The Atlanta Area Aquarium Association will host the annual convention of the American Cichlid Association (ACA) in July of 2008. The event draws hundreds of cichlid enthusiasts from around the world to hear presentations by international experts on cichlid topics, participate in one of the largest hobbyist
fish shows, and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow cichlid keepers. The event also provides
opportunities to visit local attractions as side trips to the event. One such trip of note
for this year’s ACA Convention will be a trip to the Georgia Aquarium.
The Georgia Aquarium is one of the premier public aquariums in the
world. Opened in 2005, the aquarium was made possible by a generous
donation of $250 million made by Bernie Marcus, co-founder of The
Home Depot. The aquarium has more than 8 million gallons of water
and more aquatic organisms than any other aquarium in the country.
There are five galleries, including the Ocean Voyager area that was
built to accommodate the aquarium’s whale sharks. That single
exhibit has 4574 square feet of viewing windows, including an acrylic
tunnel in which viewers are completely surrounded by aquatic life.
The main viewing window of Ocean Voyager is the second largest in
the world, at 61 feet long, 23 feet tall, and 2 feet thick. Other galleries
include collections of organisms from around the world, including
cold-water marine, tropical marine, and freshwater exhibits.
The entire facility is built with the visitor in mind. Even the
behind-the-scenes areas were designed to provide guests with a truly
unique aquarium experience. During a visit to the Georgia Aquarium
in 2007, a friend and I were led on the behind-the-scenes tour that
can be purchased in addition to the general admission price. As a
hobbyist, I was amazed by the number of small aquariums (relatively
speaking, a 75-gallon tank is small in that building) that are located
in the hallways in the areas behind the main galleries. There are reef
tanks, planted tanks, aquariums with endangered species, brackish
fish, and even cichlids. These aquaria are obviously well kept, and I
was told that there are staff members dedicated to maintaining the
The official behind-the-scenes tour includes a stop in the room
that houses the Ocean Voyager exhibit. The term “room” does not
really describe the space adequately, as it is more like a combination
of indoor pool and airplane hangar. The aquarium itself is over 300
feet in length and 100 feet wide. That size cannot be truly appreciated