Meet the Animals

Discover the Intricate Ecosystems of the Ocean

Educational, Entertaining, and Refreshing; Take a Break From Your Routine and spend the day observing the extraordinary behavior of our striking marine life at our Marathon aquarium.

You'll Meet The Nicest Fish at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters

Browse a few of the marine species you will have a chance to interact with at our Park!

Coral Reef Tank

french-angelfish

French Angelfish (Pomacanthus paru)

  • French Angelfish are flat, oval shaped fish with a large trailing dorsal and anal fin. They are dark colored with bright yellow edged scales and yellow on their pectoral fins and around their eyes.
  • Habitat: Found on reefs and depths of less than 15 ft in the Caribbean from Florida to Brazil.
  • Diet: Algae and invertebrates. Juveniles will eat ectoparasites off of other fishes.
  • DID YOU KNOW? French Angelfish are very hardy, long-lived, and disease-resistant species making them ideal for aquariums.
florida-spiny-lobster

Florida Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus)

  • Florida Spiny Lobsters have forward-pointing spines that cover their bodies to protect them from predators. They have long antennas and vary in color with 2 large light spots on the 2nd segment of the tail making them easy to identify.
  • Habitat: Tropical and subtropical waters, found in crevices and caverns of reefs and the Florida Bay.
  • Diet: Feed on snails, clams, crabs, and urchins.
  • DID YOU KNOW? The lobster fishery is the largest commercial fishery in the FL Keys, with 5-6 million lbs caught each year.
Creole-Wrasse

Creole Wrasse (Clepticus parrae)

  • Creole Wrasse have an elongated body that is dark purple or violet in color. They are a relatively small fish getting up to 30 cm in length.
  • Habitat: Prefer deep outer reefs, edges of drop-offs,  down to 40 meters. Abundant in the Caribbean.
  • Diet: Plankton, small jellyfish, invertebrate larvae.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Creole Wrasses spend most of their lives high in the water column to feed.
blue-parrotfish

Blue Parrotfish

  • Blue Parrotfish have large, blue scales and develop a protruding snout at adult size, 30 inches+, and extended upper and lower caudal (tail) fin lobes. They have beak-like with fused teeth.
  • Habitat: Found in the Western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Also found throughout the West Indies.
  • Diet: Feed on algae on rocks and coral reefs.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Blue Parrotfish use their teeth to grind rocks into sand, which is ingested and then defecated, creating new sand in the process.
Atlantic-Guitarfish

Atlantic Guitarfish 

  • Guitarfish are very similar to both sharks and rays. Their flat bodies are similar to skates or rays, and their tails have two dorsal fins, like most sharks.
  • Habitat: Shallow coastal waters over sandy or muddy bottoms in the western Atlantic; spotted in freshwater estuaries and even in waters 100ft deep!
  • Diet: Small crustaceans and shellfish.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Atlantic Guitarfish bear live young, with up to 6 in a litter.
Lesser-Devil-Ray

Lesser Devil Rays (Mobula Rays) (Mobula hypostoma)

  • Lesser Devil Rays have two “horn” like cephalic lobes that come from the front of their head and curl very tightly. They uncurl them like “funnels” when feeding. They also have black/dark grey markings on the top of their bodies, while the underside is a white/ivory.
  • Habitat: They are mainly found in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. They can be spotted near the surface of the water in bays, gulfs, and seas.
  • Diet: They mainly eat plankton and quite small crustaceans like shrimp.
  • DID YOU KNOW?All stingrays are rays, but not all rays are stingrays. Therefore, Mobulas are considered rays because they have no barb.
pilchards

Pilchards  (Harengula humeralis) & (Harengula clupeola)

  • 2 species of Pilchards in our Coral Reef Tank: Harengula humeralis, commonly called Sandy Key Pilchard or Redear Sardine, has a reddish spot near the opercle (top bone of the gill cover). Harengula clupeola, called the False Herring, has a pale yellow or orange spot near the opercle.
  • Habitat: Nearshore coastal waters in the Caribbean, Western Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico.
  • Diet: Plant and algal material and larvae of shrimp, crabs, and stomatopods.
  • DID YOU KNOW? There are over 20 species of Pilchards.
flying-gurnard

Flying Gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans)

  • Flying Gurnards are easily identified by their large, fan-like pectoral (side) fins, which often have bright or iridescent markings.
  • Habitat: Prefer sand, coral rubble, and seagrass, typically found near fringe or patch reefs.
  • Diet: Crabs, shrimp, clams, oysters, and other small fish.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Flying Gurnards are not actually flying fish, they use their fins to appear larger to predators.
French-Grunt

