common and Silver Carp, which are a large relative of the Goldfish. Carp are famous through Course Fishing and are immensely powerful; they’re among peoples favourites due to their quite comical expressions and being one of the largest fish in Northern Streams.

My personal favourites in this area are the two species of Sturgeon: we have both Russian or “Diamond” Sturgeon and Siberian Sturgeon. You may be familiar with these guys as they’re a fish that look incredibly similar to a Shark and have been around for millions of years. We know this as they lack a first Dorsal fin in the same way that Six-gill and Seven-Gill Sharks do; these fish are also one of a few species from which we get Caviar. They are a bottom dwelling fish and feed by using their sensitive noses to forage through the mud for worms and small Crustaceans.

The next area is Lake Malawi (not the real one) but an area of the aquarium that’s themed around the great lake in Africa. Lake Malawi has a surface area of 29,600 km² and is 580km Long with its max depth being 700m. This makes Lake Malawi the ninth largest lake in the world and is the third largest and second deepest in Africa. Lake Malawi houses more fish species than any other lake in the world with the number of Cichlids alone sitting at around 1500sp although at Blue Planet we only a house a mere handful of these.

Cichlids are famous for the way in which they breed, Cichlids are known as mouth brooders as the females store/incubate and rear their young in their mouths. The females do this until the young start to become too large for all the Fry to be stored in the mouth and at this point she will start to kick them out so they can stretch their fins and build up their strength, but if they’re not quick enough to get back in when a predator comes then they are at risk of being eaten. Our Cichlids are housed alongside other animals such as a Giraffe Catfish who naturally would be found in the Nile River but were released into Lake Malawi. Ours is incredibly friendly and will come to the surface and wait, mouth agape, for his food.

The next and final area is of course the Amazon Area. Now if you were to walk through the aquarium you would go through this area first before Lake Malawi, but I wanted to leave the largest of our freshwater fish until last.

In this area we have some of our most charismatic Freshwater species such as our Red-Bellied Piranhas. These fish are surrounded by quite negative media attention which is something that isn’t deserved. The rumours surround that these fish eat people and can strip a human in 10 seconds but that is greatly exaggerated.

Piranhas are more scavengers and due to this are nicknamed the “Hyenas of the Amazon”. They prefer to eat the dead, dying or severely injured, this is due to their small size and the fact that they are not very high up the food chain, meaning that they’re targeted by many predators that live in the Amazon. They usually send up a scout to check the prey or food and once the scout has taken the first bite to show its clear, the rest of the pack follow. A Piranhas’ bite is incredibly powerful and so powerful that in comparison to body size, Red-Bellied Piranhas have a stronger bite than that of T-Rex and Megalodon. The myth that they can strip a human in seconds is mainly science fiction, but they can still strip a small carcass in just a few minutes.

The final Exhibit I’m going to mention is the Flooded Forest tank. This is the one that houses the aquarium’s largest freshwater fish. In this tank we have some of the most charismatic and popular fish in the aquarium,  such as the Black Pacu, which is the world’s largest species of Piranha. When these fish are young they have bright red bellies to mimic the Red-Bellied Piranha and as they get bigger they lose this colour and turn a dark colour.

People buy these fish thinking that they’re getting Piranhas, but owners soon realise there’s something amiss when they swap some meat for some carrots and cabbage. They can also grow up to be around 3 ½ Feet in length and weigh in at a hefty 60 pounds, we have one in the exhibit around this size that has come to be called “Moby”. The tank is home to a number of fish that have been rescued over the years and a lot of the fish in the tank were all either mis-sold or sold under a false name, leading to the tank being nicknamed ‘Tank Busters’. Sharing the tank with the Pacu’s we also have Tiger Shovelnose Catfish who were very intent on looking at their reflection in the dome port of my camera when I got in to take some of the photos used in this blog. Once again these fish are also rescues from owners who could no longer care for them.

We also have a handful of Silver Arowana and of course the Freshwater Stingrays. We have two species at Blue Planet: the Amazonian Stingray which is Brown with orange spots and the Xingu River Ray which is black with white spots. These Stingrays have the slightly annoying habit of trying to sleep under your feet when you’re trying to clean the windows and sand, so we must be extra careful not to step on them.

So, there you have it, our Freshwater Oddballs here at Blue Planet Aquarium. It’s amazing to have several different species over many different environments and I’m glad that I have been able to introduce you to some of the aquarium’s different inhabitants. Check out the next blog to meet our Jellyfish Breeder and to see how we breed our Moon Jellyfish.

For more information about the Blue Planet Aquarium please visit their website by clicking here.

Donovan is a Divemaster who currently works as a Shark Diver at Blue Planet Aquarium based in Ellesmere Port. Donovan’s passion lies with Elasmobranch’s (Sharks & Rays) and this passion has led him to work in South Africa with White Sharks for a short period. He also believes that education through exposure is the best way to re-educate people about Sharks. Follow Donovan at

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Jenn Sandiford about the See You at the Sea Festival Film Competition (Watch Video)



In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-large, chats to Jenn Sandiford – Youth Engagement Officer with the Your Shore Beach Rangers Project and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust – about the See You at the Sea Festival Film Competition.

The See you at the Sea Festival was an online film festival created by young people, for young people.

In this first interview of six, Jenn tells us about the Festival and how it came about. In the following five interviews – one shared each day this week – Jeff talks with the young contestants about their films and what inspired them.

For more information please visit:

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Marine Life & Conservation

The BiG Scuba Podcast… with Paul Rose



Next in a new series of podcasts shared by our friends Gemma and Ian aka The BiG Scuba Podcast…

Ian and Gemma chat to Paul Rose. A man at the front line of exploration and one of the world’s most experienced divers, field science and polar experts, Paul Rose helps scientists unlock and communicate global mysteries in the most remote and challenging regions of the planet.

He is an experienced television presenter and radio broadcaster. With a proven track record in business engagements, Paul is a sought-after speaker, chairman, host and moderator for industry, government and NGO events.

Former Vice President of the Royal Geographical Society(link is external) and Chair of the Expeditions and Fieldwork Division, Paul is currently Expedition Leader for the National Geographic Pristine Seas Expeditions.

He was the Base Commander of Rothera Research Station, Antarctica, for the British Antarctic Survey for 10 years and was awarded HM The Queen’s Polar Medal. For his work with NASA and the Mars Lander project on Mt Erebus, Antarctica, he received the US Polar Medal.

Paul is a mountain and polar guide leading Greenland Icecap crossing and mountaineering expeditions and polar science support logistics. He worked for four years as a Mountain Safety consultant to the oil industry in the Middle East.

On his 2012 Greenland expedition, Paul led the first expedition to successfully traverse a new 275km icecap route of Knud Rasmussen Land and repeated his first ascent of the north face of Gunnsbjørnfjeld, the highest mountain in the Arctic.

His professional diving work includes science support diving in Antarctica as the British Antarctic Survey’s Institute Diving Officer. He ran the US Navy diver training programme at Great Lakes Naval Training Centre and trained many emergency response dive teams including the Police, Fire Department and Underwater Recovery Teams. He remains a current and active PADI Dive Instructor.

Find out more about Paul Rose at

Find more podcast episodes and information at and on most social platforms @thebigscuba 

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