General Aquarium

Goodbye Curious Creatures, Hello Shipwrecks!

“Coming in 2020, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada brings you “Shipwrecks”; an exciting, changeable exhibit featuring unique species and stories from around the world and the mysteries of what lies in the wreckage beneath the surface of the water. Explore the fresh waters of the Great Lakes and the legacy of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald while learning about invasive species and their impact on our greatest, fresh water source. Travel to the Mediterranean and discover the ancient history of the Uluburun Shipwreck or visit the waters of the Indo Pacific region to experience unique and colourful species from the area such as the Peacock Mantis Shrimp or Big Fin Reef Squid.”


Ship this! If you’re planning on visiting the aquarium between now and March, be aware we have some exciting changes coming up… Our (former) Curious Creature exhibit is currently undergoing some drastic changes while we prepare for our new “changeable” focus: Shipwrecks.  In the meantime, the area is unavailable, but return soon for a brand new exhibit featuring information on shipwrecks that have happened close to home, and around the world.

deep sea diary feb

For thousands of years’ water has been an efficient, and mostly successful, way of travel, although there have been accidents along the way.  There are many causes behind shipwrecks, and here are some popular reasons:

Poor Design.  If a ship has a misplaced center of gravity it can really affect the success of the vessel.  Heavy rain, rough winds and high waves added with poor design are easily a reason for numerous sea disasters.

Navigational Errors.  I’m sure we’ve all seen the movie, and yes its true a lot of shipwrecks happen when navigational mistakes occur, causing ships to collide with other vessels, land or even icebergs.

Intentional.  But why on earth would someone intentionally sink their ship? For benevolent reasons, like aiding in the start of artificial reefs! Yes, ecosystems can use our tools as tools of their own and thrive!  Many decommissioned boats and other vehicles are sunk to serve as a starting ground for coral reefs.  Large vessels can also be used as breakwater structures when loss of wildlife is apparent off shorelines.

deep sea diary blog

The new animals featured in this exhibit will mirror what you might find in actual shipwrecked ecosystems.  This includes some invasive species that vessel transportation has brought with along the way.  Learn more about parasitic aquatic animals, full of creepy teeth, that live right here in our Great Lakes! There will also be ways that you can help mitigate or stop the spread of invasive species, including:

  • Opting for native species when gardening or housing plants/animals
  • Properly dispose of any unwanted organisms by calling your local pet stores, aquariums or pest control
  • Mitigate the spread by alerting conservation authorities if you spot any invasive species, and note the location
  • When travelling, try not to move plants or animals that could be harboring invasive parasite or insects (i.e. firewood)
  • Makes sure to wash your boats and other water vessels when moving between bodies of water

Underwater Archaeology

There’s also a chance to learn more about underwater archeology, and SCUBA diving!  A lot of shipwrecks have served as popular diving locations in recent years, and is even popular here in Ontario.  Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) makes it possible to see these preserved pieces of history, and what the underwater world has transformed them into.  Get up close and personal with underwater equipment, including dry suits, underwater paper, and other tools used to discover and record shipwrecks.

We hope you plan on joining us this spring for our exciting new exhibits and a chance to learn about these deep sea journeys!

Sustainability Under the Sea: Tips for Reducing the Environmental Impact of Your Aquarium Visit

Planning a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada? Trying to live more sustainably in 2020? Fostering a culture of sustainability is one of our goals here at the aquarium, so I thought I could offer some tips for making your own visit to the aquarium little more environmentally friendly and get the new year started off right.

guests touching stingray

Turn off the lights!

Having a more sustainable visit can start before you even leave your home. On your way out make sure that you’ve turned off the lights and any unnecessary electronics. How much energy you save will depend on the type of bulbs you use, but keeping lights off for the hours when they aren’t needed adds up and can save you kilowatt hours (and dollars!) over time1.

Save paper!

Purchasing your tickets online can be a great way to save paper! Online tickets do not need to be printed out and can be scanned right off your device. By choosing to purchase a timed ticket, you can even save money as well as paper! If you do buy a paper ticket don’t worry. We have containers located at our exits where used tickets and guidebooks can be recycled.

Reducing the Environmental Impact of Your Aquarium Visit

Leave the car behind!

Taking transit reduces the number of cars on the road, helping to cut back on emissions that are harmful to the environment and to the air quality of our city2. It also saves you the hassle of finding a place to park downtown. If you are planning on taking transit to the aquarium, there are a lot of options! We are located within walking distance of Union Station which is serviced by the TTC and by Go Transit, and can also be accessed by streetcar. For transit directions, including walking directions from Union Station, check out the parking and directions page on our website!