French Grunt

  • French Grunts are named because of the noise they make when grinding their teeth. They are silvery white with yellow stripes running along their bodies.
  • Habitat: Found in large schools, over rocky substrate, coral reefs, or under ledges in the Western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.
  • Diet: Feed on small crustaceans, polychaetes, and mollusks.
  • DID YOU KNOW? French Grunts can grow up to 12 inches long, although most are half that size.
snook

Snook (Centropomus undecimalis)

  • Snook have a distinct lateral line and large mouth with a protruding lower jaw line. They can jump clear out of the water.
  • Habitat: Inshore in coastal and brackish waters. Also found along mangroves, seawalls, and bridges.
  • Diet: Fish and large crustaceans.
  • DID YOU KNOW? There are 5 different species of Snook in Florida, but all look similar to eachother.
bonefish

Bonefish (Albula vulpes)

  • Bonefish are named for the many fine bones in their bodies. They appear dark blue-green from the surface with silver sides streaked with dark grey.
  • Habitat: Coastal areas such as intertidal flats and mangrove forests, and can survive in oxygen-poor water by inhaling air from the surface.
  • Diet: Usually Bonefish enjoy small crabs, shrimp, clams, and fishes.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Anglers spend more than $150 million a year fishing for Bonefish in the FL Keys. 
blue-tang

Blue Tang (Acanthurus coeruleus)

  • Blue Tangs go through 3 color phases in their lives. Juveniles are bright yellow, changing to a powder blue and then dark blue or purple. Maturity is not based on size, juveniles can be larger than adults.
  • Habitat: Found in shallow reef tops, and inshore grassy or rocky areas in Florida, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico.
  • Diet: Feed on algae.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Also called Surgeonfish because of the knife-like spine on either side of the tail.
hogfish

Hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus)

  • Hogfish are easily identified by their hog-like snout. Their body is unusually flat and oval shaped with red irises and colors that change throughout their lives.
  • Habitat: Found in the western Atlantic Ocean over open bottoms and coral reefs.
  • Diet: Feed mainly on mollusks, but will also eat hermit crabs, amphipods, and sea urchins.
  • DID YOU KNOW? The Florida State record Hogfish was caught in Daytona Beach at 19 pounds 8 ounces!
porkfish

Porkfish (Anisotremus virginicus)

  • Porkfish are a species of grunt with thin yellow and silver stripes across their body, with two distinctive black bars—one over their eyes, the other near their pectoral fins.
  • Habitat: Found in large schools in the Western Atlantic from Florida to Southern Brazil.
  • Diet: Small mollusks, echinoderms (sea stars, sea cucumbers, etc.), crustaceans, and marine worms.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Juvenile Porkfish are “cleaner fish”—their main diet is parasites that they pick from the scales of other species of fish.

Predator Reef Tank

horse-eye-jack

Horse Eye Jack:

  • Horse Eye Jacks have a distinctive large eye, a bright yellow tailfin, and dark, nearly black scutes or bony plates. They usually travel in schools.
  • Habitat: Swim in open waters over reefs, common to the coastal waters of the Americas.
  • Diet: Feed on small fishes, shrimp and other invertebrates.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Horse Eye Jacks have also been found in brackish water and freshwater coastal rivers and streams.

 

green-moray-eel

Moray Eel

  • Green Moray Eels are actually bluish/brown in color! The yellow mucus that covers its body is what gives them the green color. They have a single dorsal fin that runs on the top of the body and is fused with the caudal and anal fins.
  • Habitat: Can be found in the western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
  • Diet: Feed mostly at night on fish, crab, octopus, and squid.
  • DID YOU KNOW? The largest recorded Green Moray Eel was 8 feet long and 65 pounds! (Ours are 6ft+ and 45-50lbs)

 

porcupine-puffer

Porcupine Pufferfish

  • Porcupine Puffer fish have small dark spots, and spines that lay flat over their entire body. They have the ability to extend their spines and inflate their bodies to almost twice their size when scared or threatened.
  • Habitat: Found in tropical waters worldwide. Typically found in shallow waters to 100 feet.
  • Diet: They eat crustaceans, squid, clams. They crush shells of shellfish with their front teeth.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Some species of puffer fish are very poisonous but some cultures risk eating them anyways!
tarpon

Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus)

