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What Does Parenting Look Like in Nature?

Ever wondered what parenthood looks like when it comes to the animal kingdom? From mouthbrooding to live births, parenting takes many different forms depending on the species. Here are a few interesting examples among the animals you might see on your next Aquarium visit:

Box Turtles

Box turtle crawling over substrate at Greater Cleveland Aquarium.
Box turtles are an egg-laying animal. After breeding, the female will bury the eggs on shore, leaving them to hatch and fend for themselves. Did you know the temperature of the environment where the eggs are laid determines whether they emerge as male or female?

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Black-Naped Fruit Doves

Black-naped fruit doves sitting in a nest at Greater Cleveland Aquarium.
This species splits parenting responsibilities between the male and female, with each bird taking turns looking after the nest while the other forages. That vigilant care is important, as the female often lays just a single egg that needs 18-26 days to incubate.

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Surinam Toads

Surinam toad sitting still underwater at Greater Cleveland Aquarium.
Fun fact, Surinam toads are actually frogs despite their misleading name. Their intrigue doesn’t end there—these frogs have a particularly interesting reproduction cycle. After breeding, female Surinam toads embed the eggs on their backs and carry them until they hatch. Instead of tadpoles, offspring emerge as fully metamorphosed little frogs.

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Cichlids

Eartheater cichlid swimming at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Cichlids like this red-striped eartheater are mouthbrooders—this means they carry their offspring in their mouths until they are mature enough for independence. It may look strange to humans, but these fish will let their offspring forage for food before sucking them back up if the parent feels threatened. This close-quarters parenting gives offspring a better chance of survival.

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Stingrays

Stingray giving birth in shallow water.
One of just a few animals that give live births at the Aquarium, stingrays like the one above will carry their young for 11-12 months. Most of the time they give birth to just one pup, who is then left completely independent. While it takes a bit longer for the pups to fully mature, they enter the world with a fully formed barb ready to deter any possible threat.

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SHELL-ebrate the curious moms and dads in your life at Greater Cleveland Aquarium during Mother’s Day Weekend and Father’s Day Weekend.

For more fun, parent-themed animal facts, check out the video below:

These Small Animals Make a Big Impact

While the giant Pacific octopus or sandtiger sharks always make an impression on Greater Cleveland Aquarium guests, many little animals are capable of doing mighty things, often impacting their ecosystems in invaluable ways. Check out few examples of a few smaller species worthy of your appreciation on your next #cleaquarium visit.

Stoplight Parrotfish

Stoplight parrotfish swimming near coral at Greater Cleveland Aquarium.
Parrotfish jaws and teeth are uniquely adapted for eating corals. Their strong teeth can crush up the hard coral skeleton and once it passes through the fish’s digestive system it is expelled as sand. It is estimated that parrotfish produce as much as one ton of coral sand per acre of reef in year.

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Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp

Scarlet cleaner shrimp on a rock in the Aquarium touchpool.
Cleaner shrimp set up cleaning stations on top of a rocks or coral, almost like underwater car washes. Once the cleaner shrimp sway side to side to signal they are “open for business,” fish drop in to have their dead cells and parasites removed.

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Cookie Dough Sea Cucumber

Cookie dough sea cucumber curled up against a rock.
Cookie dough sea cucumbers interact with their environment almost like an earthworm in soil, breaking down small particles in the water that contribute to the nutrient cycle.

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Eastern Musk Turtle

Up-close image of an eastern musk turtle standing on a rock.
Found in the Eastern and Central United States, these little turtles are sometimes called stinkpots for the big smell they produce to deter predators.

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Northern Clingfish

Underside of a northern clingfish stuck to the Aquarium acrylic.
The clingfish is unique in its ability to quickly attach and detach from wet, irregular surfaces. Their suction disk can cling so tightly that scientists are trying to create suction cups based on the clingfish’s disk’s functionality.

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Plan a visit to Greater Cleveland Aquarium for a BIG look at SMALL species during Spring Discovery Days.

For more small animal fun facts, check out the playlist below:

How Do These Animals Attract a Mate?

Love is in the air—and underwater—at Greater Cleveland Aquarium. With Valentine’s Day this week, you might be wondering how certain species at the Aquarium attract mates. Read on for a few fun animal courtship facts, from horseshoe crabs to red-bellied piranhas.

Weedy Seadragons

Weedy seadragon male carrying eggs
Weedy seadragons perform an elaborate courtship dance beginning roughly two to four weeks before breeding. This dance often takes place at sunset and involves two seadragons mirroring each other’s movements.

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Solomon Island Leaf Frog

2 Solomon Island leaf frogs together
When they’re ready to mate, male Solomon Island leaf frogs emit a barking sound to attract a female. When their brood is ready, the eggs hatch as fully formed frogs, with no tadpole stage for this species.