Bring reusable containers!

While single use containers are certainly convenient, they also have a big impact on the environment.

Sustainability Under the Sea: Tips for Reducing the Environmental Impact of Your Aquarium Visit

It is estimated that over 10 000 tonnes of plastic enter the Great Lakes every year3. With our aquarium located so close to the shore of Lake Ontario we want to be extra sure that we are minimizing our impact on Canada’s waterways.

Reusable water bottles and travel mugs can help cut down on waste from plastic bottles and coffee cups. Guests with a reusable mug can also get a 30% discount on coffee or tea purchases if you need to refuel during your visit.

Eat sustainably!

Feeling hungry? Our café is proud to offer Ocean Wise certified, sriracha cod fish tacos. Ocean Wise is an organization that tracks the sustainability of seafood products. An Ocean Wise certification means that the fish population is resistant to pressure from fishing and is caught using a method that limits damage to the ocean ecosystem. Some fishing methods can be harmful to marine animals like sharks, stingrays and sea turtles. By eating Ocean Wise certified products you are helped to protect some of the ocean’s vulnerable species. If you’d like to learn more, take a look at Ocean Wise’s website.

With these tips in mind I hope you’re inspired to make your upcoming trip more sustainable and I hope to see you soon!

Have any sustainability tips of your own? Leave a comment below!

Getting Ready for a Blue Christmas

It is near impossible to try and survive one day in our society without using water or a product that has used water. From waking up – brushing our teeth, washing our faces, making breakfast, going to work, and everything in between, we use gallons upon gallons of water every single day.

This water is usually treated and reused, but also frequently left in a degraded state afterwards from either chemical or plastic pollutants that find their way into our waterways. Water pollution from run off affects the amount of available oxygen in aquatic habitats and can actually create dead zones. Plastic pollution has a very physical affect and can alter whole food webs. The bioaccumulation of small micro plastics can be eaten by animals and passed through the food chain, eventually being ingested by humans as well. This is why it’s important to be aware of the amount of plastics we use and how we discard them. For example, the use of microbeads in soaps and cleansers reach our local aquatic habitats and affect our native fish populations.

Getting Ready for a Blue Christmas - blog image

How can we help during the holidays?

  • Save water! Clean freshwater is one of the most precious resources on earth. In Canada we are very fortunate to have some of the most available clean freshwater in the world, and we can sometimes take that for granted.  Try to lower our water usage, and make sure we aren’t wasting water in our daily lives.  This could mean using less single-use plastic items, recycling and reusing clothing, and even turning of the tap when we brush our teeth.  During the holidays, be conscious about how much wrapping paper we use.  A lot of it is single use plastics.  Looking into wrapping products that are made of recycled materials, or switching to cloth is a great substitute.
  • Switching to green products. Trying not to use harsh chemical weed killers or harmful household chemicals. Advising and educating our friends and families about the connection to water can make a big difference. Fertilizers and chemicals we use on our lawns and in our gardens can directly affect the neighboring habitats – especially if you live in a small town or have a ground-water system.  When our sidewalks and driveways get icy we usually look to salt as the answer, but living so close to a large body of water can elevate salt levels.  Instead, try using sand for added traction, or beet juice as salt-free substitutes.
  • Reduce your waste! Making sure we don’t introduce unnecessary waste into our environments, including plastics, clothing, and packaging (present wrap). This can help reduce the amount of plastics that enter our landfills, lakes, rivers and oceans.  It is always nice to pick up a hot beverage during the holidays, and we can all do our part by trying to remember to bring re-usable containers when stopping by our local coffee shop.
  • Recycle! Try to recycle your water, and items that consume a lot of water when they’re produced. This could mean using the water from a bath to water plants, as well as recycling old toys and clothes you don’t use anymore (toy drives are great).  Clothes and plastics consume a lot of energy and water to produce, and throwing them out means they’ll take hundreds of years to degrade in a landfill.  Instead, try and recycle or donate these items, it also gives back to your community and helps out people who can’t afford to buy new ones, or are more interested in reducing their waste!  Buying recycled items is also a great way to save money, energy, plastic and water use.
  • Be aware of things you consume, and their water needs. Drinking juice uses hundreds of litres per glass! Sometimes it’s best to stick with drinking just water.  Same thing with where our food comes from- how far away, and how much energy is consumed producing and transporting it. Eating local foods saves a lot of energy and oil from transportation.  Buying local meats and vegetables during the winter is a great way to save energy and support our local farmers.  Turkey dinners are very popular during the holidays, and buying from local supplies is a great way to start the season.
  • Spread awareness! As important as our actions are, doing things as a whole makes an even bigger impact for our habitats. Spreading knowledge to our friends and family can increase our affect positively! Join community groups and promote activities like shoreline cleanups to help reduce our pollution, and help keep our water bodies safe!

