The National Sea Life Centre is an aquarium with over 60 displays of freshwater and marine life in Brindleyplace, Birmingham. Its ocean tank has a capacity of 1,000,000 litres (220,000 imperial gallons) of water and houses giant green sea turtles, blacktip reef sharks and tropical reef fish, with the only fully transparent 360-degree underwater tunnel in the United Kingdom. The building was designed by Sir Norman Foster.
It is located alongside the Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line Canal by Old Turn Junction and opposite Arena Birmingham. It opened on 5 July 1996, at which time it was the only inland sea life centre in the UK. In the Victorian era, the site was the location of two canal basins in Oozells Street Wharf.
Housing over 2,000 creatures from around the world, the centre describes itself as a place that 'transports visitors into an underwater world of discovery'. 'Breed, Rescue and Protect' conservation projects are undertaken by aquarium staff, including an extensive seahorse breeding programme, with many species of newly reared seahorses in tanks viewable by visitors. In other displays, it has a giant Pacific octopus, as well as horseshoe crabs, green sea turtles, lobsters, sharks, sting rays, and otters.
In 2009, the Centre announced as its newest attraction, a "Sensorama 4-D Cinema". In addition to 3-D viewing, the audience can be subjected to sensations such as wind, salt spray, and the smell the seaweed, or other sensations depending on the (sea-themed) film. In 2014 the centre opened a £2,000,000 'Penguin Ice Adventure' habitat that became home to a colony of gentoo penguins.
With indoor temperatures of 8 degrees Celsius you’ll need to wrap up warm, although the playful penguins will feel right at home. Hear the unmistakable trumpeting sound of the Gentoo and learn about their quirky antics. Touch the iced environment that the penguins call home and give your best imitations of a penguin waddle. Their penguins, which are classified as near-threatened on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List, have travelled half the way around the world to play and swim in their brand new, specially built home.
To help fill the giant 70 000 litre icy tank that the penguins call home, the centre drafted in the help of the West Midlands Fire Service and Severn Trent Water.
Though they are birds, penguins have flippers instead of wings. They cannot fly and on land they waddle walking upright—though when snow conditions are right they will slide on their bellies. In the water they are expert swimmers and divers, and some species can reach speeds of up to 15 miles per hour.
Here you can meet Mo - the Giant Green Sea Turtle! Molokai (or Mo to his pals) the Giant Green Turtle is approximately 40 years old, this is really young for a Giant Green Turtle. He is a vegetarian, eating only broccoli, lettuce and most recently has become partial to kale. Molokai likes snoozing under the tunnel and scratching his belly on the corals.
Mo was rescued 40 years ago at Heathrow airport from a lady who was trying to smuggle him in via her handbag! He turned 40 in 2016 during the year of the centre’s 20th anniversary and has been in residence since they opened in 1996. Green sea turtles can live to be over 100 years old - so in turtle years he's actually more of a youngster.
Mo weighs over 20 stone and lives in their 360 degree Ocean Tunnel. He is the king of the ocean tank and is friendly with the other creatures. He even has his own special area in the tank where he likes to sleep. Molokai is a firm favourite with our guests; many have been coming back year on year to see him.
Plastic bags are deadly to Sea Turtles who often mistake them for their favorite food, Jellyfish, and choke on them. SEA LIFE rescues, rehabilitates and releases many Sea Turtles each year which have been injured or lost their way. Turtle Watch allows you to see what happens to these turtles once they are tagged and released. Click for Turtle Watch ←
The temperature of the sand in which a Sea Turtle's eggs are buried, determines what gender they will be. If it's warmer they'll be girls, cooler and they'll be boys!
SEA LIFE Trust is actively working with the Shark Trust to campaign against unsustainable shark fishing in EU waters. SEA LIFE is also proud to be coordinating the European black tip reef shark breeding programme. The SEA LIFE Trust is working to protect Sharks in the wild. Find Out More about the Trust ←
These sharks are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young rather than laying eggs. In the first few years of their life young Blacktip Reef Sharks often fall prey to larger fish such as groupers, Grey Reef Sharks, Tiger Sharks or even bigger Blacktip Reef Sharks. Juvenile Blacktips often use mangroves as a nursery ground; hiding amongst the tightly woven roots where bigger Sharks can't reach them.
