Around 4,500 years ago the ancient Sumerians were the first to keep fish in artificial ponds, while the Egyptians, Assyrians and Romans all kept fish for wonder and entertainment.
The desire to explore and showcase marine life in this way continued through the centuries. In eighteenth century Britain, the quintessential goldfish began to be seen in glass bowls – much the same as today – but it wasn’t until the relationship between fish, plants and oxygen became understood a hundred years later that aquariums as we know them today truly developed.
The first public aquarium opened in London Zoo in 1853 and the world’s oldest operating aquarium opened in 1872 as Brighton Aquarium, now SEA LIFE Brighton. Today, the world’s large aquariums are home to thousands of spectacular marine creatures, but what are the biggest aquariums in the world and who owns the world’s largest fish tank?
Largest Fish Tank vs. The Biggest Aquariums in the World
There’s quite a size difference between private fish tanks and public aquariums but they are no less impressive!
At time of writing the world’s largest private fish tank isn’t in a grand office or similar corporate offering but is in fact in someone’s house!
Wisconsin resident Bill Wann designed and built the biggest privately-owned aquarium in the world.
Tanked: Following the antics of business partners, best friends and constant rivals Wayde King and Brett Raymer, as they run America's largest aquarium company, Acrylic Tank Manufacturing.
The 76,000 litre tank is over seven metres long and three metres wide with nine tons of rocks and almost a ton of sand imported from the Bahamas!
You can’t actually visit Bill’s house but if you’re keen to explore similar wonders you can visit the very, very large aquariums listed below, which are hugely popular tourist attractions.
National Marine Aquarium
Location: Plymouth, UK | Total Volume: 4m litres | Largest Tank: 2.5m litres
The biggest aquarium in the UK is home to over 4,000 marine specimens including lemon sharks, stingrays, octopii, jellyfish, turtles and the cast of Finding Nemo! As well as a world-class aquarium, the NMA is an educational centre of excellence run by the Ocean Conservation Trust.
uShaka Marine World
Location: Durban, South Africa | Total Volume: 17.4m litres | Largest Tank: 3.7m litres
Africa’s largest aquarium and one of the biggest aquariums in the world is home to over 10,000 marine species including hammerhead sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins. Opened in 2004, the £33 million aquarium even has a restaurant looking into a vast shark tank!
Location: Chicago, USA | Total Volume: 19m litres | Largest Tank: 7.5m litres
Opened in 1930, Shedd Aquarium was once the largest indoor aquarium in the world. Its 32,000 specimens made up from almost 1,500 species include beluga whales, the spotted wobbegong shark, pufferfish, piranhas, a giant Pacific octopus and alligator snapping turtles. It was the world’s first inland aquarium with a permanent saltwater fish collection.
Location: Moscow, Russia | Total Volume: 25m litres | Largest Tank: 3.7m litres
One of the world’s largest aquariums and also one of the newest, the Moscow Oceanarium opened in 2015. It houses over 12,000 marine and freshwater specimens including killer and beluga whales, walruses, sea lions, octopii, stingrays and starfish. It is one of the only aquariums in the world to actually sell fish, perfect for those who aspire to one day own the world’s largest fish tank!
The Georgia Aquarium
Location: Atlanta, USA | Total Volume: 38m litres | Largest Tank: 23.8m litres
One of the biggest aquariums in the world and the largest in the USA, the $300m Georgia Aquarium has the single largest fish tank in the world, home to an incredible exhibit of whale sharks, the largest fish in the sea.
Opened in 2005, amongst the aquarium’s 100,000 residents are California sea lions, bottlenose dolphins, manta rays, African penguins, alligators, giant Japanese spider crabs and the rather beautiful Palette Surgeonfish.
Location: Valencia, Spain | Total Volume: 41.6m litres | Largest Tank: 6.8m litres
Europe’s largest aquarium is also perhaps the most beautiful. Designed by architect Félix Candela, ‘The Oceanografic’ is home to 45,000 marine specimens from 500 species including the rare oceanic sunfish. One of the biggest aquariums in the world, it is most famous for its 35 metre underwater tunnel. This mesmerising experience takes visitors on a journey from the temperate Atlantic and Pacific oceans to the warm waters of the Caribbean and Indian oceans, viewing an incredible collection of sharks and rays as they go.
Location: Singapore | Total Volume: 45.4m litres | Largest Tank: 18.1m litres
In silver medal position in the category of biggest aquariums in the world is the South East Asia Aquarium on Sentosa Island in Singapore. Home to the world’s largest collection of manta rays, it was the largest aquarium in the world for two years after it opened in 2012. The star attractions are the 50,000-specimen Open Ocean tank and a 36 metre wide viewing panel, which gives visitors the feeling of being on the ocean floor.
Chimelong Ocean Kingdom
Location: Zhuhai, China | Total Volume: 48.8m litres | Largest Tank: 22.7m litres
The world’s largest aquarium is not the only record this massive marine centre holds. It has the world’s largest aquarium window measuring 39.6 metres x 8.3 metres, and the world’s largest underwater viewing dome with an external diameter of 12 metres. Not only can visitors see 20,000 of the world’s rarest and most incredible sea creatures, they can ride roller coasters through the freshwater and saltwater tanks!
Unique and Mesmerising
Loved by kids and adults alike, the biggest aquariums in the world give us the unique ability to bask in the glory of the most magnificent and awe-inspiring underwater creatures as well as expanding our knowledge and understanding of marine conservation and the health of our oceans.