Sea Turtle at The Living Planet Aquarium

Welcome to Our Blog

The Living Planet Aquarium inspires people to explore, discover and learn about Earth’s diverse ecosystems. We are dedicated to cultivating public interest in the environment, conservation, and the enhancement of our planet and its creatures through adoption, education, research and recreation.

Join us while on our blog where we explore the Earth’s many inhabitants- some of which reside at The Living Planet Aquarium and some that don’t- but all of which are important to our ecosystem.

The Living Planet Aquarium is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, dedicated to inspiring people to explore, discover and learn about Earth’s diverse ecosystems.

Baby Sharks at The Living Planet Aquarium



Look what the stork dropped off at The Living Planet Aquarium! In this case the stork is actually an Australian cargo plane, and the babies are five shark pups that arrived on July 11th from northeast Australia. The pups were flown to Los Angeles in self-contained, water-tight tanks complete with battery-powered aerators. After water tests, health inspections, and water changes, the new arrivals were loaded into a truck for the trip to their new home in Utah. A temperature-controlled truck drove through the night to avoid the daytime desert heat.



Three of the new additions are Gray Reef Sharks, and the other two are Blacktip Reef Sharks. They are on display in the shark tank located in the Ocean Explorer gallery. Each measures approximately 3 feet long with the potential to reach up to 8 feet in length. The older sharks were temporarily moved to a behind-the-scenes holding tank to give the pups a chance to settle in. “We wanted to get small sharks that will grow and mature before we open our new facility, which will include an 80 foot long, 300,000 gallon shark habitat,” said Andy Allison, Curator of Animals. “They arrived just in time for Shark Week which will allow us to partner with Discovery Channel to maximize the impact of our education programs,” said Allison. A new Giant Shovelnose Ray and a White Spotted Guitarfish will also accompany the sharks in their new habitat.



The arrival of the sharks marks the beginning of an exciting period for the Aquarium, which will culminate with the opening of a brand new aquarium in late 2013. The pups will remain on exhibit in the Sandy location until they are ready for transfer next year to the new aquarium in Draper.



Visit the aquarium during Shark Week (August 12-18) to participate in shark activities, learn all about these fascinating predators of the ocean, and of course, visit the new baby sharks!


Time Lapse Video of Construction of the New Building

Work continued on the new Loveland Living Planet Aquarium despite the snow storms of the past month.  Check out the next time-lapse video below.


Meet our Aquarists


Trevor Erdmann and Danielle Guest are two of the aquarists for The Living Planet Aquarium. Aquarists are part of the husbandry team. Their duties include cleaning tanks, monitoring water quality, feeding the animals, monitoring animal health, and taking care of the filtration and plumbing systems. They are also involved in the design of new exhibits. Aquarists work mainly behind the scenes, but they do have a public role. The animal feedings that visitors can watch, such as the shark feeding and the octopus feeding, are done by aquarists.


Trevor feeds brine shrimp to the sea jellies

Trevor has been working at the aquarium for two months, but his first experience with the aquarium was as a husbandry intern when he was in high school. Trevor also has experience working as a volunteer aquarist at a salmon hatchery. He went to school in Alaska and has a degree in Marine Biology. Working as an aquarist is a busy gig. Trevor says that one of the biggest challenges of the job is “getting everything done in time.” Trevor's favorite job duties are food preparation and animal monitoring. “I love to watch the animals,” says Trevor. “It's so relaxing and rewarding.” For those aspiring to work as an aquarist, Trevor suggests interning and volunteering in high school. He also recommends a degree in a related field. “This might lead you to the coast for your education,” says Trevor. Trevor emphasizes the importance of having a flexible schedule. “These animals don't take a day off,” says Trevor. “They need care every day. Everyone here is all about making sure these animals are healthy and happy.” Trevor's favorite animal at the aquarium is the white-tip reef shark. “It was a baby back when I was an intern,” he says.



Danielle checks on Toukee the aracari in his

behind the scenes enclosure

Danielle started at the aquarium about a year ago. Before that, she interned at a zoo and two wildlife rehabilitation centers. She also worked in a seasonal position as a snowy plover monitor. She attended college in California and has her bachelor's degree in Animal Science with a minor in Biology. There are many parts of the job that Danielle enjoys. “I love feeding,” says Danielle, “and enrichment.” Enrichment is when a new object or element is introduced into an enclosure that the animals can interact with. This helps the animals stay active – physically and mentally. Danielle says that the most challenging part of the job is when she must say goodbye to one of the animals. Although animals in captivity have much longer lifespans than those in the wild, they don’t live forever. “This is something that everyone who works with animals has to learn to deal with,” says Danielle. If you are up to the challenge and wish to pursue a career as an aquarist, Danielle has some advice. “Start getting as much experience with animals as you can,” she says. “Also, a degree helps. It sets you apart from many others who want a job in this field.” Among the animals at the aquarium, Danielle has “lots of favorites,” but she especially loves the penguins, the Boreal toads, and Toukee the aracari.