Discover on your visit - the nursing sharks sprawled on the glass at the usual feeding time, just waiting for their snack! It's the only time you'll get to see them at the top of the Aquarium. Did you know that they recognize their feeding times?
They eat all manner of things from crabs to crayfish and even other molluscs. Bev is an incredible creature and has three hearts, eight arms and a doughnut shaped brain! Two of her hearts pump blood through each of the two gills, while the third pumps blood through the body.
Having no bones means Bev can squeeze into the smallest of places - with a head the size of an adult's hand she’s even able to fit through a hole the size of a £1 coin! They can also change the colour of their skin to camouflage perfectly with their surroundings, helping them to sneak up on prey as well as hide from predators.
Bev is one of our most playful creatures and loves nothing more than playing tricks on her keepers! As a result of her intelligence and playful nature, Bev’s keepers schedule in regular ‘Octopus Playtime’ with her throughout the week to keep her engaged, including testing her abilities – she can even open a jar to get the food inside!
You will discover on your visit how shy and secretive Clownfish are, why Clownfish eat marine flake foods or small shrimp and how fast the Clownfish dash around their kingdom. Clownfish can change sex when (if) the female in a group dies. Clownfish make themselves immune to the stings of their home anemone.
If you’re exploring Rockpools at the beach, remember these important rules: safety first! Make sure children are accompanied by an adult and only explore when the tide is going out. Wear non-slip shoes. Be kind to creatures: Put any rocks back carefully and try not to the disturb creatures you find. Never take them home with you!
Starfish have no brain, heart or blood! What they do have is a specialised stomach. They can eject part of it out of their body to digest food much bigger than their mouth, and then suck it all back in to finish digesting it... Gross! Most starfish have 5 arms but some species can have up to 24! Starfish have hundreds of little tube feet which they use to walk, stick to rockfaces and respire.
Stinging tentacles help Anemones to catch tiny plankton which they draw in to their mouth. Don't worry though as all the Sea Anemones you'll find in their Rockpool are safe to touch as their stings are too weak for us to feel. If you go to the seaside it's always wise to look but don't touch as other species can give you a nasty sting, such as the beautiful, purple Snakelock Anemone. Jewel Anemones are a beautiful coldwater species. They reproduce by splitting in half!
As Crabs grow, they sometimes get too big for their shell. They wriggle out of a hatch in the back of it, and grow themselves a whole new, bigger shell. The Crabs in their Rockpool are Common Shore Crabs. Their reddish-brown colouring helps them to hide in the sand and look like a stone, so predators don't spot them.
Perhaps the coolest thing about this group is that the males brood their babies. A male Seahorse has a brooding pouch on its belly into which a female can place her eggs. After a few weeks when the babies are ready, the male Seahorse gives birth. He rocks back and forth like a rocking-horse whilst the tiny baby seahorses pop out from a small hole in his tummy.
You can find seahorses in oceans all over the world. There are over 40 species. Some live on coral reefs, others amoungst mangrove roots and many live in seagrass meadows. Pigmy Seahorses are as tiny as your little finger nail, but Big-belly Seahorses will be even bigger than your hand. Their Ancient Greek name is Hippocampus, which means ‘horse sea monster’. Unfortunately, seahorses are at risk of extinction due to the pollution and destruction of their habitat. 150 million seahorses are also captured and killed every year to use in traditional medicine. SEA LIFE campaigns to help protect vital seahorse habitats.
To swim, seahorses beat their dorsal fin 30-70 times a second. Seahorse tails are prehensile. That means they can use them to grip things like a monkey's tail. Seahorses hang onto seagrass or coral so they don't get swept away in the current. Seahorse eyes can move independently of each other to help them spot food.
Pipefish are masters of disguise; their slim, elegant bodies look just like the seagrasses and seaweeds in which they live. Like Seahorses and Seadragons they prey on tiny plankton which they suck up through their straw-like snouts at lightening speed. Look for the tell-tale puff of shredded shell from their gills when they've just caught a tasty morsel.
Jellyfish are older than all of our ancient reptiles. Scientists believe they first swam in our oceans around 500 million years ago! There are more than 350 different species of jellyfish. In their centre you can see Upside-down jellyfish as well as their Sea Nettles.