  • Tarpon breathe with gills, like most fish, but can also gulp air at the surface for short bursts of energy. This gulping action is called “rolling,” and makes the Tarpon easier to spot for sport fisherman.
  • Habitat: They are an inshore fish that can live in a very wide salinity range.
  • Diet: Tarpon swallow their food whole, and like to eat shrimp, pilchards, and small swimming crabs.
  • DID YOU KNOW? The largest Tarpon caught in Florida was near Key West and weighed 243 pounds!
southern-stingray

Southern Ray

  • Southern Stingrays are diamond-shaped, and olive-brown to green-grey in color.
  • Habitat: Shallow, warm coastal waters with sandy bottoms
  • Diet: They feed constantly, day and night. Their prey includes teleosts and crustaceans, stomatopods, mollusks, and annelids. They use electro-reception to find their food in the sand.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Southern Stingrays can reach up to 214 pounds and have over a 6ft wingspan!

 

queen-trigger

Queen Trigger

  • Queen Triggerfish are triangularly shaped and are mostly yellow and green with a pattern of lines circling their eyes. Their fins are bluish purple and their tail is forked.
  • Habitat: Found on reefs throughout the Caribbean.
  • Diet: They feed on krill, squid, clams, small fish, and hard shelled shrimp to wear down their teeth.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Queen Triggerfish teeth never stop growing!

goliath-grouper

Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara)

  • Goliath Groupers use their yellow-brown to grey coloring with darker spots to blend into the reef as a defense mechanism.
  • Habitat: Shallow, inshore waters; areas of rock, coral, and mud bottoms. Territorial near caves, wrecks, and ledges.
  • Diet: Feed on crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters, and also other fish species.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Goliath Groupers can grow over 8 feet long and up to 800 pounds!

 

blacktip-shark

Black Tip Shark:

  • Common to coastal tropical and subtropical waters around the world, including brackish habitats.
  • Known to make spinning leaps out of the water while attacking schools of small fish.
  • They have a “timid” demeanor compared to other large requiem sharks.
  • Fish make up 90% of their diets
black-grouper

Black Grouper:

  • One of the best known species of the large group of perciform fish called groupers.
  • Other names include black rockfish, bonaeci arara, and marbled rockfish.
  • They have an olive or gray body, with black blotches and brassy spots.
  • Normally found in the western Atlantic Ocean, from Massachusetts in the north to southern Brazil, but is particularly associated with the southern Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Keys, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

 

cubera-snapper

Cubera Snapper (Lutjanus cyanopterus)

  • Cubera Snapper are dark brown or grey in color and are the largest of the snapper family. They have a pair of canines that are enlarged and visible when their mouth is closed.
  • Habitat: Commonly found nearshore in wrecks, reefs, and ledges in tropical waters.
  • Diet: Fish and large crustaceans including lobsters and crabs.
  • DID YOU KNOW? The largest recorded Cubera Snapper was 126 pounds.

 

blacknose-shark

Blacknose Shark:

  • They can reach 4.1 to 4.6 ft in length and 22 lbs.
  • They have a black spot (especially pronounced in younger sharks) below the snout.
  • They are quick swimmers and a voracious predator that prey on fish and cephalopods (octopus).
  • They migrate toward the north during the summer and return back to the south during winter.
sandbar-shark

Sandbar Shark

  • Sandbar Sharks are recognized by their large dorsal fin, large pectoral fins, and mid-dorsal ridge. They are grayish brown in color and are the largest shark in our Predator Reef Tank.
  • Habitat: Outer reef area in the Florida Keys.  However in the Atlantic they range from New England to Brazil.
  • Diet: They feed on small, bony fish and also smaller sharks such as Sharpnose Sharks.
  • DID YOU KNOW? Sandbar Sharks average 16-20 inches at birth and can reach 8 feet at maturity!

 

Big Shark Bay

nurse-shark

Nurse Shark

  • Common in (sub)tropical coastal waters of the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, Nurse Sharks are currently an abundant species of shark in the world’s oceans.
  • They are slow-moving, bottom-dwellers capable of “sleeping” on the bottom of the ocean during the day.
  • Diet: Nurse Sharks get their name from the loud, sucking noise created when they feed. They have extremely powerful jaws that allow them to crush mollusks, crabs, but they prefer squid, fish, and shrimp.
  • Threats: Although locally extinct in the Rio de Janeiro area of Brazil, Nurse Sharks are a fairly abundant species in other areas of their range. They reach maturity very slowly, and could be susceptible to overfishing, but are carefully managed as part of the Large Coastal Species complex by US authorities in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic.