Raising a Marine Biologist

Fall is here, and with it comes all the excitement of back to school! Not everyone is sliding in sneakers and throwing on backpacks, though. Lots of little tots will be staying home as they await being school-aged. Learning starts long before the classroom, and there are loads of things caretakers and parents can do to foster love and respect for the ocean early on.

Raising a Marine Biologist

Here are our top 5 tips for raising a marine biologist:

Promote curiosity

Teaching your little one to think like a scientist is a major part of empowering their learning. One of the best ways to do this is to encourage and nurture their curiosity. Luckily, children have an innate tendency to wonder- when you see it, don’t squash it! Let them try age-appropriate activities on their own first before intervening or correcting them. Encourage them to play with familiar things in unconventional ways- a great example of this is letting them raid the kitchen for some fun with strainers and spoons! Ask them questions when they encounter new things, try to get them thinking about how things work around them, and be sure to take note of their answers- there’s nothing quite as surprising (or as funny) a toddler’s perspective!

Explore nearby water bodies

Marine biology is so much more than what is under the water. Life can be found thriving on the beach, on rocky shores, and along creeks. Whatever water bodies you live near, take your child exploring. Learn with as many of the senses as you can- what can you see in these areas, what can you touch? What smells do you smell, what sounds do you hear? Be sure to bring plenty of supplies with you on your scientific excursions, like crayons and notebooks to draw what you see, or magnifying lenses to take a closer look. It might get messy, but that’s ok! White clothes should be all packed away now that labor day has passed, anyhow. Head out while the sun is still shining!

Go underwater

My earliest and fondest childhood memories are of swimming in local pools and lakes, playing with family and friends, and exploring underwater with goggles. What better way to entice your future marine biologist than to put them in the water themselves? Even as the weather becomes colder and we bundle up more, the GTA is filled with recreation centers that offer swimming classes and free swim to children of all ages and abilities. Find one near you, grab some goggles, slap on a swimsuit, wiggle into some water wings, and go for a dip! Can’t make it to a pool? Adventure needn’t be much further than your own bathtub. Find some fishy toys and create a fun underwater scene.

Raising a Marine Biologist

Think, talk, and act green!

We get it- reducing your waste and being green is easier said than done. Factor in raising toddlers, and it gets even trickier. Between the convenience of pre-packaged snacks and the ease of relying on single use plastics, the waste can add up. The solution? Remember who’s boss (your toddler, always). Talk to your children about how your actions affect the environment, and think up some ways to be more sustainable together. Chances are, once they understand, they’ll be the first to remind you when you’re slipping. If you hear them reminding you to opt for reusable bags, rejoice- you’ve got a pretty environmentally conscientious tot to keep you in check!

Meet some fish!

Here at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, we run a program called Sea Squirts. Sea Squirts is a 6-week long program for children aged 2-4 and their caregivers that runs from 9-10am on Thursday and Sunday mornings. Each week, a new topic of under-the-sea life is explored through songs, games, crafts, and stories. Sea Squirts brings you up close and personal with our animals with animal visits that take you behind the scenes. This program is the perfect way to connect with your child as you learn and play together, all the while enjoying the wonders of the sea.

For more information, visit our website, here.

There you have it! Our top 5 ways to encourage a love and respect for the ocean in your little ones from an early age. Keep them curious, get them down to the water, let them play under water, reinforce the importance of sustainability, and meet some fish! Chances are you’ll have so much fun together, you’ll develop some new healthy habits, too. Remember that a marine biologist works to learn about and protect the blue world that they love.

Do you have any other suggestions for raising a marine biologist? Comment below!

Raising a Marine Biologist

Fighting the Invasion: RAOC at the Lionfish Invitational

There’s no doubt of the lionfish’s beauty. It’s written in their stunning red and white striped colouration, and the fanciful sway of their fins.

But as with so many things in nature, that beauty is a warning. The lionfish has 18 long, needle-like spines that deliver a painful dose of venom if touched. It’s an excellent defense against predators, and a real headache for humans–while not fatal, lionfish venom has been known to cause extreme pain, as well as headaches, vomiting, and paralysis.

There’s something else deceptive in the beauty of the lionfish–in certain parts of the world, they are destroying the colourful diversity of coral reefs.

Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean, where they are kept in balance by predators such as large fish and sharks. However, due to its popularity in the aquarium industry, this fish was introduced off the southeastern coast of the United States and in the Caribbean, where it has become an invasive species.

