Meet the Animals



The Belle Isle Aquarium was designed by famed Detroit architect, Albert Kahn, and opened on August 18, 1904. It is the oldest aquarium in the country an has served the Detroit community as a beloved attraction for generations. In 2005, the Aquarium was closed due, in part, to lean economic times for the city and remained closed until September 15, 2012 when it was reopened by a group of dedicated volunteers with the support of former Mayor Dave Bing. The Aquarium is operated by the Belle Isle Conservancy wish huge support from a dedicated volunteer crew. A work-in-progress, the aquarium continues to grow and flourish as new exhibits and fish are added, tanks are restored, and history is preserved for generations to come.


Designed by Alvert Kahn, the Belle Isle Aquarium has a Beaux Art style entrance that is decorated with an ornate arch incorporating twospitting dolphins and the emblem of Detroit. The Aquarium's interior features rare, green opaliteglass tiles lining its vaulted ceiling.. Kahn’s original design was to display the fish like art hanging on the wall in a gallery. In 1954 the Aquarium underwent major renovations including structural repairs, and updates in lighting and water filtration systems. The original wood and glue tanks were replaced with concrete tanks and three floor pool exhibits were removed. In response to the popularity of the Jaws movies and aquariums around the country adding shark tank exhibits, the passageway that connected the Aquairumto the Conservaory was closed in the late 1970s, early 1980s to make room for a shark exhibit. Repairing and stabilizing the envelope of the Aquairum with a roof repairs and window tuckpointing was a priority to reopening an expanding hours. Recently, the faciliy's skylights have been reopened and pendant lighting has bene added to reflect the original lighting design. 



The Aquarium is a great place.



Visitors can view 118 species and more than 1,000 fish at the Belle Isle Aquarium. With a focus on species of the Great Lakes in our region and the Great Lakes of the word, the Aquarium features a number of interesteing fish. It is the only Aquairum in the world to house all seven species of the gar family. 



Saturdays & Sundays 

10 a.m. - 4 p.m.



900 Inselruhe Ave

Detroit, MI 48207



Free admission and parking



Belle Isle Conservancy



(313) 334-7052 (Aquarium)

(313) 331-7760 (BIC office)




Birthday parties, receptions 



One of Detroit's historic icons, the Belle Isle Aquarium was the first public aquarium to open in the United States and, on its opening day of August 18, 1904, it was celebrated, not only as the third largest, but also the finest aquarium the world had ever seen. Over 500,000 people visited the Belle Isle Aquarium during its first year of operation in 1904.



David Heineman, a Michigan State Representative and Detroit city attorney, successfully sponsors a bill in the Michigan State Legislature for $150,000 to build an Aquarium and Horticultural Building on Belle Isle Park.



The Aquarium opens to the public on August 18th, 1904.



After closing in 1954 for renovations, the aquarium reopens with artificial lighting and ventilation. The familiar black ceramic tile, stainless metal frames and center pagoda are introduced at this time. The pools were removed and the number of display tanks increased to 57.



The City of Detroit announced the Belle Isle Aquarium would close due to a lack of funding during difficult economic times. On April 3, 2005, the Aquarium closed and its exhibits were dispersed to other aquariums

and institutions.



On September 15, 2012, the Aquarium reopens on Saturdays through the Belle Isle Conservancy and is run by a dedicated crew of volunteers and a limited number of restored exhibits.



The Belle Isle Aquarium expands its hours to add Sundays and Fridays in the summer, and sees over 5,000 visitors on peak weekends. 






Belle Isle Conservancy | 300 River Place Drive, Suite 2800, Detroit, MI 48207 | 313.331.7760 |

  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Instagram Icon

Catfish use “whiskers” - known as barbels - to navigate through their low light environments. The barbels contain both taste buds and olfactory sensors allowing Perruno catfish to taste and smell their environment in search for food.