gentoo penguin colony

gentoo penguin colony

baby Zebra shark

Baby Zebra Shark


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.

** – Residents – **

  • Penguins.
  • Pablo the Gentoo penguin is a notoriously cheeky and curious bird who loves nothing more than to make new friends and cause some mischief with his keepers! In the exhibit Penguin Ice Adventure you can come face-to-flipper with Pablo and his colony of Gentoo Penguin pals and adventure into the rarely seen Antarctic landscape. Marvel at his cheeky antics, as he dives beneath the freezing waters and plays with his feathered friends in their icy home.

    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.

  • Turtles.
  • Turtles are ancient reptiles that have been around for over 200 million years. They shared our planet with the earliest Dinosaurs. There are over 300 species of Turtle in our oceans and rivers today and some are critically endangered! They are hunted for their beautiful shells and eggs, and often caught in fishing nets or plastic litter.

    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!

  • Terrapin Turtles.
  • Terrapins are often bought when they are very small and cute, but they aren't ideal pets - they need lots of varied food, a heat lamp for sunbathing, lots of water for swimming and they can live for over 40 years! Boy or girl? It's easy to tell. Look for the smallest Terrapins with the longest claws, those are the boys. Males sometimes swim in front of the females, who are much larger than them, and wiggle their long claws in the ladies faces to try and impress them.

  • Sharks.
  • Sharks have lived in our oceans for more than 420 million years, that makes them older than Dinosaurs! Their brains have evolved to become more intelligent and devoted to their senses – mainly their ability to smell. There are over 500 species of shark in our oceans and you’ll meet different species when you explore the Ocean Tunnel.

    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 ←

  • Blacktip Reef Shark.
  • The Blacktip Reef Shark’s diet is composed primarily of small teleost fishes, including mullet, groupers, grunters, jacks, mojarras, wrasses, surgeonfish, and smelt-whitings. With the prominent black markings on their fins they are easy to spot. Found on the tropical coral reefs of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Blacktip Reef Sharks prefer shallow, inshore waters.

    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.

  • Nurse Sharks.
  • Nurse Sharks have the strange habit of sleeping literally stacked on each other and divers have seen stacks of some 30 sharks! This Shark’s skin is very rough and it feels like sandpaper, a very characteristic tradematk of this species. The Nurse Shark has two conspicuous barbs in between her nostrils, which she uses to find food on the sandy bottoms, hence its name: her barbs look like nurse’s forceps, just like in surgery.

    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?

  • Octopus.
  • Beverley (or Bev for short) is a Giant Pacific Octopus whose home is in Octopus Hideout, a new area for 2017. Believe it or not Bev is actually more closely related to a garden snail than to a human. Octopii are molluscs which means they are from the same phylum (or family) as Slugs and Snails as well as Cuttlefish and Squid. Octopus are one of the most intelligent invertebrate species (that means animals with no backbone) and are solitary creatures that hunt at dusk.

    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!

  • Clownfish.
  • Discover Clownfish Kingdom, where you can come nose-to-fin with some incredible underwater species including the popular Clownfish and Blue Tangs. You can take a peek into their colourful home and you will see their school of clownfish. They don’t like to stray too far from their base – usually a sea anemone.

    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.

  • Rockpools.
  • Rockpools are amazing micro-habitats full of incredible creatures! Are you brave enough to stroke a Sea Anemone, Starfish or Crab? Rockpools are made from water left behind when the tide goes out. Lots of different creatures live in these shallow pools – they all need to be tough to adapt to different temperatures and waves crashing overhead.

    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.
  • Starfish are found in every ocean in the world! There are over 2000 known species, each one is full of surprises. Did you know that a starfish can drop an arm at will if it needs to? If one is grabbed by a hungry predator they will drop it off and make their escape, eventually growing a new arm to replace it.

    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.

  • Sea Anemone.
  • Sea Anemones look like colourful, underwater blooms and they got their name from the anemone flower. They are in fact animals and are closely related to Jellyfish and Corals. They have no brain, heart or blood, but that doesn't stop them from being great predators.

    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!

  • Crabs.
  • Crabs are crustaceans along with Lobsters and Shrimp. Crabs have eight legs and two claws. Instead of having a bony skeleton like we do, crustaceans have an external skeleton which protects their body like a suit of armour.

    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.

  • Seahorses and Pipefish.
  • Seahorses and Pipefish are a curious group of creatures which all belong to the Syngnathidae family. As members of the same family they share some interesting traits; Their jaws are fused to form a straw-like snout, instead of scales they have thin skin stretched over a series of bony plates and they are slow swimmers.

    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.
  • Visit Jellyfish Bloom and prepare yourself as the mysterious lives of jellyfish are revealed in a totally new light. Be mesmerised by enchanting jellyfish as they dance around magical tanks, where multi-coloured spotlights emphasise their beauty and create a uniquely stunning experience.

    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!

  • Native Thornback, Blonde and Painted Rays.
  • If you want to get really close to the creatures then you MUST pay a visit to the Rays. You’ll find them in the Bay of Rays, next to Coral Cave. You will get a chance to find out more about their Rays with talks and demos from their team of SEA LIFE experts.

    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.

  • Bowmouth Guitar Shark.
  • This wonderfully bizarre animal is called a Bowmouth Guitar Shark. Though it is classified as a Ray, really it is half Ray and half Shark! Rays evolved from Sharks but this species stopped somewhere in-between. This wonderfully bizarre animal is called a Bowmouth Guitar Shark. Though it is classified as a Ray, really it is half Ray and half Shark! Rays evolved from Sharks but this species stopped somewhere in-between.

    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.



