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Toronto’s Ripley’s Aquarium Is Officially Open for Business

Starting today, you can go to Toronto's new aquarium if you want to. (As long as you've got 30 bucks.)

The most exciting parts of any aquarium visit are the close encounters with giant, dimension-x-looking sea creatures with weird faces, and Toronto’s Ripley’s Aquarium, which had its grand opening this morning, provides plenty of those.

A wall-sized tank near the entrance contains a dizzying array of great lakes fish, including weird ones like the longnose gar, with its pterodactyl-like mouth. A display of lobsters has not only normal, good-with-butter-and-coleslaw-type lobsters, but also rare, blue lobsters, as well as century-old lobsters so enormous that their football-sized claws look like they could snap steel cables. In another part of the building, a green sawfish suctioned to the wall of a tank looks as if its mother was a stingray and its father was a hedge trimmer.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony included Ripley’s President Jim Pattison Jr., Liz Tory (John Tory’s mom, who apparently played a role in convincing the Pattisons to build the aquarium), and Mayor Rob Ford. At one point, Michael Chan, Ontario’s minister of tourism, culture, and sport, took the podium to give his usual five minutes’ worth of congratulations on behalf of Queen’s Park. “Beyond the water, the tanks, [the aquarium] is more things, too,” said Chan. “It’s education. It’s conservation. Just like Toronto Zoo. Just like the AGO or the ROM. Thousands and thousands of students will have the opportunity to come here.”

Chan is right that the new aquarium will be thrilling and enlightening for young visitors. It’s a colourful, entertaining place, with lots of interactive displays, including some brightly painted playground-like equipment and a touch tank filled with horseshoe crabs. A giant wing full of displays with undulating jellyfish is so awesome that parents are practically going to have to peel their inquisitive children off the glass.

But to say that this aquarium is anything like the AGO, the ROM, or the Toronto Zoo is a stretch. Those places use public dollars, and they have public missions. By contrast, adult visitors to the Ripley’s Aquarium will notice that it seems to have been built as a sort of amusement park. Atmospheric music blares from hidden speakers inside and outside the building, and coloured stage lighting follows you wherever you go. Many of the tanks are outfitted with fake-looking imitation coral reefs rather than the more naturalistic backdrops used at places like Boston’s New England Aquarium (where, incidentally, adult admission is $25, as opposed to the $29.98 Ripley’s is charging). The centrepiece of the aquarium is literally a ride: visitors step onto what looks like an airport baggage-claim conveyer belt and allow it to carry them through a 96-metre underwater tunnel while sharks and other creatures soar above their heads. Ripley’s seems like a great birthday-party venue, but it doesn’t have as much to offer adults.

Some cities have aquariums that are great research institutions, or great promoters of public awareness of issues facing marine life. Toronto’s, meanwhile, seems destined to become another fence for the ever-growing tourist holding pen between Spadina Avenue and Bay Street south of Front Street—which also includes the CN Tower and the three Centres (Air Canada, Metro Toronto Convention, and Rogers).

But the fish are really cool! Seriously, they are. Click through the image gallery for a look.


  • Sabocat!

    You forgot the thrill of watching wild caught animals die in captivity for your amusement.

    • torontothegreat

      Maybe you should learn some facts first…

      • Sabocat!

        Which facts would those be? Are you disputing the fact that the animals are wild caught? Are going to die in captivity? People will go see them for amusement? Or are you just trolling because, the internet.

        • torontothegreat

          Almost the entire stock of fish and sea creatures are not “wild caught animals” and are in fact bred from fish that were also bred and raised in captivity.

          Of the one’s that are caught in the wild, almost entirely, these species are nearing extinction because of human decimation, mostly for valuable items such as their fins.

          Most of these sea creatures and fish will actually out-live their wild bredren.

          And yea, wow, people will pay to see the fish… The HORROR!

          I’ve got a 55gallon fish tank in my home and a dog. My neighour has a cat — you must think we’re horrible people?

          • Sabocat!

            Can you please share your source for the origin of the animals? I’m a bit confused as It doesn’t agree with the import documentation Ripley’s has submitted to the customs. Ripleys did, to their credit, initially attempt to source specimens from other collections but failed to find much.

          • torontothegreat

            Source of the Canadian Customs import documentation?

          • Sabocat!

            You just answered a question with a question so I have to assume you are just making things up.
            You want to facts can do an RFI too.

          • torontothegreat

            You mean like you did after my first reply?