How did this happen? The answer is threefold.

  • Lionfish are excellent hunters. They are lightning-fast and have been known to hunt cooperatively, using their fanned pectoral fins to steer prey until they are trapped. Add to this equation the fact that local prey species do not recognize lionfish as predators and the lionfish’s buffet-style approach to feeding–they feed easily and indiscriminately on a wide variety of fish and invertebrates.
  • A single female lionfish can lay approximately 2 million eggs a year, meaning that what started out as a few aquarium fish inadvertently introduced to a part of the world where they don’t belong, quickly became a full-scale invasion.
  • Finally, the lionfish has no natural predators in these parts of the world and is highly resistant to disease and infection. This means that they have rapidly overpopulated reefs in the Western Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea–a population that is long-lived (lionfish have a lifespan of about 15 years) and that remains largely unchecked.

Why is that such a problem? A single lionfish can consume 80 to 90 percent of native life in small coral reef environments within just five weeks of establishing its territory there. This is wreaking havoc on these fragile underwater ecosystems.

It’s a grim picture, but luckily, scientists and conservationists–including members of the team here at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada–are taking steps to help combat the so-called “lionfish problem.”

In August of 2019, Ripley’s joined trained volunteer divers and research partners from Canada, the United States and the Caribbean for the sixth annual Lionfish Invitational at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico.

This event sends teams of divers into the sanctuary to remove as many lionfish as possible through spearfishing. This practice is typically illegal in the sanctuary, but special permits are issued to the team for the duration of the event.

Lionfish caught are counted, measured, bagged and tagged, before being sent to a lab for further analysis, including their age, growth patterns, genetics and stomach contents.

Not only does this annual event help to relieve the overpopulation of invasive lionfish in the Gulf, but it also serves to further scientific knowledge of the effects of lionfish populations on native species and their habitats.

This year, a 22-diver team removed 122 lionfish over the course of four days. Despite the skill of these divers, this represents the least amount of lionfish removed from any Invitational to date.

It is hypothesized that lionfish populations throughout the Gulf and Caribbean region have been reduced due to an ulcerative skin disease, present in lionfish removed from the marine park, and elsewhere. A decline in lionfish population has also been observed in Florida.

This could be good news in terms of restoring balance in Flower Garden Banks, but continued monitoring and removals of lionfish will be essential to assessing their population and the health of ecosystems in the region, and beyond.

*Lionfish Invitational photos courtesy of Louise Patricio, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada Dive Operations Manager


Periods of natural climate change have occurred for millennia, but human industry since the 20th-century has contributed to change at an unprecedented rate, primarily due to our increased consumption of fossil fuels. (A fossil fuel is a natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed from the remains of living organisms).

The effects of this change can be seen in the increase of the planet’s surface temperature, the warming and acidification of the oceans, the rise of sea levels and the retreat of glaciers. Changes are happening at such an accelerated rate that plants and animals are hardly able to adapt quickly enough. For reference, adaptation occurs over several generations and the current rate of climate change is far too fast.

I’m sure that you know all this.

What you might not know is that you have the power to do something to help reverse the tides of climate change. We all do.

The term carbon footprint refers to the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the consumption of fossil fuels by a person or organization. The changes outlined below might seem small, but if each of us commits to reducing our carbon footprint in tangible ways, that can add up to big change—change that has the power to positively affect the planet. Here’s how:

1. Unplug electronics when not in use

We all know to turn the lights off when we leave the room—that’s Energy Conservation 101. But did you know about something called home idle load, or ghost energy? Ghost energy refers to the electricity being continuously used in our homes, even when we’re not there. This kind of passive energy use accounts for more than 30% of household electricity consumption!

Reducing your use of electricity is a clear way to also reduce your carbon footprint, and home idle load is a great place to start. Prevent the silent sap of ghost energy by:

  • Unplugging electronics such as your cellphone and game consoles when not in use
  • Using a timer-switch that stops electric consumption from devices not in use
  • Replacing old, inefficient appliances that must remain running (i.e. refrigerators) with newer, more energy-efficient models

2. Eat less meat

Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to go vegetarian. A simple reduction in the amount of meat you eat can have a tangible effect on your carbon footprint. In fact, eating just one less burger a week is the equivalent of taking your car off the road for about 515 kilometres! Consider taking the Meatless Monday pledge—committing to meatless meals just one day of the week.

