Discover new depths this summer as you delve deeper into the fascinating underwater worlds of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s brand new Aquarium - now open!
From flooded forests to dark mysterious caves, you will take an interactive journey, heading below the surface and discovering the deepest, darkest secrets of freshwater fish.
Immerse yourself in unbelievable facts and fantastic tales about our newest residents. From the spotted hillstream loach, with suction cups made from its fins to help it crawl along the bottom of a fast-flowing river, to the striped shell dwelling cichlid who is an expert at hide and seek.
Join us as we take conservation to another level, uncovering some of the rarest and most critically endangered fish on the planet, such as the La Palma pupfish which is extinct in the wild.
Discover how fish have adapted to some of the world’s most challenging habitats, including the mangrove killifish which can survive out of water for 66 days when the waters of their mangrove home seasonally dry out. You can even take a peek behind the glass as you see our scientists hard at work.
We're celebrating the launch of our Aquarium with some additional activities!
Younger visitors will be immersed in our Fish Tales this summer as they get on board their own boat and go on a journey to discover who calls the river home, and who eats who to survive! Fish Tales will run at 11.30am in the marquee from 26 July - 2 September and is recommended for 1-5 year olds.
You can also join us for ZSL in Action! Get hands on to help the team figure out what happened to a manatee and test the water in the river to learn what's happening to the fish after a disaster hits. This activity will run throughout the day from 10.30am - 5pm from 26 July - 2 September and is recommended for 6-12 year olds.
From fish that can jump out of water and pluck fruit from trees, to those that have evolved to no longer need eyes. We have some incredible freshwater fish species moving into our brand new Aquarium at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
The Aquarium opens on Friday 26 July, but you can get a sneak peek of some of the species below!
Immerse yourself in an underwater world of freshwater fish. The Aquarium will take visitors on a round-the-world journey through ten of the planet’s most extreme and fascinating aquatic habitats, from a vibrant flooded forest in Brazil, to an African puddle! Discover more about our new exhibit:
Can fish live in trees?
Every year the Amazon River floods, spilling billions of litres of water into the heart of the rainforest and bringing fish with it. Far from being a natural disaster, this flooding is essential to the survival of both fish and forest. The river itself has very few nutrients, so many fish rely on eating the fruit, seeds and even wood that the flooded forest provides. In turn these seed-eating fish spread the trees’ seeds far and wide.
Spot amazing species like the fantastically-named chocolate rhinoceros suckermouth catfish and the sickle-backed brycon, which can leap out of water!
Fish don't always swim
To avoid getting washed away by rapids, these loaches use their fins as ‘suction cups’ to cling onto rocks. Instead of swimming they mostly crawl along the bottom and eat by scraping algae and insect larvae from the rocks they hold onto.
Look out for our spotted hillstream loach. Males perform fluttering deplays to impress felames and sometimes fight for the best feeding spots by pushing their bellies together!
How can a fish live in a puddle?
The Sainthouse’s killifish spend their whole lives in a single large puddle! When the puddle evaporates the eggs survive in the cool, muddy ground, where they slowly develop and then rest for many weeks. When the rains return the eggs hatch within minutes, into the next generation of amazing puddle fish.
Look out for the killifish named after Ian Sainthouse, a ZSL volunteer. These fish live their whole lives in a single year - they become adults in just 17 days!
Fish have feelings!
These beautiful rainbowfish sometimes change colour depending on their mood. The brighter and more colourful they are, the better they’re feeling. They also use their spectacular colours and patterns to show off to potential mates. Males are often more colourful than females and put on dazzling displays using their extended flashy fins.
Fish out of water
When the mangroves seasonally dry up these killifish can get stranded on muddy land. Clinging to trees or waddling around on their bellies they can survive up to 66 days out of water, breathing air through their skin. Lying on their side they can even launch themselves into the air to land on their insect prey.
Fighting for water
The Greek killifish is in danger of disappearing forever. In the 1920s mosquito fish were introduced to the rivers. The mosquito fish have many live babies which easily outcompete the egg-laying native fish. This competition along with pesticide use and water drainage now means the Greek killifish is critically endangered. ZSL is working to bring this species back from the brink. We partner with local people to protect and monitor their existing habitats, and have been moving some populations to new, safer locations.
Fish in a desert?
You’re looking at one of the last remaining populations of La Palma pupfish, a species that is now Extinct in the Wild. These extreme survivors lived in a tiny desert spring in Mexico. They survived intense sunshine and temperature changes, but not the effect of humans - in 1996 their spring dried up due to overuse for agriculture. Now, ZSL is breeding this fish to learn from this amazing species and ensure its survival.
Underwater caves in the Middle East
Life in the dark
These fish have no need for eyes, colours or scales. They live in pitch-black caves and have adapted to the darkness. Even though these fish are born with eyes they slowly close over as they grow. Instead of sight they find their way around by pulsing water from their mouths and feeling for the waves that bounce back to detect their surroundings.
Amboaboa river (Madagascar)
How do you help a fish?
Fantastic fish in Madagascar are in trouble. Many rivers on the island are drying up as forests are chopped down and more water gets used to grow crops. The smaller, remaining rivers mean native fish are struggling to survive. ZSL is working with local communities in Madagascar to monitor rivers and build back-up populations. Together we’re finding ways to ensure a future for these fish and the livelihoods of the local people.
Large and ancient lake in Africa
Can fish be good parents?
Almost all the cichlid fish in Lake Tanganyika can only be found living in this single lake. Their home is teeming with competitors and predators, so these fish go to extreme lengths to ensure the survival of their young. One mother fish stops eating for a month while she carries her 5-20 eggs in her mouth. Even after they hatch, she continues to carry the small baby fry in her mouth for protection.
The Aquarium opens on 26 July and is included in the Zoo entry price.