 

Nursery Tank

cow-nosed-ray

Cownose Ray:

  • They are a species of eagle ray.
  • They grow rapidly, and the males often reach about 35 inches in width and weigh 26 pounds. While females normally reach 28 inches in width and weigh 36 pounds.
  • They feed on oysters, clams, and other invertebrates.

Alligator Snapping Turtle

alligator-snapping-turtle

Alligator Snapping Turtle

  • One of the heaviest freshwater turtles in the world.
  • Given its name because of its immensely powerful jaws and long, spring-like neck, and distinct ridges on its shell that look very similar to the rough, ridged skin of an alligator.
  • Found primarily in southeastern united states.
  • They have a vermiform (i.e. worm-shaped”) appendage on the tip of its tongue used to lure fish close enough to strike!
  • They are opportunistic feeders that are almost entirely carnivorous.

Everglades Area

american-alligator

American Alligator:

  • Measure 11 to 16 ft long when mature.
  • They can weigh up to 1,000 to 1,320 Lb.
  • They inhabit freshwater wetlands, such as marshes and cypress swamps from Texas to North Carolina.
  • Apex predators that consume fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
  • Hatchlings feed mostly on invertebrates.
iguana

Iguana:

  • Can grow to over 6 feet long and eat leaves, flowers, and fruit
  • Introduced to the US as stowaways on ships delivering fruit from South America, and are occasionally blown here on pieces of floating debris by hurricanes and tropical storms
  • Can be found in Florida from Pinellas County to Key West
  • Often destroy gardens and landscaping
  • Have few natural predators outside of their native habitat
  • Iguanas are excellent swimmers and can leap from trees in to the water to escape predators. They are also strong enough to land on the ground after a 40ft fall and survive!

 

Great-White-Heron

Great Egret:

  • Also known as the large egret, common egret, great white egret, or the great white heron.
  • Found in Africa, Asia, the Americas and southern Europe.
  • They feed in shallow water or drier habitats, feeding on fish, small mammals, and occasionally small reptiles and insects.

Turtle and Tortoise Territory

african-spurred-tortoise

African Spurred Tortoise

  • Sulcata Tortoise, also known as African Spurred Tortoise, is the largest mainland tortoise in Africa.
  • It can be found in the southern parts of the Sahara.
  • African Spurred tortoise inhabits deserts, dry savannas and hot, arid areas.
  • Third largest tortoise in the world and the largest mainland tortoise.
  • They are herbivores and their diet consists of desert succulents, dried leaves and grasses and particularly leaves form the morning-glory plant.
  • Classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.
  • They dig permanent sleeping borrows in the wild that are normally shared by two or more tortoises.
  • Tortoises have very thick skin which helps restrict water loss.
box-turtle

Box Turtle

pennisula-cooter

Florida peninsular Cooter ~ Pseudemys peninsularis

  • Their range extends from the Florida Keys up through the Florida Peninsula, but their northern boundary is unknown due to hybridization with the Coastal Plain Cooter.
  • They enjoy areas with soft sandy bottoms and plenty of basking spots, such as streams, rivers, canals, springs, and ponds.
  • These are large turtles that can grow to 22lbs!
  • Preferred Diet: aquatic vegetation, small crayfish, other aquatic invertebrates
red-footed-tortoise

Red Footed Tortoise

  • These tortoises are native to Central and South America, and can be found in dry forest areas, grasslands, and savanna habitats from Eastern Panama all the way down to Bolivia
  • Red-Footed Tortoises are mostly herbivorous in the wild, but occasionally eat carrion. They also enjoy snacking on fungi, fruits, and some slow-moving animals like snails
  • Their meat is considered a delicacy in many South American communities, and they are highly prized in the pet trade.
  • The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Red Footed Tortoise as vulnerable to extinction, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) highly regulates, and nearly eliminates, the international trade of these tortoises.
  • Did You Know?
  • Red-Footed Tortoises can live up to 50 years old!