How does farmed meat affect the environment you ask? It has to do with deforestation to make way for livestock (less trees means less ability for the planet to process carbon dioxide in the atmosphere), methane emissions from fertilizer use and the animals themselves (I’ll let you use your imagination to figure that one out), and agricultural runoff polluting our streams and rivers. Not to mention the food and water resources needed to feed our, well, future food.

3. Buy local

Meals are another way in which we can reduce our carbon footprints. By buying fresh, local foods, not only are we supporting local growers and grocers, but also reducing the distance that our food has to travel from production to our plates.

To put it simply, locally-grown fruits, vegetables and fresh meats don’t have to travel hundreds of miles by truck or get on a plane to the grocery store. And it really is that simple: less travel means less use of fossil fuels in transportation, which means a win-win way to reduce your carbon footprint…and put money back into your community, to boot.

4. Take care of your clothes


When it comes to our carbon footprints, so many of us wear them on our sleeves. Fast fashion is the trend of quickly and cheaply producing new clothing collections inspired by celebrities and designers. But fast fashion is also a disaster for the environment.

Fast fashion relies on synthetic materials such as polyester, which, when washed in washing machines, shed microfibers that pass into our waterways in the form of microplastics. These are often consumed by animals low in the food chain, and eventually make their way into the stomachs of apex predators—like us.

So what can you do? As a consumer, you have the power to put your money where your mouth is. Consider clothing brands that use recycled materials.

But the best way to reduce the environmental impact of your clothing is to keep your clothes on the hanger for longer—to buy high-quality, long-lasting pieces that you can repair or upcycle rather than discard—and resist the temptation of constantly buying new stuff.

5. Share what you know


The final and most powerful way you can help fight climate change is to share what you know and to talk about the changes you’re making to your habits with your family and friends.

You may be just one person making what seem like small choices for the health of the planet, but by serving as a good example and passing on what you know, there’s no telling how big of an impact you could have.


  1. Meatless Monday Infographic,
  2. Fast Fashion,
  3. Foodland Ontario Logo,


  1. “About Meatless Monday.” Earth Day Network,
  2. “Climate Change Evidence: How Do We Know?” Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet, NASA, 5 Feb. 2019,
  3. Environment.” Meatless Monday,
  4. Holth, Jesse. “7 Instant Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.” The Huffington Post,, 6 June 2017,
  5. Milman, Oliver. “Why Eating Less Meat Is the Best Thing You Can Do for the Planet in 2019.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 21 Dec. 2018,
  6. Perry, Patsy. “The Environmental Costs of Fast Fashion.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 8 Jan. 2018,


Have you heard the news? The royal baby has arrived!

That’s right, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex–a.k.a. Meghan Markle–have welcomed their first child, and that people are excited about it. Even the London Eye–the famous landmark along the River Thames–has been lit up with the colours of the Union Jack to celebrate the little one’s arrival.

We at the aquarium would like to celebrate the “o-fish-al” arrival of the seventh in line to the Crown in our own special way, by checking in with some of our favourite royals under the sea.


king crab

The undisputed ruler of the crustaceans is…the red king crab! This giant decapod (that means that it has 10 legs) is one of the largest crustaceans in the ocean. Adult king crabs can have a leg-span of nearly five feet, and can weigh over 20 pounds. This makes them a coveted prize for anglers, but they also play an important role as the ocean’s clean-up crew. Red king crabs are scavengers; they eat dead and decaying plant and animal matter on the ocean floor.

Like all decapods, the shell of the red king crab is in fact its skeleton, which covers the outside of its body. This exoskeleton does not expand as the crab grows, so red king crabs must shed (molt) their old shells in order to grow, revealing a new, larger shell underneath. This new shell is soft for a time and leaves the red king crab open to predation–it’s not easy being king!


queen fish

The queen angelfish is downright iconic. With her yellow, green and blue colouration, the queen angelfish is one of the most eye-catching fish in the already rainbow-coloured coral reefs of the Caribbean. Her name comes from the dark splotch of colour on her head, which makes her look as though she’s wearing a crown.

Queen angelfish are foragers–they eat everything from sponges to algae to coral. Juvenile queen angelfish have also been known to clean parasites and eat loose scales off much larger fish.

Every queen (angelfish) has her king–queen angelfish live in pairs year-round, suggesting a monogamous bond.


emperor angelfish

The emperor angelfish is a master of disguise, in more ways than one. The adult emperor angelfish (right image) is patterned in a way designed to confuse predators, with alternating blue and yellow stripes and a dark band across its eyes. Its colours as a juvenile (left image) are so different–dark blue with white and blue rings–that the two were once considered to be two completely different species!

