The history of The Aquarium

ZSL London Zoo holds a very important position in aquatic history, as it was the very first place to establish and open a public aquarium.

The Aqua-vivaria, or fish house, circa 1875, the world's first public aquarium.

On the 18th February 1852 the Council of the Zoological Society agreed that work should start immediately on the building of an Aquatic Vivarium (the original term for a fish tank or fish enclosure) and in 1853 the “Fish House” was opened to the public.

However soon after, Philip Henry Gosse started calling the ‘Aquatic Vivariums’ ‘Aquariums’, and this world-recognised term we use today for describing any display of marine life was taken up and popularised by London Zoo.

This didn’t please everybody as the word ‘aquarium’ in classical Latin actually means a watering place for cattle but it soon caught on!

Inside the original 'Fish House' were over 300 different breeds of marine life, not just fish, but also many other species of invertebrates. This was the first time aquatic animals had been kept and cared for, on such a large scale, in enclosed tanks.

The Aquarium as we know it now was not built until 1921, as the public demand to see the fish at London Zoo was ever increasing. It was built on a different site in London Zoo to the original aquarium and is now housed under the Mappin Terraces. The Aquarium was opened by King George V and his wife Queen Mary in April 1924.