 

common-snapping-turtle

Common Snapping Turtle:

  • Ranges from southeastern Canada, southwest to the Rocky Mountains, and as far east as Nova Scotia and Florida.
  • Habitats are shallow ponds or streams.
  • In their environment, they are the top of the food chain.
Florida-Red-Bellied-Turtle

Florida Red-Bellied Turtle ~ Pseudemys nelsoni

  • Can be seen in marshes, wetlands, and ponds from Apalachicola throughout the Florida Peninsula.
  • Females are usually larger than the males, and males have long, curved front claws and thicker tails.
  • These turtles usually live around 20 years. The oldest known one died at age 26!
  • Preferred Diet: strictly herbivorous as juveniles, they are mostly carnivorous as adults

 

pig-nosed-turtle

Pig-Nosed Turtle

  • These turtles are found in swamps, rivers, and estuaries of northern Australia and southern New Guinea
  • They are the only freshwater turtle to have flippers like a sea turtle!
  • Diet: Pig-nosed Turtles are omnivores, eating both plant and animal matter. Here at FKAE their favorite treat is slices of mango!
  • Conservation Status: due to demand for these turtles in the exotic pet trade and as cuisine in Papua New Guinea, as well as habitat loss in Australia, Pig-nosed Turtles are vulnerable to extinction according to the IUCN
  • Female Pig-nosed Turtles crawl up on sandy banks to lay and bury their eggs. The baby turtles fully develop in their eggs, but don’t hatch until the first rains of the wet season expose the eggs!

 

Striped Mud Turtle

  • The Striped Mud Turtle inhabits a wide range of still and slow-moving water, including pools, swamps, and ditches.
  • The population that resides in the Florida Keys is designated as Endangered due to the development and encroachment on prime habitat areas.
  • If you see one of these animals in distress, please contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or an establishment that can house the animal properly, like us here at the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters!

 

florida-chicken-turtle

Florida Chicken Turtle ~ Deirochelys reticularia

  • Looks similar to the Eastern Painted Turtle, except for its unusually long, striped neck.
  • Found throughout Florida and in most of the southeastern United States, usually basking in the sun on logs. They prefer still waters, such as a pond or marsh, with muddy bottoms.
  • They usually live for less than 15 years in the wild.
  • These turtles are omnivores and swallow their food whole.
  • Preferred Diet: crayfish, fruits and veggies, small fish, tadpoles 

 

mississippi-map

Mississippi Map ~ Graptemys pseudogeographica

  • Common in the Mississippi River Watershed in the Central and Southern United States.
  • These turtles rarely choose to bask near the shore, and instead select logs or other perches in the middle of their pond or habitat. Some have been found basking in the sun on logs 6ft out of the water!
  • Females can get up to 10 inches in length, while males only reach roughly 5 inches.
  • Preferred Diet: freshwater sponges, clams, snails, insects, algae, some seeds and fruit

 

red-eared-slider

Red-eared Slider

  • The most popular pet turtle in the United States and is a popular pet turtle in the rest of the world.
  • Native to northern Mexico and the southern United States, but has become established in other places because of pet releases, and is now an invasive species in many places are the world.
  • The get their name from the small red stripe around their ears.

Lagoon Snorkel

snook

Snook

  • Snook have a distinct lateral line and large mouth with a protruding lower jaw line. They can jump clear out of the water.
  • Habitat: Inshore in coastal and brackish waters. Also found along mangroves, seawalls, and bridges.
  • Diet: Fish and large crustaceans.
  • DID YOU KNOW? There are 5 different species of Snook in Florida, but all look similar to eachother.

 

Tidepool Touch Tank

Stingray Cove

scorpion-fish

Scorpion Fish

  • Scorpion fish are found on coral reefs and in shallow waters, and more commonly in the Indian and southern pacific ocean.
  • There are more than 200 species of scorpion fish
  • Similar to Lionfish, these fish have venomous spines that cover their body.
  • Scorpion fish are ‘sit and wait’ predators, their diet consists of smaller fish, crustaceans and snails.
  • Most scorpion fish have a lifespan of 15 years and they can grow up to two feet in size.
  • Some species of scorpion fish are covered in feathery fins to keep them camouflaged on the reef

 

lionfish

Lionfish:

  • Native to the Indo-Pacific Oceans, lionfish are an invasive species in the North Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean reefs. Experts suspect that the invasion is due to the release of unwanted pets.
  • This nonnative, venomous fish has no natural predators and poses a threat to native species by competition and predation.
  • The venomous spines they have are used only for defense. They have 13 on the front of their dorsal fin, 2 on their pelvic fins (1 on each side), and 3 on their anal fins. They are rarely fatal to humans, but can cause severe pain, nausea, and respiratory issues.
  • Diet: Lionfish will mostly eat invertebrates as juveniles and then shift their diet to fish as adults. Most species lionfish prey on are beneficial to coral reef ecosystems.
  • Since lionfish are an invasive species in the United States and their flesh is nonvenomous, they are encouraged to be caught and are considered a tasty delicacy!

 

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