Male emperor angelfish are territorial. While a few females might cohabitate peacefully with a single male, he will attack any other male angelfish that tries to enter their living space. This emperor doesn’t like to share his court!


blue tang

That’s right, it’s Dory! Not only is her common name decidedly regal, but she’s Hollywood royalty! Dory has many aliases, including the blue surgeonfish and palette surgeonfish. Her regal common name comes from her royal blue colouration.

Regal blue tangs are important for the health of the reefs they live in, because they eat away at the algae that might otherwise grow on and cover the coral, affecting its ability to photosynthesize.

The name surgeonfish comes from the sharp spines that line the tang’s back and tail–so sharp that they have been compared to a surgeon’s scalpel. Male regal blue tangs establish dominance by “fencing” with their caudal spines, but they have another foolproof way to deter predators–by lying on their side, motionless, essentially “playing dead” until danger has passed. Didn’t Dory try that one in the movies?


lion fish

You might wonder why the venomous lionfish has made this royal list–what’s so royal about a lion? Well, apart from being the undisputed king of the jungle, the lion is in fact the national animal of England, and has long represented the British royal family!

Everything about the lionfish warns you not to touch it–its red and white stripes, its long, showy fins… And for good reason. The lionfish is able to defend itself with 18 needle-like dorsal spines, which deliver a painful dose of venom if touched.

The lionfish is an excellent hunter–its huge mouth is perfect for gobbling up prey, and it can use its fanned pectoral fins to steer prey until they are trapped. This has made the lionfish a problematic species in parts of the world that it is not native to. The lionfish’s hunting prowess, quick reproduction rates and adaptability have made it an invasive species in the Caribbean and southeastern coast of the United States.

So welcome, Royal Baby! And remember, cod save the Queen!

Queen Angelfish
Adult Emperor Angelfish
Juvenile Emperor Angelfish

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Have you heard of Earth Hour?

Earth Hour is a movement founded by the World Wildlife Fund in 2008. This annual event encourages individuals, communities and businesses to turn off non-essential electricity for one hour as a symbol of commitment to the environment and to the health of the planet. The event is now observed in over 7,000 cities across 187 countries, and continues to raise awareness about energy consumption (especially coal-fired electricity) and its effects on the environment.

This year Earth Hour will take place on March 30, from 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM. Will you be participating?

Here are some fun ways you can spend your hour without electricity, all for the health of the planet:

  • Bust-out the candles: no lights? No problem! Light your space with beeswax candles (they’re all-natural and non-toxic!) and turn even the simplest activity into an event (candle-lit dinner, anyone?).

  • Go for a walk: grab your dog, or the whole family, and get outside. In past years, even the CN Tower has gone dark for Earth Hour–this night-time walk could give you a whole new perspective on your city. Depending on your neighbourhood, you might even be able to see the stars!

  • Plan a game night: crack out your favourite board games, invite your friends, and you’ve got yourself a candlelit games night! (Just make sure candles are set well out of the way of the action–we all know how contentious those games of Monopoly can get!)

  • Do some yoga: roll out your yoga mat, fengshui your candles, and there’s everything you need for a relaxing, candlelit hour of Zen. Or, take this electronics-free hour to clear your mind through meditation.

  • Read a book: there’s nothing quite like getting under the covers and reading a book by flashlight to make you feel like a kid again. If you’re feeling especially brave, choose a spooky mystery or classic horror title to read in the dark.

  • Go camping: speaking of acting like a kid…why not set up a tent or build a fort in your living room? It’s indoor camping! Pack a picnic dinner and eat sprawled out on your best blankets and pillows. Or (carefully) roast marshmallows by candle-fire using chopsticks.

  • Soak in the bath: bliss-out in a candlelit bubble bath, and let the world (and the energy crisis!) slip away for an hour.

  • Take a nap: it’s like the whole world is dimming its lights, just for you! Shut your eyes and catch up on some much-needed z’s.

  • Tell ghost stories: use the dark to your advantage, and set the stage for some spooky ghost stories, whether from a book or straight from your imagination.

  • Come to the aquarium: finally, consider spending your Earth Hour with us here at the aquarium! We won’t be in the pitch-dark, but we will be turning off our non-essential lighting outdoors and in the lobby, to do our part for Earth Hour. Want to do even more for the environment during your visit? Consider traveling by bike, foot or public transit.

Regardless of how you choose to spend your Earth Hour, the event is meant to encourage us to “go beyond the hour,” by taking energy-saving action year-round. You can visit the World Wildlife Fund website here to make a pledge to reduce your energy use–whether by committing to purchasing less plastic or to restoring nature in your community–in the coming year.


