Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center Unveils New Aquarium Life

July 31, 2015

NAPLES, Fla. – The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve has added fascinating new marine species to the Environmental Learning Center’s (ELC) focus tank aquariums, which enable better viewing of smaller fish.

One of the new additions is the Southern stargazer, often called the “Monster of the Sea.” With eyes on top of its head, the fish is usually found buried in the sand near Southern estuaries and beaches. The stargazer can grow up to 22 inches long and eats prey that swims above its buried head. It also produces a 50-volt electrical charge as a self-defense mechanism when touched.

Another unusual resident of the focus tanks is the Barbfish, or scorpion fish, which uses camouflage to hunt unsuspecting prey, vacuuming up crabs, shrimp and bony fish. The Barbfish can also use venom-injecting glands on its dorsal fin to capture prey.

The ELC also offers a 2,300-gallon mangrove habitat aquarium that showcases species such as spadefish, striped burrfish and lane snapper and also features a crawl space for kids who want an even closer look at the tank’s residents.

“Children have a blast exploring the aquariums and learning about the many different species of marine critters that live within Southwest Florida waters,” said Jeannine Windsor, Rookery Bay educational specialist. “For many children, the highlight of their visit is the touch tank, where they handle marine species such as starfish, conchs and horseshoe crabs under the supervision and guidance of Rookery Bay staff and trained volunteers.”

For touch tank dates and times, call the ELC at 239-530-5940.

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