For more information about employment opportunities at The Living Planet Aquarium contact Tannen Ellis at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or visit our website at

The Penguin Encounter

How would you like to meet The Living Planet Aquarium's coolest animals in person? The Penguin Encounter invites guests to go behind the scenes for an educational experience with the Gentoo penguins. Here's a taste of what to expect during an Encounter.



Penguin Encounter participants meet their guide under the tree in the Journey to South America exhibit. Our group had five people, though as many as eight can attend. The guide led us on a short tour through South America, ending at the penguin exhibit. There, he explained some penguin basics, including the banding system used to identify the penguins. Through the “employees only” doors, our behind-the-scenes journey began.



Aviculturist Deana Walz met us near the two huge tanks that provide all the water for the South America exhibits. She introduced the group to the aquarium's South American birds: macaws, parrots, and an aracari.* These birds are scheduled to become part of exhibits in the aquarium's new building. We saw the penguin cam, which allows aquarium staff to keep an eye on the penguins at all times. Then, we were led into the encounter room adjacent to the penguin exhibit.


The door between the encounter room and the penguin exhibit opened...


...and many penguins decided to come in and visit!


We all wore closed-toe shoes, as a precaution against inquisitive penguin nips and jackets because the encounter room is kept at a chilly 40-46 degrees Fahrenheit. We were asked not to touch the penguins. Gentoo penguins do not engage in social touching, so they do not like to be touched by people, and because the penguins are trained to eat from keepers' hands, they could accidentally bite if touched by a participant. Cameras are fine, even with a flash. However, we kept our cameras above our knees, as the penguins have been known to peck curiously at lenses. We were asked to remain seated throughout the encounter and to remain calm and quiet, which keeps the penguins safe, comfortable, and inclined to spend more time in the encounter room.


A penguin attempted to hop up on the bench.


Deana opened the door between the encounter room and the penguin exhibit. Without hesitation, six penguins waddled in. They regarded us curiously. A flurry of activity followed. One penguin attempted to hop up on the bench between two people while another hid underneath. Two penguins shared a mating bow. A couple of particularly mischievous penguins named Roto and Ghost Rider took an interest in the youngest guest's shoes and managed to untie one of them. After awhile, Deana brought out some balls for the penguins to play with. A few of the penguins pecked at the balls and chased them around. Roto and Ghost Rider bickered over a tennis ball, attempting to adopt it as their egg. The individual personalities of the penguins became clear as they interacted with objects, each other, and us. Some are shy while others are bold. Some are more playful, and some act almost regal. One may be a problem-solver, who attempts to retrieve the ball that's stuck under the door, while another is more of a problem-maker, who put the ball there in the first place.


A penguin was interested in a guest's shoe...


...and untied it.


Once they lost interest in the toys, the penguins became excited and began chasing one another. With much squawking, splashing, and slapping of webbed feet on wet ground, they dashed out of the room, into the pool in their exhibit, back into the encounter room, and around again. All the while, Deana shared fascinating facts about the penguins including behavior, training, health, molting, mating and egg raising. With Deana's extensive knowledge, everyone's questions were answered in detail. We ended the Encounter full of new knowledge, thoroughly chilled, and with an amazing experience to remember.


Balls were brought out for

the penguins to play with.


Because the penguins are free to act as they wish, every Penguin Encounter is different. Participants can expect to have a unique experience. Everyone is invited; guests who are 16 or younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The Penguin Encounter is held at 1pm every day except Thursday and lasts 45 minutes. The cost is $20 per person for members and $25 per person for non-members. Advanced reservations are required. For more information, visit


A penguin tried to retrieve a

ball from under the door.

*Some of these birds were introduced in a previous post on this blog titled Birds of the Rainforest Van. Because of changes in the school programs, reptiles and amphibians now visit the schools instead, and these birds no longer travel in the Rainforest Van.


The Loveland Living Planet Aquarium

The biggest Aquarium topic on all of our minds right now is the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium being built in Draper, Utah, and opening in December of 2013.  To help keep you up-to-date on this exciting development, this blog will focus on news from the construction site and preparations being made for moving day from now until the grand opening.


Aquarium dignitaries at the groundbreaking ceremony


A successful groundbreaking ceremony was held in October 2012.  Jim Loveland, generous contributor and board member, and Brent Andersen, founder and CEO, along with several other dignitaries were the first to dig into the new site.


Jim Loveland and Brent Andersen


Now, construction is well underway.  Time-lapse cameras were installed at the site to capture the progress – check out some of the footage below.



For more information on this project, visit the Aquarium's website.

Behind the Scenes: Designing a World Class Aquairum



The Living Planet Aquarium is in the process of building a new 136,000 square foot aquarium, located in Draper, Utah, just off 12300 S. and I-15. Along with many more animals, the facility will include themed galleries, interactive exhibits, spaces for educational programs and events, and more. The construction team broke ground on October 24, 2012, but that was by no means the beginning.



