May 26, 2022

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Feast For The Beasts: Tennessee Aquarium Experts Serve Up Healthy Meals To The Animals

Every day, the more than 12,000 animals that call the Tennessee Aquarium home receive a diet of freshly prepared, restaurant-quality food to keep them happy and healthy. That’s true even on Thanksgiving and Christmas, the only two days the Aquarium closes to the public.

So even though the doors of the Aquarium will be shut Thursday, staff members will be on hand to ensure every animal in their care receives a holiday meal fit for a King Crab (or Queen Triggerfish).

While the animals are certainly happy to tuck in, however, most people would probably pass on firsts, much less seconds. Whether it’s Barrens Topminnows dining on bloodworms, North American River Otters chomping fish-stuffed green peppers or an Alligator Snapping Turtle putting away a “cupcake” with a hairless tail sticking out of the top, the foods on offer are varied, if not necessarily appetizing to humans.

Ensuring the health and wellbeing of the animals is the Aquarium’s top priority. Every year, meeting the dietary needs of this living collection requires the purchase of more than 30,000 pounds of food.

Some of the items on the Aquarium’s shopping list might be commonplace in most homes — and possibly even on the Thanksgiving menu this year — including:

  • 8,064 heads of Romaine lettuce
  • 60 pounds of beets
  • 240 pounds of cucumbers
  • 75 chickens
  • 456 pounds of grapes
  • 660 carrots
  • 1,500 apples
  • 120 pounds of tomatoes
  • 240 pounds of peas

Still, a few Aquarium favorite treats would be eyebrow-raising on all but the most adventurous of tables, such as:

  • 14,150 mice
  • A dozen cases of frozen ocean plankton
  • 24,000 crickets
  • 2,120 pounds of clam “tongues”
  • 150 pounds of frog brittle
  • 1,375 pounds of krill
  • 78,000 mealworms

Providing the optimum nutrition and habitats that mimic those of their wild cousins ensures the animals are healthy and stimulated. This high level of care helps the animals behave naturally, exhibiting the kinds of behaviors that leave visitors in awe, such as the jaw-dropping speed of Gentoo Penguins, the otherworldly flexibility of Giant Pacific Octopus and the powerful grace of Sandbar and Sand Tiger Sharks.

Guests arriving during the holiday season can also pair up their Aquarium adventure with a trip to the IMAX 3D Theater to take in a screening of the modern yuletide classic, The Polar Express 3D. This beloved, recently remastered animated film stars Tom Hanks as the conductor of a wondrous steam engine carrying a doubting boy on a memorable trip to the North Pole. The film returns to the theater’s six-story screen in brilliant 3D with daily screenings beginning Friday, Nov. 26.

At a time of year when many minds turn to giving, an Aquarium gift membership is an ideal choice for families who wish to experience the wonders of life above and below the surface all year long. With the promise of unlimited repeat visits, members can slow down and soak in otherwise-overlooked details like the prismatic sheen along a darter’s fins, the bubbles trailing in the wake of a diving penguin or the stately, tip-toe waltz of Giant Japanese Spider Crabs.

In addition to unfettered access to the Aquarium, membership also include discounts at the gift shops and on 45-minute IMAX films. Gift memberships purchased between now and Dec. 10 will receive a free mini-puzzle, while supplies last.

For more information on membership benefits and links to purchase a gift memberships, visit

To order advanced tickets for The Polar Express 3D, visit