New aquatic displays at the Emerson Children’s Zoo indoor exhibits bring children nose-to-nose with mesmerizing and delicately beautiful moon jellies, gorgeous tropical fish and sea anemones on a live coral reef, and colorful freshwater fish.
Moon jellies—boneless, brainless and heartless—are made almost entirely of water. They are also survivors; in fact, they have been around since before the dinosaurs. Up to 15 inches in diameter, jellies eat plankton, including small shrimps, fish eggs and larvae and live in temperate areas and tropical oceans, coral reefs and bays around the world.
At the Zoo, children can now check out the 10 jellies under lights that will turn these fascinating creatures pink, green or blue—light changes that stimulate breeding and are actually enriching for the animals.
A new live coral reef aquarium includes such exotic species as the orchid dottyback, neon goby, peppermint shrimp, harptail blenny and two types of beloved clownfish. Visitors can also witness sunrise and sunset on the reef. The reef fish come from aquaculture facilities that captive-breed many saltwater aquarium species for sustainability.
“This exhibit will help children learn about coral reefs—fragile environments in the wild that serve as homes for millions of tiny animals,” said Alice Seyfried, the Fred Saigh Curator of the Emerson Children’s Zoo. “The weather within the coral reef exhibit changes as it does in the wild, with simulated storms, lightning, waves and all the phases of the moon—matching the environment of the shallow, warm water in the tropics where coral reefs develop.”
Freshwater fish, including five vibrant species of rainbow fish, flame and powder blue gouramis, velvet swordtails and tiger barbs, can be found in another aquarium along the aquatic wall. Children can even pretend to fish from a boat in the play area.
“At the Children’s Zoo, we want children to learn that habitats such as oceans and rivers, deserts, forests and backyards are homes for animals—essentially, we want children to learn that water is a critical habitat,” Seyfried said, adding that what is equally impressive about this new area is that a Zoo volunteer created the new fish-shaped chairs children can play on and the Saint Louis Area Saltwater Hobbyists Club, or S.L.A.S.H., donated coral for the reef. “This gift made the exhibit entirely sustainable—nothing was taken from the wild.”
Zoo Hours & Information
Admission to the Saint Louis Zoo is free. Admission to the Children’s Zoo is free from 8-9 a.m. in summer and $4 per person after 9 a.m. Children under 2 are free. The Zoo’s summer hours are Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday through Sunday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.