Enchanting generations for seven decades, the Santos Aquarium is the oldest in Brazil, and has featured in the Guinness Book of World Records since 1995.
A favored spot for leisure and knowledge, this attraction is a pioneer in conservation projects concerning the sea and its creatures – it was the first Brazilian institution to carry out rescue and recovery of sea animals. The Aquarium occupies an area of 3000 m², 2214 of which are open to visitors.
Unique in South America, the two murals by North-American environmentalist Robert Wyland have adorned two of the exterior water tank walls with marine motifs since May 2008. Each mural is 123 meters high and 4 meters wide.
Abaré-Inti the sea lion lives in the largest compound in the Aquarium: 80m², comprising 450,000 liters of salt water and a deck of 4m² inside a glass tank 5 meters high, allowing visitors to accompany the animal’s evolution inside the water. The glass fiber setting replicates a landscape of submerged cliffs and rocks, and even the keeper’s entrance is in the form of a cave. The sea lion also has a space out of sight of the exhibition area, a holding area with a pool, where the keepers undertake a daily evaluation of the animal’s general health, including weighing and clinical interventions. The sea lion was born in 2001 in the São Paulo Zoo and has lived in the Aquarium in Santos since December, 2011. Abaré means “man’s friend” and Inti, is the Inca sun-god.
The Aquarium has 32 tanks, with a total of 1,300,000 liters of fresh and salt water, treated with 35 filter pumps, 24 hours a day. On the right-hand side, you can find the salt-water tanks, and on the left, those with fresh water. All the tanks have scenic settings reproducing the natural habitat of the animals. In the fresh-water tanks, river-bottom environments have been replicated, with branches, leaves, roots and banks. The salt-water creatures swim in rocky environments. The moray eels, which prefer to remain hidden, have tanks with PVC pipes that function as dens, imitating cracks in the rocks.
A pair of nurse sharks inhabits a tank containing 80,000 liters of water. This enclosure receives greater attention on the part of technicians, always alert to the temperature, water quality, and food, based on fish fillets, squid, and live crustaceans to enrich the sharks’ diet. This species is threatened with extinction and is protected by law. The Aquarium also has four bamboo sharks, a species originally from Southeast Asia. They seem to walk on the tank bottom as they use their pectoral and pelvic fins to move.
Taking Patagonia as its inspiration, the Penguin enclosure comprises 145m², divided into three areas, two of which are connected by a submerged passage, with temperature control maintaining an average of 17º C. The open-air sundeck allows the sunlight in and does not have temperature control, since these creatures live in regions where temperatures can reach 30º C. The penguins were carried by the strength of sea currents to local beaches, rescued and treated at the Aquarium. Once recovered, they remain here since there is no scientific proof regarding the efficacy of releasing these animals back into their colony of origin.
In the marine invertebrates’ tank it is possible to view star fish, sea urchins, hermit crabs, anemones and other mollusks. Environmental education monitors give information on each species and highlight the damage – even death – caused to sea creatures by the uncontrolled disposal of rubbish in the sea.
Reproducing the rocky environment at the bottom of the sea on the Brazilian coast, the Ocean Tank is home to many fish species: permit, sailor’s grunt, black jack, snook, porkfish, silver porgy, and cownose ray. This is the second largest tank in the Aquarium and the only one circular in shape. It is 17 meters in diameter, 5 meters high and holds 385 liters of water. The glass panels, which are 3.5 centimeters thick, allow for perfect viewing of this marine space.
• The creatures in the aquarium consume around one ton of fish and seafood per month – in winter, this figure reaches 1.4 tons. Their diet is balanced and customized to the needs of each animal. 15 items are offered on a daily basis, among them sardines, hake, shrimp, squid, mussels, crab, anchovies, clams, tilapia and tambaqui. The Sea Lion alone eats 12 kilos of fish a day! • Contrary to the popular Brazilian saying, fish don’t die from overeating – they eat only three times a week, for their metabolism is slow, rejecting an excess of food. Besides this, too much food could harm the condition of the water. • Turtles eat three times a week and penguins, with their faster metabolism, eat twice a day. • It was in Santos Aquarium that Fraldinha, the first penguin to be born in captivity, made her appearance on November 16, 2001. She has formed one half of a couple with Viriato since 2006 – on October 2017 Fraldinha laid an egg. On November 13, the chick began to crack its shell and two days later, it was born. In the wild, these creatures are monogamous and spend their lives with their partner. The birth of a chick to a mother born in captivity is a unique event in Brazil.