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Red-Bellied Piranha

Red-bellied piranha close-up photo
Red-bellied piranhas swim in circles to attract mates. The eggs are then placed in bowl-shaped nests and hatch in just nine to 10 days.

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Red-Eared Slider

Two red-eared slider turtles
These turtles can be a bit forward with their courting rituals—fluttering their claws around the face of potential mates to show interest.

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Horseshoe Crab

Horseshoe crab next to a heart
Horseshoe crab females attract mates by coming ashore and releasing pheromones to signal males. They can then lay up to 100,000 eggs in a brooding season.

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Plan a visit to Greater Cleveland Aquarium to learn more about species and nearly 250 others. We’d love to “sea” you!

For more Valentine’s Day animal fun facts, check out the playlist below:

Q&A with United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland

This year, the Aquarium brings back Difference-Makers Days in partnership with United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland, a week-long event (Monday, January 15 – Sunday, January 21, 2024) highlighting UBF’s work and the achievements of African American innovators.

Guests save $5 on daily admission through the week, and $1 of every ticket sold directly benefits UBF, who will be onsite for MLK Day and January 20-21 to share their mission.

Ahead of Difference-Makers Days, we caught up with UBF Development Coordinator Adrianne Sims for a Q&A discussing the organization’s ongoing impact on Northeast Ohio’s Black community.

United Black Fund at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Development Coordinator Adrianne Sims (Left)

Question: What is the mission of United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland?
Adrianne Sims: 
At the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland, we believe in actively engaging with our agency partners to help them become sustainable and growth-oriented resources for their communities. We understand the importance of aiding those in need, and that’s why we strive to better prepare the nonprofits that serve them. We’re committed to making a positive impact on the Black community, and we’re here to support our partners every step of the way.

Question: How does UBF impact the Northeast Ohio community?
Adrianne Sims: We are deeply moved by the significant milestones we have achieved in our efforts to support the Black community. Our MORTAR Cleveland Program has successfully launched its first cohort of Black entrepreneurs, and we have been the unwavering financial foundation for several large-scale movements and events that empower the Black community, such as the FutureLAND Conference 2.0. Our commitment to supporting Black-led and owned businesses, particularly those led by Black women, is fueled by our understanding of the challenges they face. We strive to change the narrative that Cleveland is not a favorable place for them and are dedicated to making it a better place. Moreover, we have launched two $25,000 grant initiatives specifically designed to address Black needs. We pledge to continue our efforts to empower and support the Black community and to stand with them through their struggles.

Question: How can people in the community contribute to UBF’s mission? 
Adrianne Sims: We understand the importance of giving back to the community, and that’s why we at the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland are grateful for the incredible generosity of our donors and foundations. It’s their kindness that enables us to provide vital resources and support to various organizations, helping us further our mission of empowering and uplifting the community. We welcome you to join us in this inspiring movement toward positive change in the Black community by visiting our website or connecting with me (Adrianne Sims, Development Coordinator) to learn more about how you can contribute to this cause. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those who need it the most.

Question: What are some of the biggest challenges facing the Black community in Northeast Ohio today?
Adrianne Sims: It’s crucial to acknowledge the tough realities that the Black community in Northeast Ohio are facing. It’s heartbreaking to know that Cleveland has been designated as the worst city in America for Black women, but we understand that this is just a fraction of an even more significant issue. The environment in which our community lives has a profound impact on our access to quality healthcare, economic stability, affordable housing and quality education. We understand that immediate action must be taken to ensure that the Black community in Northeast Ohio receives the resources and support it deserves to thrive and have the quality of life that every human deserves. We feel the need to connect the dots of environmental justice and uplift Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of justice for all by linking it to the environment, climate, housing stability, healthcare and education because we firmly believe that every individual deserves to live in a safe and prosperous environment.

Question: What have been some of the benefits of the UBF and Greater Cleveland Aquarium partnership?
Adrianne Sims: There have been many benefits: This partnership has expanded the information, (our mission, programs, Grantees and Donor Advised Funds, etc.), of United Black Fund to Greater Cleveland Aquarium’s audience. Attendees have actively engaged with UBF about the new information regarding Greater Cleveland and the African American community. This collaboration has raised awareness of pioneering African American marine scientists and environmental researchers, along with highlighting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his work not only in our nation, but in the Greater Cleveland area too!

For more information on UBF and Difference-Makers Day, visit the event page here. Can’t visit during Difference-Makers Days? Anyone interested in supporting UBF is encouraged to visit unitedblackfund.org and/or “Text to Give” by sending UBF to 50155

What’s On These Animals’ Wish Lists?