They recently welcomed seven Sarlacc Jellyfish (Chrysaora achlyos) to their ever growing family of weird and wonderful sea creatures. Sarlacc Jellyfish can grow to huge proportions with a bell diameter of up to one metre and tentacles reaching a staggering five or six metres! It is set apart from other jelly fish by its dark pigmentation and what’s more, they’re the largest invertebrates to have been discovered in the 20th Century.
The Lion’s Mane Jellyfish is over two metres tall – that’s taller than you! Others are as tiny as a pinhead. They can be found in all of our oceans and sometimes in freshwater too. Jellyfish have venomous tentacles that they use to capture their prey. Most jellyfish are harmless to humans, but a few including the Box Jellyfish can cause a painful sting. Some species of baby fish are able to hide amongst Jellyfish tentacles for protection!
Most of their Rays are adults at 5-7 years old. They are not dangerous and have no venomous barb on the tip of their tail. They cannot generate electricity. However, they do have quite sharp ridges and spikes on their topmost sides. They do not allow our guests to touch the Rays because excessive touching of the Rays disrupts their protective slime coating. This coating is the fish’s first line of defence from external parasites and illnesses. It protects the animals’ wellbeing. Also, excessive handling is unnatural and potentially stressful.
They have had lots of success breeding the Rays and have even sent young Rays to other aquariums across the country. If you spot Rays in the tank with wounds on them it may be because of their mating practice whereby the male uses his claspers (either side of this tail) to clasp on to the female.
Known as a Ray Shark, the Bowmouth Guitar Shark is highly distinctive with a wide thick body, a blunt snout and a large shark-like dorsal and tail fins. There are multiple thorny ridges over its head and back, and it has dorsal color pattern of many white spots over a bluish gray to brown background, with a pair of prominent markings over the pectoral fins. Bowmouth Guitar Sharks prefer sandy or muddy flats and areas adjacent to reefs, where they hunt for crustaceans, molluscs, and bony fishes. They are widely distributed in the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans.
They are typically encountered on or near the bottom of the sea bed, though on occasion they may be seen swimming well above it. They generally are more active swimmers at night. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed this species as Vulnerable; its sizable pectoral fins are greatly valued as food and it is widely caught by artisanal and commercial fisheries.>
** – Aquarium Zones – **
** – Talk and Feed Times – **
During your visit be sure to take in a feed or two! Animal feeds take place throughout the day in different areas of the attraction. Every feed is accompanied by a family-friendly, fact-filled talk by a member of their team. Get ready to see for yourself just how sharp Piranha's teeth are, what a Shark eats and how many fish it takes to satisfy a hungry Gentoo Penguin.
Please note that talk times marked with a *(Peak Only) will not be available during Off-Peak season. Double check your visit date here. Talk and feed times are subject to change. To be sure you won't miss a thing, please enquire about your favourite animal feed.
** – Facilities – **
They have disabled access throughout the centre and disabled toilets are also available. For groups please be aware that for health and safety reasons they are only able to accommodate 10 wheelchairs within the attraction at any one time.
** – Toilets and Baby Changing – **
There are toilets and baby changing facilities within the centre.
The Sea Life Centre is fully buggy accessible however they, unfortunately, do not have any cloakroom facilities for you to be able to store belongings, buggies or pushchairs on site.
** – Travel – **
By Train. Nearest Stations are Birmingham New Street and Birmingham Snow Hill - follow the walking signs for the ICC (International Convention Centre) and the Barclaycard Arena.
By Bus. Any bus to Birmingham City Centre and follow the walking signs for the ICC (International Convention Centre) and The Barclaycard Arena. Buses serving Broad Street, include numbers 1,9,10,22,23,24,29,29a,126.
Please note that dropping off is not permitted in Brindleyplace. For information on bus and coach drop off and parking facilities in Birmingham please click here. The nearest open-topped parking is at the Park Regis on Broad Street.
Location : National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham, The Water's Edge, Brindleyplace, Birmingham, West Midlands B1 2HL
Transport: Birmingham New Street (National Rail) 10 minutes. Bus routes: 1, 9, 10, 22, 23, 24, 29, 29a and 126 all stop close by.
Opening Times : The aquarium is open 7 days a week (except Christmas Day).
Tickets : £15 Online (24 hours in advance; £20 at the door.
Tickets : Click here for special and combination tickets.
Tel: 0871 423 2110