If you are in Chicago, Illinois you want to stop by the Shedd Aquarium.  It is a short walk along the “Magnificent Mile” on the edge of Lake Michigan. The Shedd Aquarium has one of the world’s largest indoor aquariums at ~ 5 million US gallons. I was fortunate enough to have a little time off from a trade show I was working at to visit it one year. Unfortunately, it landed on one of the “Illinois Resident Free days” which made it very crowded with a very long line at the entrance.

Overall Impression

The amount of displays from both saltwater and freshwater were astounding. The facility’s multiple floors required you to have a strategic path and a planned route.  All the displays were very mature and well maintained. I did witness some hobbyist-level issues in a few systems like cyano bacteria, though.

What intrigued me the most were the many temperate and cold water systems.  I don’t know any hobbyist running cold water systems in saltwater or freshwater.  There were many oddball specimens I’ve never seen in other aquariums like mature lumpfish and lamprey.

I would have loved to get a “behind the scenes” tour. How does the technology used on these behemoth systems compare to other facilities I visited? Are they just scaled up versions of what we hobbyists use today?

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The entrance fee was well worth it but I would suggest avoiding the crowds during special days since it will be more comfortable and you don’t feel rushed to get out. Tip: Skip the front line and pay for it online with your phone and enter via the side entrance instead.

In addition to the usual tourist hotspots, don’t forget to grab a great photo opportunity of the Chicago shoreline at the aquarium’s outdoor overlook.

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