            I’m, just making sure you are able to pass a duck test. You #failed. You don’t have access to that info and you don’t have that info. IOW, you’re talking shit out of your ass.

            According to media sources (LMGTFY) 10 sand sharks were taken from the wild.

          • Sabocat!

            Grouper – Queensland, Australia
            Jellyfish – Arctic and Indian Oceans, Australia, California
            Reef fish – Hawaii, Florida, Caribbean.
            Canadian ocean specimens – Nova Scotia, BC
            There are lots of other import locations you could discover if you wanted to look.

            According to “media sources” is not a source. It’s an excuse not to cite a source.

          • vampchick21

            Hmmmm…could it be that these are locations that have bred these creatures as described by torontothegreat rather than plucked from the wild as you are claiming?

          • Sabocat!

            That isn’t the standard practice. Even the marine fish at the local “Big Al’s’ are wild caught. Breeding programs for marine fish generally fail. We just don’t know enough about them. For example: The world’s leading orca experts at the Vancouver aquarium put their Orca on a diet when it got pregnant.
            Unfortunately we know so little about the interactions and conditions needed for successful breeding of any of these species. It’s a great case for additional research.

          • vampchick21

            I don’t know what “Big Al’s” is. So you’ll need to come up with another example. And you and I don’t know enough about marine animals, but one would think that the experts ARE doing research and learning from their failures, and they certainly know a hell of a lot more than you and I. Meaning, now they know not to put Orcas on diets for example.

            And do you have proof that each and every creature at Ripleys came from the wild? I mean, you are making a very specific accusation. Stating where the animals came from doesn’t NOT automatically equal caught in the wild.

          • torontothegreat

            How do you make a connection between fish and mammals? OH: You don’t.

          • torontothegreat

            So, what does the origin of these fish/sea creatures have to do with where these specific breeds of fish were born?

            Please see my first comment and come back when you have something more substantial than reactive fist pounding.

            “According to “media sources” is not a source. It’s an excuse not to cite a source.”

            That’s a major fallacy if I’ve ever seen one. However, I digress. My “media sources” > your zero sources.

            Information. How does it work?

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            Media probably shouldn’t be trusted on the matter:

            This article from the Toronto Star, Aug 2011, asserts that nothing on display will be caught in the wild. This article, also from the Toronto Star, Aug 2012, follows the crew catching the sand sharks for the aquarium.

            In other words, they only report what they’re told.

          • torontothegreat

            So far it’s the best source of information presented, or have you missed all that?

          • vampchick21

            Actually it’s a valid question given your statement that Ripley’s submitted documentation to Canada Customs regarding the sea creatures in their facility. This indicates that you have access to and have seen this documentation whereas others have not. If you are going to make a statement like that, it behooves you to provide some form of proof for what you are saying. The link you provided goes to a 500 Internal Server Error, so if that was your proof, you’ll need to provide something others can see.

          • Sabocat!

            Sorry the link is bad It was to the government of Canada website for RFIs but their website must not allow that type of linking. Here is the PDF. It seems to work. I can’t link the info. When you do an RFI they send you a big envelope with physical pieces of paper in it. That’s why I suggested blowing the $5 to get a copy.

          • torontothegreat

            So IOW you, yourself do not have this document.

            *thumbs up*

          • vampchick21

            Ummm…so basically you are making a specific claim that implies you have seen specific documents, and when asked to provide further clarification on those claims you direct people to the Access to Information request form and tell them to spend $5 to have the government send it to us in 6-8 weeks.


            Hate to break it to you, but that’s NOT how online debates work. If this were a real life debate, you would be laughed out of the debate hall.

          • Sabocat!

            In a debate hall I would have access to an opaque projector and could show the information. You may not have noticed but torontothegreat hasn’t provided a single link or source (outside the mysteries ‘media’ that doesn’t seem to have a website) to back up his claim. At least I gave you a method to see for yourself. I may not be how internet debates work but it is how science works.

          • vampchick21

            Scanner. ‘Nuff said.

          • torontothegreat

            OH: LMGTFY — was obviously missed by you (

            P.S. Is not at ALL how science (LOLWTF?) works


            A Science grad

          • torontothegreat

            So wait… You HAVE the document or you don’t?

  • Dinah Might

    That’s how they like it. Horseshoe crabs are kinky beasts.

  • Simonedes

    I love real science based aquariums but if this is not it – and it appears so – then why isn’t it in Niagara Falls?

  • Flootie McTootie

    Finally, Toronto is on par with great cities like Atlanta and Chattanooga. Thanks, Ripley’s!