    Sealife Centre Aquarium

    Sealife Centre Aquarium


    ** – Aquarium Zones – **

  • Penguin Ice Adventure.
  • Travel to the frozen extremities of the Antarctic and experience life with a colony of Gentoo Penguins. Hear the unmistakable trumpeting sound of the Gentoo and learn about their quirky antics as they dive, splash and goof about under the water or take some time out to relax or tend to their nests on the land. These lovable birds may spend much of their time playing but they have evolved to live in the most inhospitable landscape on earth.

  • Reef Edge.
  • Next, get right up close to a magical assortment of creatures in their Reef Edge exhibit.

  • Shark Lagoon.
  • Sharks are the most misunderstood creatures in the Ocean. Far from being predators, they face extinction from being preyed upon by humans. Each year over 70 million sharks die needlessly due to Shark Finning. Help by donating to the SEA LIFE Trust in support of their shark conservation projects.

  • Rockpool.
  • WHOA! You feel that? Reach into their rockpool, and get a real feel for their sea stars, urchins and anemones! Their experts will be on hand for you to learn more about these fascinating micro-habitats and the incredible creatures that thrive in them.

  • Clownfish Kingdom.
  • Take a peek in Clownfish Kingdom and you will see the coral reef; a kaleidoscope of colour, bustling with activity. These cities of the sea are teaming with fish which come in every shape, colour and pattern you can imagine. This is the home of the cute Clownfish hiding in the tentacles of Sea Anemones.

  • Bay of Rays.
  • Be enchanted by our assortment of amazing creatures that are native to the UK.

  • Kingdom of the Seahorse.
  • See the seahorses grip at seagrass with their curly tails and suck up tiny shrimp with their straw-like snouts; if you're lucky you may even hear their unique "finger clicking" sounds as they feed!

  • Octopus Hideout.
  • Meet Beverley, their resident Giant Pacific Octopus, one the smartest sea creatures in the animal kingdom, being able to solve puzzles and negotiate complex mazes. Plus don't miss the ingenious colour-changing Cuttlefish, who can change their skin pattern in less than one second to blend in with any background.

  • Jelly Invaders.
  • Follow the jellyfish life cycle through five clear stages of evolution, from a tiny baby polyp through to a fully grown jelly!

  • Ocean Tunnel.
  • Get Ready... for a journey alongside darting sharks, gliding rays and a humongous rescued turtle in their 360° Ocean Tunnel. At full size, green turtles are one and a half metres long.

    ** – Talk and Feed Times – **

  • 10:30* - Octopus Hideout.
  • 11:00 - Shark Lagoon.
  • 11:30 - Seals.
  • 12:00 - Bay of Rays.
  • 13:00 - Clownfish Kingdom.
  • 13:00 - Penguin Ice Adventure.
  • 14:00 and 17:30* - 360° Ocean Tunnel.
  • 15:00 - Mangrove Swamp.
  • 16:30* - Jelly Invaders.
  • 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.

  • Free Carer Policy.
  • One carer goes free for every disabled guest who purchases a ticket. You can buy tickets at the door or you can book online as long as you bring proof of disability with you on the day of your visit. Proof can be a Doctors note, a blue badge or something that states the disability. Note that you will only need to pre-book a ticket for the disabled guest, and the carer will be admitted free on the day when proof of disability is shown at admissions. Please click here to see the full Access Guide.

    ** – Toilets and Baby Changing – **

    There are toilets and baby changing facilities within the centre.

  • Accessible Toilet(s) (1 - Penguin Ice Adventure).
  • The accessible toilet surveyed is not for the sole use of disabled people.
  • This accessible toilet is located in the Penguin Ice Adventure area, just past the ticket counters.
  • This accessible toilet is approximately 30m (32yd 2ft) from the entrances.
  • There is step free access to the accessible toilet.
  • Baby changing facilities are located within the accessible toilet.
  • Accessible Toilet(s) (2 - Jellyfish Invaders).
  • The accessible toilet surveyed is not for the sole use of disabled people.
  • This accessible toilet is located in the Jellyfish Invaders area.
  • This accessible toilet is approximately 385m (421yd 1in) from the entrances.
  • There is ramped/sloped access to the accessible toilet.
  • Baby changing facilities are located within the accessible toilet.
  • Accessible Toilet(s) (3 - Gift Shop).
  • The accessible toilet surveyed is for the sole use of disabled people.
  • This accessible toilet is located between the Ocean Tunnel and the gift shop.
  • This accessible toilet is approximately 80m (87yd 1ft) from the lift.
  • There is step free access to the accessible toilet, via lift.
  • Baby changing facilities are located within the accessible toilet.

  • 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.

  • Eating + Dtinking.
  • The National SEA LIFE Centre does not have a café. However there are restaurants and cafés in close proximity to the attraction, in Brindleyplace. Once you have bought your ticket, you can re-enter the centre as many times as you like that day, simply get your hand stamped at admissions.

  • Dogs and Other Animals
  • Guide Dogs are permitted in the centre. If you have an animal that you wish to donate, please contact, and their Curator will consider your donation. Please note that they will not be able to take every animal and please do not put your animals at risk by arriving at the attraction with them.

  • Admission.
  • All visitors under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult over the age of 18.

  • All-Weather Fun
  • As the aquarium is indoors your visit will not be affected by the weather. However, please be aware that in peak season the queue may extend as far as the outside, where they can not guarantee the weather!

    ** – 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).

  • Saturdays: 09.30-18.00 (last entry 17.00)
  • Sundays + Peak Dates: 10.00-17.00 (last entry 16.00)
  • Weekdays (Off-peak): 10.00-16.00 (last entry 15.00)
  • Bank Holidays + Super Peak Dates: 10.00-18.00 (last entry 17.00).
  • Tickets : £15 Online (24 hours in advance;   £20 at the door.

    Tickets : Click here for special and combination tickets.

    Tel: 0871 423 2110