  1. “What Is Earth Hour?” Earth Hour, World Wildlife Fund, 18 Mar. 2019,


What do you think of when you think of St. Patrick’s Day? The rolling green hills of Ireland? Green shamrocks and leprechauns? Green food colouring in otherwise perfectly-good beer? Whatever images you associate with March 17, the cultural and religious holiday celebrating Irish heritage, it’s likely that they’re awash in green!

And when it comes to the colour green, the ocean might not be the first thing that pops into your head. After all, when we look down at our planet from above, it’s our terrestrial spaces that appear green—the oceans have always been, and will always be, blue. …or will they?

The planet is warming—the effects of climate change can be seen all across our oceans, from the phenomenon known as coral bleaching, all the way down to changes in the growth and abundance of phytoplankton (microscopic photosynthesizing algae). These changes are happening at an unprecedented rate due to decidedly human factors such as industrial carbon emissions.

There are two main classes of phytoplankton, dinoflagellates – which have a whip-like tail (flagella), and diatoms – which do not.

While you are more than likely aware of the harmful effects that climate change is having on our planet, a new study has shown a surprising side-effect that you might not have considered… The planet is about to get a whole lot greener—and not in the environmentally-sustainable way you might have been hoping for.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NASA and the US Department of Energy published a paper last month summarizing their findings using a global model that simulates the growth patterns of different species of phytoplankton, and how those phytoplankton absorb and reflect light. This model could serve as an early warning signal for ocean health–or ill health.

In short, the researchers found that more than 50% of ocean waters will experience a change in colour by the year 2100!

Regions appearing blue (such as the subtropics) in satellite photographs will become bluer due to a loss of life in general, and phytoplankton in particular, compared to those regions today. However, water that currently has a greenish tinge, such as that near the Earth’s poles, will become even greener, due to warmer water temperatures creating blooms of more diverse species of phytoplankton in those regions.

So what creates the ocean’s colour to begin with, and how does algae affect it?

It has to do with how sunlight interacts with what’s in the water itself. As you may know, light is comprised of all the colours of the rainbow. Water molecules absorb almost all light frequencies except for the colour blue, which is reflected back to us, which is why the open ocean appears as a deep blue in photographs taken from space. But ocean water that contains a lot of phytoplankton will appear greener, as the chlorophyll (the green pigment that helps plants and algae photosynthesize the sun’s energy into food) in phytoplankton absorbs almost all of sunlight’s blue spectrum, and reflects back more green light.

This side-by-side comparison from NASA illustrates typical Arctic waters (left) and the same waters during a massive algal bloom (right).

What does this all mean, apart from the fact that our planet could soon be looking a lot greener?

Plankton of all kinds—and phytoplankton in particular—are at the bottom of a huge number of ocean food chains. So if climate change shifts the growth of phytoplankton—whether from one species to another, or from one part of the ocean to another—this will change the types of food webs that they can support, and that will impact on species further up the food chain. Entire ocean ecosystems will be affected.

Not to mention that phytoplankton produce about 50% of the oxygen we breathe… Needless to say, changes to their distribution across the ocean means a whole lot more for the planet’s health than just its colour.

But don’t despair. When it comes to climate change, we have more power than you might think. Stay ‘tuna’ed to the Deep Sea Diary for an upcoming post about what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint, and join the fight against climate change.

For now, sláinte, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and may all your rainbows end in a pot of gold(fish)!


  1. Phytoplankton,


  1. Anderson, Paul Scott. “Much of Earth’s Surface Ocean Will Shift in Color by End of 21st Century.” EarthSky, 7 Feb. 2019,
  2. Dennis, Brady, and Chris Mooney. “Climate Change Will Alter the Color of the Oceans, New Research Finds.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 4 Feb. 2019,
  3. Moran, Barbara. “Climate Change Is Altering the Color of the Ocean.” WBUR, WBUR, 4 Feb. 2019,
  4. Obscura, Atlas. “Climate Change Is Shifting the Color of the Oceans.” The Huffington Post,, 5 Feb. 2019,
  5. Dutkiewicz, S. et al.Ocean colour signature of climate change. Nature Comm.


It was explorer Robert Ripley himself who said that “truth is stranger than fiction.” Where tales of mythological sea monsters are concerned, this is definitely true. Ancient seafarers saw strange and wonderful real-life sea creatures on their ocean journeys, and through the power of imagination and oral storytelling, these animals took on larger-than-life proportions.

Today we’re taking a closer look at some fantastically strange sea monsters, and the real-life sea creatures that inspired them.

