Thanksgiving is here and we’re ready to celebrate. But what about the animals here at the Aquarium? The commissary is where all meals are prepared by team members. Restaurant quality seafood is used, and each animal at the Aquarium is under the precise care of an on-site nutritionist. The specific nutrition and diet of each animal is considered preventative medicine.
How do we know how much to feed each animal? Proper nutrition for each animal is based on how many calories they need per day. Calories are based on the type of species, the activity level, growth stage, and how they control their internal body temperature.
Each year, the commissary handles more than 500,000 pounds of seafood and diet items! To break it down a little more, that’s more than 70,000 pounds of krill, 250,000 pounds of capelin, and more than 10,000 pounds of fish-based gelatin. The gelatin contains vitamins and serves as a form of enrichment. To be even more specific, more than 50,000 pounds of fish are offered to our beluga whales each year. Whale sharks and manta rays receive more than 105,000 pounds of krill, fish, and gelatin, while African penguins are offered around 18,500. Our southern sea otters are offered a variety of clams, squid, shrimp, scallops, and more every year, totaling to more than 17,000 pounds.
Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world, meaning they are the largest animals we feed at the Aquarium, but they are filter feeders! This means they eat some of the smallest animals, particularly krill, because their throats are only about as wide as a quarter. Whale sharks eat about 45 pounds of food per day, equaling out to about two percent of their body weight. Our Southern sea otters eat about 13 pounds of food per day, which is about 20 percent of their body weight. Proportionately they eat more than a whale shark! Southern sea otters have a much higher metabolism, which means they process foods much faster than whale sharks.
Looking for a new Thanksgiving tradition? Allow us to be a part of it! In addition to our animals’ daily nutrition, our teams will be providing some special Thanksgiving-themed enrichment to some of our animals on turkey day. This unique enrichment is positively stimulating for our animals as well as fun for our guests to view.
If you can’t make it on Thanksgiving you can still view our whale shark feedings at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. every day. You can view the whale shark feedings and enjoy more fish fun on our webcams!