At Greater Cleveland Aquarium, the holidays are for giving thanks and meaningful gifts. Let’s take a look at a few of the animals who call the Aquarium home, and the presents on their wish lists this year.

Picasso Triggerfish at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Named for its vibrant bands of color, the Picasso triggerfish wishes for a new paint brush set.

Paint Brushes

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Snowflake eel at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Snowflake eels want a tunnel to play and relax in. Tight spaces make them feel at home.

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Archerfish at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Archerfish have impeccable aim when they shoot water as far as 6 feet at prey, knocking them into the water. Let’s get this one a dart board!

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Harlequin Sweetlips at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Known for its plump lips that get more prominent with age, the harlequin sweetlips wants a new shade of lip stick for the holidays.

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Eastern Musk Turtle at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
The eastern musk turtle, known for the smell it produces to deter predators, surely has perfume on its wishlist.

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Blue Runner at Greater Cleveland Aquarium
Maybe not the fastest fish, blue runners still live up to their name with a fresh pair of tennis shoes.

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You can see these animals and more when you visit Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Check out the Aquarium’s See & Do page for a chance to see some of these species and nearly 250 others as you learn about their habitats and how you might support them.

What Are These Animals’ Favorite Meals?

All animals have their favorite foods, just like people do. This Thanksgiving, while humans are filling up on turkey and stuffing, these species want tasty treats like mice, crickets, crayfish and even sea monkeys.

Green Tree Python
Green tree pythons love to eat live mice like they would in the wild.

Greater Cleveland Aquarium Mouse

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Sandbar sharks prefer a hearty helping of squid for dinner.

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Freshwater stingrays like this ocellate river stingray often dine on crayfish.

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Moon jellies make a meal out of teeny tiny brine shrimp.

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This crested wood partridge looks for crickets when it needs a tasty treat.

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You can see these animals and more when you visit Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Check out the Aquarium’s See & Do page for a chance to see some of these species and others dine on their favorite snacks.

Best Places to Dive: Forfar Field Station, Andros Island, Bahamas

Diver Steph Q with a sand tiger shark at the Aquarium.We dive for a variety of reasons. To commune with nature, to unwind, to explore. Our “pale blue dot,” as astrophysicist and author Carl Sagan pointed out, is just a “very small stage in a vast cosmic arena,” but perhaps by diving in we can learn to better appreciate that fragile ecosystem largely invisible to us as we commute between school, work and the grocery store in our busy daily lives.

Greater Cleveland Aquarium diver Stephanie Quinn took a formal approach to learning about our dot when she enrolled in a study abroad program during her senior year at Ohio University. Stephanie and her future husband spent a week at the Forfar Field Station, an educational and scientific non-profit organization that has served as a resource to over 50,000 thousand students ranging from middle school to graduate students and researchers. Most field study trips last a week and involve groups of 10-45 students with a focus on marine science, geology, botany, climate change or other scientific fields including social science. Imagine a classroom along the shoreline where students put their learning to the test by plunging into their environment.

“Forfar Field Station is a rustic former dive resort nestled in a beachfront coconut grove on the east coast of Andros Island,” according to their website. The largest of the Bahamian islands, Andros is host to rich diving opportunities for the students, including “coral reefs, offshore cays, sea grass beds, sandbars, blue holes, subtropical terrestrial habitats, Bahamian settlements and more.” The waters nearby are filled with colorful reef fish, including blue tang, angelfish, parrotfish and butterflyfish.

“It was the best diving,” Stephanie recalls. “Crystal clear water. Great biodiversity. We dove both there (Forfar Field Station) and Small Hope Bay during our study abroad. We then went back to Small Hope Bay for our honeymoon.”

Stephanie joined the Aquarium’s dive team in 2015 and has been a certified diver for 22 years. She lost her logbook, but estimates she has roughly 75 dives outside of the Aquarium. According to Aquarium Assistant Dive Safety Coordinator Matthew Ballish, she has more than 1350 dives in the habitats here.

Sagan, in his well-known speech, said that astronomy was a humbling experience. “To me,” he said, “it underscores our responsibility…to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” These words were meant for the study of the stars but could apply just as well to those that look under the sea.

Forfar Field Station is the first in our weekly series of the Aquarium dive team’s favorite dive locations. Stay tuned for the rest of our list or share your favorite place to dive with us.

– Ray D.

My 10 Favorite Guest Encounters

Neda leading school tourI was hired at Greater Cleveland Aquarium in November 2011 and with the exception of a COVID-related furlough, I have worked here as an employee ever since. I started off as a Guest Experience Associate—one of the welcoming team members stationed in our galleries to answer any and all inquiries about the animals or the facility. I then transferred to the Education Department as an Associate leading school tours. I was briefly an Education Assistant, which required that I book and schedule all tours, help develop and implement all materials for each grade and group that visits and collecting and processing payments. Eventually I took on the role of Office Assistant, and I have been doing the job ever since.

