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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:

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


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


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!


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.


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.


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.


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


Sandbar sharks prefer a hearty helping of squid for dinner.


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


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


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


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.

What’s In a Name?

How animals earn their monikers can be surprising. Their common names can come from the places they’re found, the people who discovered them or even fictional characters. The names of the ten Aquarium residents below are inspired by their appearance and/or actions.


shovelnose sturgeonShovelnose Sturgeon – Check out that shovel-shaped snout.


Red-eared slider turtle.Red-eared Slider – This turtle is named for the red patch on its ear AND the way it slides into the water when startled.


Clown Knifefish – This fish’s knife-like shape allows it to swim both forwards and backwards.


Crystal-eyed Catfish – Frank Sinatra might have been “ol’ blue eyes,” but this catfish gets attention for its light blue peepers.


Dyeing Poison Dart Frog – This name comes from an unverified legend that indigenous people used these colorful frogs to dye parrot feathers.


picasso triggerfishPicasso Triggerfish – This peculiar-looking fish has bright, artsy colors AND a dorsal spine will raise when startled.


Hammer Coral – Note the hammer shape of these coral polyps.


Scrawled Cowfish – The “horns” above its eyes and irregular body markings are what give the scrawled cowfish a distinctive appearance.


Raccoon Butterflyfish – This butterflyfish is named for the black-and-white “mask” around its eyes.


Black Drum – This fish can make drumming or croaking sounds with muscle movement around its swim bladder.


See these and other animals with interesting names and backstories at Greater Cleveland Aquarium.

-Lili F.

*Hammer Coral Photo Courtesy David Davies, via

5 Things I Learned: Anableps

Quickly swimming at the surface, Anableps anableps can be difficult to spot despite the fact that they swim in schools. Let’s get a closer look at these unique fish.

Nature. It’s a curious thing.

– Megan Brown, Intern

5 Things I Learned: Bushynose Pleco

It might be hard to find a bushynose pleco, but that’s by design! Take a closer look at this bristlenose catfish in the video below.

Nature. It’s a curious thing.

– Hannah

5 Things I Learned: Red Terror Cichlid

This colorful, eye-catching fish is a red terror cichlid (Cichlasoma festae). It can grow to lengths of 12 – 20 inches and live somewhere between 12 – 20 years. But what else do we know about it?

The red terror cichlid in the Aquarium’s Tropical Forest Gallery is hard to miss. Stop by and see this and many other very different but equally intriguing cichlids at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. Nature. It’s a curious thing.

– Sam Fryberger

5 Things I Learned: Spotted Turtle

The  Greater Cleveland Aquarium is a partner in SPOTD, a cross-organization collaboration to boost the number of spotted turtles in Northeast Ohio. Learn more about these attractive little turtles here:


Nature. It’s a curious thing. To see a spotted turtle and learn about the Splash Fund, Wild4Ever Foundation and Terrestrial Brewing Company‘s “I Love It When I Save the Turtle Porter, visit the Greater Cleveland Aquarium’s Ohio Lakes & Rivers Gallery.

– Sam Fryberger


Gender Reveal: Fish

“Is that fish a girl or a boy?” is a common question we get asked at the Aquarium.  With some species it is a very easy question to address but with others it can be a bit more complicated.  (Sometimes the answer can even be both!)

If a species is sexually dimorphic, males and females will look different from each other.  Sometimes this is just a subtle variation in color or shape but it can also mean the two sexes look radically different from one another. A good example of this is a species of angler fish. The females of this species can grow to over a foot long, while males only grow to about half an inch!

Some species of fish show no sexual dimorphism and it can be impossible to tell the difference between males and females without looking inside the animal’s body.  For some species at the Aquarium we can make an educated guess based on mating behaviors, but for others we just don’t know. The green moray eels in the Shark Gallery are one example of a fish that has no sexual dimorphic traits. Both sexes look identical.

Adding another layer of complication is the fact that some fish have the ability to switch sexes throughout their lifetime while others are both male and female at the same time. This is known as hermaphroditism, and there are many different forms. There’s simultaneous hermaphroditism, seen in species of hamlets, where the animal has both male and female reproductive organs and can play either role in mating. A more common type is sequential hermaphroditism, where an animal changes from one sex to the other at some point in its life.  This can be further broken down into more categories: changing from male to female (protandry), female to male (protogyny), male to hermaphrodite (protandrous hermaphroditism) or female to hermaphrodite (protandrous hermaphroditism).  This phenomena is not uncommon and you may be surprised at how many fish you know that fall under one of these categories.

One of the most recognizable fish at the Aquarium is the clownfish.  What some people don’t know is that clownfish are actually sequential hermaphrodites—protandry to be exact. When it comes to clownfish hierarchy, the female is dominant.  She is the largest fish in the group and the next largest is her male mate. The remaining fish in the group are smaller, undeveloped and unable to breed. If the female dies, the largest male then grows and becomes female and the next fish in line matures to assume the role of breeding male.

Groupers, angelfish, gobies, damselfish and wrasses (my favorite being the rooster hogfish) all fall under the protogynous category.  This means that these species start out as females and can quickly switch and become males if the dominate male leaves.  This type of hermaphroditism is more common and benefits the fish by allowing them to produce the maximum number of offspring.  It is a size-based reproductive strategy with large, strong males protecting the nesting sites of many smaller females.  For these species it is beneficial for females to produce many offspring while small and then become males when they themselves are bigger.  It is also beneficial because it’s a big ocean out there and sometimes difficult to find another member of your species let alone one of the correct sex. The ability to switch sexes means these fish have more opportunities to find a mate.

Hermaphroditism has evolved independently in fish many times and has proven to be a successful reproductive strategy throughout the animal kingdom.


Rooster hogfish are both sequential hermaphrodites and sexually dimorphic.  Can you spot the differences between the female (top) and the male (bottom)?

– Kelsey Scheutzow, Greater Cleveland Aquarium Diver