National Aquarium in Washington, D.C.

The National Aquarium in Washington, D.C. is an aquarium in Washington D.C. It is located in the Herbert C. Hoover Building (Department of Commerce headquarters), which is bounded by 14th Street NW on the east, 15th Street NW on the west, Pennsylvania Avenue NW on the south, and Constitution Avenue NW on the north.


The National Aquarium was established in 1873 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts under the auspices of the Federal Fish Commission. It moved to the Washington Monument in 1878 and consisted of holding ponds known as "Babcock Lakes." During the 1880s, the aquarium consisted of a hatching station and a small aquarium at Central Station near the site of today's National Air and Space Museum.

The Fish Commission was incorporated into the Department of Commerce in 1903 and renamed the Bureau of Fisheries. When the Commerce Department building was completed in 1932, the National Aquarium moved to the lower level of the building. The Bureau of Fisheries merged with the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy (later the Bureau of Biological Survey) in 1940 to form the Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency of the Department of the Interior. The National Aquarium remained based in the Department of Commerce building, where it remains today. It is the longest continuously operating aquarium in the United States.

Relationship with the National Aquarium in Baltimore

The National Aquarium in Baltimore is a separate aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1981, it was originally distinct from (and a rival of) the Washington aquarium. Both used the title "National Aquarium"; the National Aquarium in Washington, D.C. is older, while the National Aquarium in Baltimore is larger and enjoys better funding. Like its Washington counterpart, the National Aquarium in Baltimore is not managed or funded by the federal government, despite the official-sounding names. Neither is part of the Smithsonian Institution.

On September 4, 2003, the National Aquarium Society and the Board of Governors for the National Aquarium in Baltimore announced an alliance, in which the National Aquarium in Baltimore would operate the D.C. aquarium. A signing ceremony hosted by Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans was held at the Commerce Department building.

The National Aquarium in Washington, D.C. uses the domain name.


The National Aquarium in Washington, D.C. has a collection of over 1,500 specimens and 250 species. Animals in exhibits include longsnout seahorse, leopard sharks, longnose gar, bonytail chub, Pacific giant octopus, chambered nautilus, tiger salamander, eastern hellbender, American alligator, loggerhead sea turtle, red lionfish, and snakehead, as well as piranha, eel, and Japanese carp.


General admission tickets (ages 11-59) cost US$7, senior (over age 60) and military personnel tickets cost $6, child (ages 2-10) tickets cost $3, and children under age 2 are admitted free. The aquarium is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with last admissions at 4:30 p.m.; it is closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving.


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