As I have had various positions at the Aquarium over its 10-year history, I have had a broad perspective of the organization and our guests. Here are my 10 favorite customer service encounters of the last decade:

  1. Leading a group of schoolchildren on a tour and having them make a shark fin on their heads to keep the group together and make traveling from gallery to gallery more fun.
  2. Convincing a guest to actually touch a stingray when they were initially terrified.
  3. Giving a school bus driver meticulous, turn-by-turn directions after they were re-routed due to construction.
  4. Laughing with a guest for more than 20 minutes on the phone. She called with purchasing issues and ended up as an annual Passholder.
  5. Slowly leading an extremely nervous young child to touch the Shark Gallery acrylic to prove the sharks wouldn’t hurt him.
  6. Finally meeting a guest that I had helped schedule a program for three years in a row.
  7. Watching a guest ask their significant other to marry them and taking pictures as part of our “Underwater Greeting” experience.
  8. Having an in-depth conversation about the history of the Powerhouse, the Flats and Cleveland with an older guest who had moved away from the city but returned for a hometown visit.
  9. Slowly walking through the Seatube with an adult who had a slight phobia about the space and the animals but was trying to overcome them both.
  10. Being an elf during the winter holiday and witnessing the guests’ excitement when they saw and heard Scuba Claus.

Neda International Talk Like a Pirate DayThere are so many more, but those are the ones that stand out in my memory. I must say that I look forward to countless more in my next 10 years!

–Neda S.

Reaching the 2-Million-Mark During 10th Anniversary Year

On April 26, Greater Cleveland Aquarium welcomed its two millionth general admission visitors, the Britt family. The Aquarium first opened its doors in the Nautica Waterfront District in January of 2012. Almost exactly a decade later, its curation team announced a major achievement—the rare births of weedy sea dragons, an event few aquariums in the world have witnessed. “These hatchlings were a great way to kick-off our tenth anniversary year,” says curator Ray Popik, one of five team members who have been with the Aquarium continuously since its construction. “This is a major accomplishment and we’re excited to document and share what we learn from the process with others focused on the care and conservation of this delicate species,” he says. Today the Aquarium is home to 3,600 animals representing 250 fresh and saltwater species.

2 Millionth GuestExhibit design has everything to do with the Aquarium’s success, both rearing sea dragons and in terms of the destination’s unique appeal but retrofitting a historic brick powerhouse with an aquarium is not without its challenges, explains Senior Maintenance Technician and Exhibit Diver Mike Gorek, another employee who’s been on board since “before there was water.” “Finding opportunities in the limitations and figuring out how to create viable, one-of-a-kind habitats from scratch the way we have with the giant Pacific octopus arch or the Tropical Forest aviary is a fun and rewarding part of my job,” says Gorek. Guests who have not visited Greater Cleveland Aquarium since it opened will discover that its galleries have been rethemed and only a single exhibit—the red-bellied piranha habitat—has not been reimagined in some way.

Species diversity, immersive décor, child’s eye-level exhibits and 360-degree views have solidified the downtown Cleveland attraction as a family friendly tourist destination which in turn has contributed to the growing vibrancy of the community, asserts Office Assistant Neda Spears. When Spears began as an Aquarium Guest Experience Associate back in 2012, there wasn’t nearly as much activity in The Flats and the adjacent Gordon Square, Hingetown and Ohio City neighborhoods. “Now there are any number of terrific eateries, breweries, shops, performance venues and trails for our team, guests and 15,000 Passholders to enjoy,” says Spears.

Hired in 2011, Dive Safety Coordinator Halle Minshall heads up team of scuba divers responsible for underwater cleaning, husbandry maintenance and guest engagement. While she loves being in exhibits with sharks and stingrays every week, she feels rewarded by looking out through the acrylic to see visitors making a connection with the aquatic world. “We encourage guests to consider how their actions can impact waterways and the natural habitats of some pretty amazing animals,” says Minshall. “I also hope we can share some of our passion for the water and inspire our guests to learn more about biology and marine science, and maybe even learn to scuba dive.”

While conservation and education are at the heart of the mission-driven institution, the two-million-mark doesn’t include 11,000 annual school students or countless special event guests. “We would have reached two million guests much earlier had it not been for the pandemic,” General Manager Stephanie White acknowledges. The Aquarium experienced a three-month COVID closure and nearly two years of limited capacity and timed entry to facilitate social distancing. “We’re grateful for the support of the community and very proud of the creative and dedicated team that has helped us weather the challenging times.”