Ask The Expert
Tennessee Aquarium staff and volunteers are always happy to answer visitor questions, but sometimes curiosity strikes at home. If you have a critter question, check our Animal Pages
first. If the information isn’t available there, use this handy form to Ask the Aquarium Expert. We have two buildings full of scientists who know amphibians, birds, fish, insects, invertebrates, reptiles or mammals. If it swims, flies, crawls, jumps or uses jet-propulsion (cephalopods), Aquarium biologists can dish out the fascinating facts.
We’ll post the questions and answers below so everyone can learn more about the Tennessee Aquarium’s awesome animals.
Your Questions Answered:
Do the penguins ever do anything funny?
Yes. One of my favorite things to see is "a penguin in a hurry". Although penguins are amazing in the water they are usually a little awkward on land. Especially if that penguin is in a hurry. What to look for. . . neck stretched up tall and wings pulled backward with chest out (for balance) and feet moving just about as fast as they can. How they keep themselves upright I'll never know. And many times it will be 8 or 10 birds at a time doing this behavior at the same time. Check out the live penguin cam for all the penguin fun.
We were disappointed when we couldn't see the penguins because the lights had been turned off at 6 p.m. Why aren't the lights on in the penguin exhibit all the time?
Penguins are fascinating creatures with an interesting life cycle that is very dependent on the light cycle. They get physiological cues from the seasonal changes in length of daylight. Their courtship, breeding, and molting are all driven by photo-period.
Near the South Pole, the length of daylight throughout the year is much different than we experience here. To ensure our gentoo and macaroni penguins stay in tune with their life cycle, our exhibit lights are controlled to replicate the photo-period in the sub-Antarctic. The only difference is we have switched them to a Northern Hemispheric light cycle so their seasons match ours. Unfortunately, your visit coincided with the shorter hours of artificial daylight as the penguins transition from fall to winter.We plan to add our penguin lighting schedule to our website so visitors will know when the exhibit will be dark.
How big does the Alligator snapping turtle get?
They grow very slowly after reaching adulthood. The large male alligator snapping turtle in the Delta Country gallery weighs 160 pounds, and could be more than a century old.
How big are your catfish?
Weighing in at more than 100 pounds, the big blue catfish in the Nickajack Lake exhibit are among the largest catfish on exhibit in the United States.
How much food does it take to feed your fish?
Fish in the Tennessee Aquarium eat more than 1,200 pounds of restaurant-quality seafood, 336 heads of romaine lettuce and 168 bunches of broccoli each month.
Do the piranhas ever bite you?
Red piranhas, despite their sharp teeth, are relatively timid and rarely bite humans.
Why are green moray eels green?
Green moray eels are actually blue, but their yellow slime layer makes them appear green.