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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research aquarium

We have a multi-use research aquarium with a variety of tanks and facilities for keeping and handling live specimens. We have recently had a £100,000 refurbishment that has allowed us to incorporate new seawater tanks, cooling systems and better security systems.

Working in the aquarium
Working in the aquarium

Collecting specimens

Specimens and stock are generally caught in Southampton Water or the Solent. Invertebrates can be collected from dock walls (in traps and by diving) or from rockpools on beaches. The OES vessel 'Bill Conway ' is used for collecting with beam trawls, oyster dredges, grabs or rod and line. There is also an interchange of specimens and ideas with other aquaria through the National Aquarium Network. Local fishermen and anglers have also supplied some interesting specimens, always gratefully received.

Seawater system

The seawater is natural, pumped in from the dockside and pre-filtered before entering our two 30,000 gallon underground tanks, where it is then circulated constantly to the holding tanks in the aquarium room and hatchery. It is maintained at a salinity of between 31-34 ppt, topped up with freshwater to compensate for evaporation. Freshwater, brackish and closed systems can be arranged. A large filtration system consisting of two sand-filters, UV filter, protein skimmer with ozone, and biological filter keeps the water clean and free from harmful micro-organisms, as well as keeping the levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate below harmful levels. The animals are fed a varied diet, from fish and krill to artificial algae diets and fish pellets, vitamin supplements are given to those animals which are here for the long term. Filter feeding animals are fed by regularly dosing phytoplankton into the tanks, which is cultured in the aquariums algae culture lab. The culture lab contains a variety of species of phytoplankton, which are available for any purpose. Temperature in the aquarium room and tanks ranges from 12-20ºC, following seasonal changes, there is air conditioning to provide heating or cooling. Most of the environmental conditions can be adjusted provided other users work is not compromised.

Research Aquarium
View through research aquarium

What the aquarium has to offer

The aquarium and boat staff try to meet all requirements for live and fresh marine material and the facilities in which to work with it. The system is flexible and adaptable.

cutting-edge facilities
cutting-edge facilities

The aquarium is a useful part of the NOCS tour for visiting scientists, their friends and families. It offers something for every level of interest and is probably best left to the end of the tour as people are often reluctant to move on. Any visitors to the aquarium are required to arrange their visit beforehand. The aquarium is at the south-east end of the building facing the quay.

Please contact Robbie if you would like the stock explained or to use aquarium facilities.

Access to the quay may be restricted when the ships are loading. 


Robbie Robinson
Room 491/05
Aquarium Room phone +44 (0)23 8059 6299

Dragonet (Callionymus lyra)
Dragonet (Callionymus lyra)
Teaching and Research
Teaching and Research
Allowing controlled conditions for research
New saltwater tanks
Unique Facilities
Unique Facilities

Media coverage

From rock pools to deep blue sea

What is in the Aquarium?

Large observation tanks contain different biotopes, displaying animals from a variety of habitats, including seagrass beds and rocky shores.

We also have a shallow open tank simulating a rockpool with anemones and cryptic fish. The rest of the aquarium has different types of holding tanks suited to small fish and invertebrates that need to be easily accessed and monitored.

Some are glass for all round viewing, others with solid sides open only at the top to minimise disturbance. Wet and dry benches are used to set up experiments in controlled systems and with replicates.

Student projects and current research determines what is in the aquarium at any one time. We do, however, try to respond quickly to any request for marine organisms from NOCS, the University as a whole and other local institutions.

We hold a good range of local species that are easy to keep and several that are less so. As well as fish, crustacea and molluscs, we have anemones, worms, starfish, urchins and ascidians and occasionally sponges, hydroids, jellyfish and bryozoa.

In the outdoor covered hatchery, open to seasonal conditions and natural lighting we have been able to grow algae. We try to accommodate anything needed from nematodes to, briefly on one occasion, a small seal (on its way to rehabilitation and release). Most tanks are labelled giving brief notes on their contents.

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