Those beautiful siren sea cows…

The legend of sirens or mermaids – half-human, half-fish and, in some versions of the story, sweet songstresses that lure sailors to their doom – is probably one of the best known tales of mythological sea creatures. From The Little Mermaid to “mermaid hair, don’t care,” mermaids and sirens proliferate our culture.

These stories are thought to have been inspired by a rather unlikely source. Manatees are the largest aquatic herbivores. Also called sea cows, they are big, slow-moving, mustachioed grey animals related to elephants. They are from the order Sirenia, a clue that they were probably the animal that inspired written documents about so-called sirens

So how did the giant, slow-moving sea cow inspire the legend of mermaids? It could have to do with their decidedly human-like behavior with their young. Female manatees have been known to cradle their pups in their flippers while nursing. Add to this a behaviour known as spy-hopping, whereby a manatee rises vertically out of the water to check things out at the surface, and it’s easy to see how a sailor might mistake this curious sight for a siren, especially after months at sea.

Even famed explorer Christopher Columbus reported seeing mermaids. In 1493 he wrote in his journals about spotting three mermaids from aboard his fleet to the Americas. This is one of the earliest European accounts of a manatee sighting, though it was hardly complimentary to the manatees: they are “not half as beautiful as they are painted.”

Kraken or giant squid?

Out of all the sea monsters of legend, few are as fearsome as the kraken.

The kraken is a terrifying sea monster said to live off the coasts of Norway and Greenland – it is described as a vast creature with giant tentacles, all the better to drag fishermen or even entire ships of sailors to their death beneath the waves. The kraken is hard to detect, because it lurks under boats in the dark of the water, but it was said that if fishermen suddenly started catching a great many fish, it was because the kraken had scared them to the surface, and was ready to attack.

Once the kraken sinks back below the surface, the real trouble starts: its massive size was said to create a colossal whirlpool, taking anything still at the surface down with it.

That’s definitely the stuff of nightmares. The good news is that the kraken does not exist. The giant squid, however, is a real animal, and was likely the inspiration for these cautionary tales.

The existence of giant squid was confirmed by Danish naturalist Japetus Steenstrup in 1857; he named it Architeuthis dux, which translates as “ruling squid” in Latin. Today there are 21 confirmed species of giant squid. They can grow up to 15 metres, including their tentacles. That’s huge, but not likely to take down any ships.

The giant squid is elusive, so its maximum size is still hotly debated. It lives at depths of up to 1,000 metres, probably in order to avoid making a tasty snack for its top predator – the deep-diving sperm whale.


Speaking of whales…

In the earliest days of sailing, encounters with whales led to strange stories and the creation of the myth of the Leviathan, which manifested in different ways. To some the Leviathan was a giant fish. To others, it was a serpent, crocodile or marine mammal. In some versions of the legend, it was a monstrous whale (called the Devil Whale) that lay asleep in the water and was frequently mistaken for an island. But when sailors stepped aboard to prepare their dinner on land, the great whale would wake, and sink below the surface, bringing the sailors and their ship with it.

Another version, the prister, was described as being “two hundred cubits long, and very cruel.” It had two blowholes, which could fire onto ships like water cannons. How to defeat this fearsome beast? Try sounding a trumpet, in order to startle it away. Obviously.

These tales were likely inspired by real-life encounters with whales – both alive and dead. The sperm whale – the largest toothed predator in the world, at up to 67 feet long – has been known to strand itself on shallow beaches, and was likely the source of many legends of sea monsters. It should also be noted that baleen whales like blue and fin whales have two blowholes – they too seem to be an inspiration for this fearsome beast.

The sea serpent

Lastly, no exploration of sea monsters would be complete without mentioning the sea serpent. A sea serpent or sea dragon was a type of dragon described in various mythologies. They were imagined as huge, toothy, serpentine monsters.

The possible real-life inspiration for these tales – the oarfish – is almost as fantastic as the legends themselves. First described in 1772, the oarfish is the longest (known) living species of bony fish, at up to 56 feet long and weighing up to 600 pounds. Like the giant squid, oarfish are deep-dwelling animals, thought to live at a depth of 1,000 metres, and sightings of living oarfish are rare.

They are known as the “king of the herrings,” due to their resemblance to those smaller fish. Despite their massive size and monstrous looks, they are not dangerous – they eat plankton and have a tiny gullet! Still, sometimes oarfish get pushed to the surface by storms or strong currents, where they can become distressed and die. It’s not hard to see why a sputtering, squirming oarfish might have been thought of as a terrifying sea serpent.

Are you feeling curious? Swim by the aquarium to visit our Curious Creatures exhibit and learn more about the strange and bizarre animals living below the surface.

Giant Squid
Sperm Whale

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