It had always been a goal of CEO Brent Andersen to create a world class aquarium for Utah. Early in the process, Brent and the designers had to determine what the new building and its exhibits would look like. Senior Digital Media Specialist Ari Robinson and Art Director Chris Barela began developing concept art to bring some of the design ideas to life several years ago. The inspiring images you now see started out as nothing more than sketches in notebooks or on white boards. Some images could not be fully realized on paper and were made into physical 3D models. Some were transformed into computer graphics. Ari and Chris collaborated with and gathered feedback from staff, designers, architects, donors, and visitors. The ideas went through many iterations before the team made final renderings to share with the public and blueprints for construction.


Sketch of Discover Utah exhibits


Slot canyon cross section 

Sketch of cave exhibit


The exterior of the building is designed for both visibility and to convey a theme. “We wanted the building to be easy to spot, to become a recognizable landmark for visitors,” Ari said. “We designed a flowing shape and curved structure to give a fluid and aquatic feel without being literal. We wanted to avoid using specific ocean-related objects. Instead, the curve could evoke the fin of a shark, a crescent moon, or something else, leaving much to the visitor's imagination.”



Once the size of the aquarium was determined, the shape of the exhibits and the exterior evolved together. The designers have created a plan to best utilize the space. There will be several exhibit galleries, including Journey to South America, Discover Utah, Ocean Explorer, Deep Sea Gallery, and a Changing Exhibits Gallery that will host new exhibits every year. “Each gallery focuses on telling a story, and each exhibit within that gallery helps to tell it,” said Chris. All of the animals from the current aquarium will all be moving to the new aquarium, and part of the designers' work involved re-using much of what is in the current building. The current penguin tank will become the new caiman tank, while the caimans' old tank will become the new anaconda tank, each animal getting an upgrade in the process. For the penguins, sharks, and otters, new larger tanks have been designed as the centerpieces of their galleries.



Model of bridge in Discover Utah gallery


Discover Utah gallery


According to Ari and Chris, the biggest challenge in the design process is scope. “The project is almost overwhelmingly large,” said Ari. “The space is huge, and for each design element, we have to consider all of the details.” Chris shared an example. “The Discover Utah gallery will contain a slot canyon that visitors can travel through. Where exactly in the gallery will it be located? What will its twists and turns look like? All of this must be mapped out beforehand.” The process of imagining these elements continues behind the scenes, while digging begins on-site. The physical building has just begun, but the plans needed to realize it are well on their way to completion.


Ari and model of South America gallery


Rendering of South America gallery

Transforming the Touch Pool

One day the touch pool at The Living Planet Aquarium held the stingrays. The next, it held horn sharks. Magical though this may seem, it took seven people about three-and-a-half hours after closing to make this transformation possible.


Stingrays have been replaced by sharks

and other critters in the touch pool.


The staff began by transferring the stingrays from the touch pool to the shark tank, a multistage process. They first had to match the salinity, pH, and temperature of the two systems as closely as possible. Then, they filled a transport bin with half touch pool water and half shark tank water. This allowed the stingrays to begin to acclimate to the new water while they were being transferred. The stingrays were moved into the transfer bins and wheeled into the back. The staff took this opportunity to weigh and measure each animal before using special nets to move them into the shark tank. The stingrays will reside in the shark tank from now on. They seem delighted by their new accommodations and get along with the sharks just fine.


The stingrays enjoy their new home in the shark tank.


Next, the staff drained the water from the touch pool using a submersible sump pump and the pool's main pump. Using dust pans, they scooped the sand out – 4,000 lbs. worth – and bagged it. Fine sand, purchased from an aquarium wholesaler, was put back into the pool. This sand is smoother, which is better for the species that will now be inhabiting the pool. Because the pool will now host species from colder coastal waters, rather than the stingrays which hail from tropical waters, the pool was refilled with 10 degrees cooler water.


4,000 lbs of sand removed from touch pool


The new animals were added to the touch pool a few at a time, giving them the opportunity to adjust to their new surroundings and tank-mates. While they waited their turn to enter the touch pool, they stayed in holding tanks in the back.


The horn sharks and round rays were the first to enter the pool.


Horn shark next to touch pool fish


Round rays blending in well with the sand


Next, a leopard shark was introduced.


Leopard shark, the largest touch pool animal


Recently, bat rays were added to the mix.


Bat ray exploring its new touch pool home


Eventually, the touch pool will also contain a variety of invertebrates, including sea stars, urchins, and anemones. All of these can be safely touched by visitors of all ages, following a few simple rules: use two fingers, touch gently and only where staff say is okay (usually along the back of the animal), and assist your children to ensure they follow these rules. The aquarium is excited to be able to offer this opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the ocean's most beautiful and fascinating animals.


A guest reaches to touch the leopard shark.