Marine Aquarium

The Marine Aquarium is housed in the basement of the Palm House, recreating four major marine habitats and emphasising the importance of marine plants.

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Photo of the Marine Aquarium

Marine Aquarium in the Palm House

Marine habitats at Kew Gardens

The Marine Aquarium recreates four major marine habitats:

Coral reefs

These are among the most unique, complex and productive habitats on the planet. Reef-building corals are animals -- coral polyps -- most of which obtain some of their nutrients from minute algae in their tissues. The polyps extract calcium from seawater and excrete it to form their chalky external skeletons, which create the reef.

Human intervention, such as industrial scale prawn fishing and even uncontrolled tourism, together with natural disasters can threaten the fine balance of these often fragile ecosystems.

Estuaries and salt marshes

This is where rivers meet the sea, are fertile and productive tracts with their own communities of hardy and vigorous 'pioneer' plants. Pioneer plants stabilise mud and silt, raising the mud level and eventually, as other species arrive and the cycle continues, dry land appears.

Mangrove swamps

These are the tropical equivalents of salt marshes and have evolved their own flora and fauna for the local conditions. Estuaries, salt marshes and mangrove swamps, by their very nature, positioned between land and sea are highly adaptable habitats of constant change and development. They provide vital nurseries for fish and other marine life.

Rocky shorelines

They can be found at the base of cliffs, of which the British Isles have many miles, are among the best habitats for highly productive populations of seaweeds. Different seaweeds are adapted to surviving in distinct zones with other plants and animals. The tidal regime -- the depth and reach of the tides -- together with the topography and geology of the shoreline, determine which seaweed thrives where.

Photo of the Swimming with Plankton display
Swimming with Plankton  

Swimming with Plankton

See the underwater world as a microscopic organism swimming among swarms of fellow plankton in this unusual 3-D programme.

This popular display was created for Kew's 2004 'New Views' summer festival, and will remain in the Marine Aquarium in the Palm House until further notice. Experience this new world created by artist Iona Scott. You can learn more about her creative displays at the Plankton World website.

The equipment for this display has been kindly donated by Inition - The UK's leading stereoscopic 3D and virtual reality specialists. For more information on what they could do for your event or display visit the Inition website.

*please note that unfortunately this display is not accessible for wheelchairs

1 comment on 'Marine Aquarium'

Dr. Andrei Capatina says

08/01/2014 10:03:23 AM | Report abuse

I've visited the Marine Habitats section yesterday 07/01/2014. A first disappointment was to find out that the 3D programme Swimming with Plankton was unavailable (I don't see any reason to why it wouldn't work winter time too). Then going through the displays I was fascinated by the big volume of water they were holding. Unfortunately the display related information is not updated and as such there are animals present with no information and information about animals not in the tank. The best parts were the presence of the Cassiopea (upside-down jellyfish) display and the Hippocampus (seahorse) display. While I understand the need for low flow in these tanks, I think there are ways of preventing them being riddled with green hair algae and cyanobacteria. At the end of the marine tour, both my five year old daughter and my mother agreed that despite their size, none of these displays could compare with any of our two 60L nano reef displays we have in our living room. There is a lack of light in the displays, combined with a lack of proper chemical filtration and any sense of husbandry. Even the aquascape looks like it been made in a rush, with the rock piled on bottom and back of the tanks. This contrasts with the beautiful ciclid displays and the freshwater pond with underwater viewing windows which we've been fascinated with. Also, having such a good access to fine specimens of red mangrove, you could have sorted out a cheap biological filtration based on them. I think it's such a pitty to have the good location and the good sized tanks and to fail to maintain amazing displays. You could ask for help on the marine aquatic forums and I'm sure that a lot of us would jump in to help with advice, coral frags and unused equipment. At the moment I would not donate any of my marine animals as I don't feel you've got suitable conditions for keeping them happy, so a first step would be to sort out the water quality.

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