What’s New at the Aquarium

Aquarium features new river otter, frogfish exhibit and coral tank expansion.

*Edit: Although we had intended to open the Aquarium along with other indoor spaces October 1, the Aquarium will remain closed until further notice to adhere to state health orders. Please check our reopening page for updated information.

Sept. 30, 2020 - The ABQ BioPark is thrilled to welcome guests back to the Aquarium for the first time since March, and there are some exciting changes.

New Otter

Dixon the otter, BioPark photo.This will be the public's first opportunity to view Dixon, a male North American river otter who was successfully introduced to females Chaos and Mayhem during the Aquarium's six-month closure.

Dixon was born at the Prospect Park Zoo in 2012 and later lived at the Columbus Zoo before heading to the ABQ BioPark in November 2019. He was acclimated to his new environment and Chaos and Mayhem before being officially introduced to each other this spring.

According to Rich Lerner, ABQ curator of fish, the group is doing great.

“Chaos and Mayhem were a little apprehensive about Dixon when he first came over and there were a lot of heated discussions between them,” he says, adding that Dixon was separated from the girls at first so everyone could adjust to each others’ presence and smells without physical contact.

Acclimating the trio to each other was a step-by-step process. As they became more accustomed to each other, staff gave them the ability to see each other with no contact. Next, they were able to touch each other through fencing, and then they advanced to spending time together in the same enclosure behind the scenes.

“As they became better behaved with each other we were able to let them go out on exhibit together and now they are getting along great and all three of them are out on exhibit most of the day,” Lerner says.

Dixon has added some additional zest to the river otter routine, so guests might notice more activity in the exhibit.

“Dixon is a ball of fire and is very active,” Lerner says. “He has definitely cut into Chaos and Mayhem’s nap time so they are up and about more than they used to be.”

According to Aquarist Ashley Baca, Dixon spends his days playing with Chaos and Mayhem, doing laps in the pool, and napping in his hammock. "When all the otters are on exhibit, they groom each other and wrestle on land as well as in the pool, which are important social behaviors," Baca says.

New Frogfish Exhibit

Frogfish by Betty Wills (Atsme), Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 4.0Guests can also visit the new frogfish exhibit. This stocky fish that you may remember from "Finding Nemo" has front fins that it uses to “walk” along the sea floor while looking for food.

The frogfish dangles a lure called an esca from a modified fin called an illicium. The esca can resemble a worm, shrimp or small fish. The frogfish’s unique “fishing rod” draws in fish and crustaceans looking for a tasty treat. Once prey is in range a frogfish can extend its jaws allowing it to catch food fast—the whole thing happens about 300 times faster than a blink of an eye! (Photo: Longlure frogfish by Betty Wills (Atsme), Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA 4.0The longlure frogfish is one of dozens of frogfish species).

Coral Exhibit Expansion

coral propogation The coral exhibit is also undergoing a major expansion. Aquarium staff is currently transforming the small 200-gallon tank into a 1,500-gallon one. The ABQ BioPark is home to 50 coral species.

Coral reefs are vitally important to marine wildlife: fish use them as hatcheries, nurseries and habitat, and they are important hunting grounds for animals like sharks. However, many coral reefs are endangered because of global climate change, pollution and even scuba diving, which can cause breaks in the reef.

The ABQ BioPark has an active coral propagation project, which helps maintain healthy coral populations in aquariums without taking it from the wild. Read more about the program.