Shanghai Aquarium: An Underwater Adventure

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I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium and, after visiting a few underwhelming zoos in Asia, had some trepidation about the conditions I’d find. For all of Shanghai’s glitz and glamour, China is still a developing nation and animal conservation doesn’t always seem to be a high priority (Giant Pandas excepted).

For the most part, I was impressed with Shanghai’s aquarium. I went on a weekday afternoon and was able to enjoy the exhibits (with only minor pushing and shoving to get a clear view). Weekends and school holidays might best be avoided.

The large building huddles in the shadow of Oriental Pearl TV Tower in the Luijaizui section of Pudong. There are many sights in the vicinity and combination tickets can save quite a bit of money. At US$27, the aquarium is a little expensive for a stand-alone visit.



The aquarium is ostensibly divided into regional “zones,” though limited signage made the designations unclear. One of the best (and unsurprisingly most popular) exhibits was that of the jellyfish. The gelatinous creatures glowed brightly as they propelled themselves through inky blue water. Their movements were so graceful they almost appeared to be dancing! Swarms of translucent moon jellies were illuminated in a changing rainbow of colors, creating the sensation that visitors are walking through a living, slow-motion kaleidoscope.



I believe these are Pacific Sea nettles.




Moon jellies are easily recognized by their distinctive shamrock-shaped design.

Another wildly popular creature was the sawfish, a critically-endangered species also known as the carpenter shark. This fellow features a long flat snout with sharp tooth-like protrusions, much like that of a chainsaw, hence the name. Unlucky prey gets impaled on the teeth, making the sawfish a fearsome predator despite its comedic appearance.



Not sure why this guy was digging through the sand with a bottle, but the sawfish was not amused. I guess that’s why a chainmail tunic was necessary!


The aquarium’s showpiece is a series of tunnels which allow visitors to walk under the sea. Arched glass ceilings provide unobstructed views of a wide array of ocean dwellers swimming above, while coral formations and cleverly placed skylights create a realistic environment for the animals. A slow-moving electronic walkway inches along one side, though there is plenty of room to step off for a closer inspection of the sharks’ frightful teeth.



Hello Mr. Shark. What big teeth you have!



Some of the fish looked downright prehistoric!

Other interesting displays included a trio of playful spotted seals, an ensemble of waddling penguins and fish of every size, shape and color. A section of the aquarium is dedicated to the fauna of the Amazon, such as snakes, lizards and brightly colored little frogs.




Where I thought the aquarium fell short was educating the public about the importance of conservation. Shark fin soup is a Ming Dynasty-era delicacy that is increasingly popular due to rising income levels in mainland China. As a result, shark populations are in decline due to over-fishing. I did find a small display on the importance of protecting sharks, but it lacked information about the soup and how the fins are actually harvested. Hopefully Chinese society will come to embrace animal conservancy issues as it continues to develop.



Shanghai Ocean Aquarium
Address: 1388 Lujiazui Ring Rd, Pudong, Shanghai, China
Entrance Fee: 160 RMB (27 USD); combination tickets with other area attractions are available

16 thoughts on “Shanghai Aquarium: An Underwater Adventure

    • One can hope! The Malaysian government has banned shark fin soup at all official banquets so maybe the Chinese government will follow suit. Jackie Chan has taken up tiger conservation and Yao Ming is working with a group to help protect African elephants from the ivory trade (China is the world’s biggest consumer of ivory). Hopefully these mega celebrities can get through to the public.

  1. I looooove aquariums (aquaria?) and didn’t even realize that there was one in Shanghai! If I had known, I’m sure we would have visited during our week-long stay in the city. It looks like a really good one, too! I love when they have the clear tubes that you can walk through to the fish swim overhead!

    Great point about how talking about shark conservation at Chinese aquariums should be a big deal. I hadn’t considered that, but given that almost every place we have been diving throughout Asia says that the shark populations are dwindling because Chinese fishermen come and poach them, it’s clearly a big problem!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…One Weird, Wild ChristmasMy Profile

    • It’s a really big problem! I even know of a Chinese Canadian who served (or whose parents served) shark fin soup at her wedding in Toronto. I was stunned that it would even be available there. Two or three of Shanghai’s luxury hotels have stopped serving the soup, but there is still a long way to go.

  2. I was there last year and I can see the place has not changed a lot. It’s still so massive, actually it looked much bigger in a real life than in the photos when I look at it. I loved the jellyfish and nemo fish :). Remember having a nice and relaxing day there.
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    • Thanks! I had to exercise a lot of patience to get all of those shots – heads and hands kept popping into my frame! 🙂

    • Thanks! The glass tunnels and jellyfish were very impressive. If you do visit, avoid holidays and weekends for the least crowds!

  3. Great photos! We have a good aquarium here in Myrtle and I can’t remember if you’ve been there or not. I liked the display they had at the museum we recently visited with Nemo and Dory 🙂

  4. I wanna go there so badly again! Amazing pictures!! Shanghai is Asia’s biggest and largest aquarium and awesome tourist attraction place. Love those beautiful but deadly jelly fishes. Thanks for sharing this magnificent post.

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