Feast for the Beasts
Tennessee Aquarium Experts Serve Up Healthy Meals to the Animals Every Day
Every day, the more than 12,000 animals that call the Tennessee Aquarium home receive a diet of freshly prepared, restaurant-quality food to keep them happy and healthy. That’s true even on Thanksgiving and Christmas, the only two days the Aquarium closes to the public.
Whether it’s Barrens Topminnows dining on bloodworms, North American River Otters chomping fish-stuffed green peppers or an Alligator Snapping Turtle putting away a “cupcake” with a hairless tail sticking out of the top, the foods on offer are varied, if not necessarily appetizing to humans.
Ensuring the health and wellbeing of the animals is the Aquarium’s top priority. Every year, meeting the dietary needs of this living collection requires the purchase of more than 30,000 pounds of food.
Some of the items on the Aquarium’s shopping list might be commonplace in most homes — and possibly even on the Thanksgiving menu this year — including:
- 8,064 heads of Romaine lettuce
- 60 pounds of beets
- 240 pounds of cucumbers
- 75 chickens
- 456 pounds of grapes
- 660 carrots
- 1,500 apples
- 120 pounds of tomatoes
- 240 pounds of peas
Still, a few Aquarium favorite treats would be eyebrow-raising on all but the most adventurous of tables, such as:
- 14,150 mice
- A dozen cases of frozen ocean plankton
- 24,000 crickets
- 2,120 pounds of clam “tongues”
- 150 pounds of frog brittle
- 1,375 pounds of krill
- 78,000 mealworms
Providing the optimum nutrition and habitats that mimic those of their wild cousins ensures the animals are healthy and stimulated. This high level of care helps the animals behave naturally, exhibiting the kinds of behaviors that leave visitors in awe, such as the jaw-dropping speed of Gentoo Penguins, the otherworldly flexibility of Giant Pacific Octopus and the powerful grace of Sandbar and Sand Tiger Sharks.
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