Photo: Marty Boyatt
BEYOND THE GLASS
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 and has served the Detroit community as a beloved attraction for generations. In 2005, the city of Detroit announced that the Aquarium was to be closed due to lean economic times for the city. The building remained closed to the public until the Belle Isle Conservancy reopened it on September 15, 2012. Over the past three years, the aquarium has exploded in popularity, evident by the attendance numbers that have TRIPLED over the course of the past year. "Momentum" is truly the best term for what is happening in this historic building! 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.
Currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions
3 Inselruhe Ave
Detroit, MI 48207
Free admission and parking
Belle Isle Conservancy
(313) 402-0466 (Aquarium)
(313) 331-7760 (BIC Office)
When the Belle Isle Aquarium opened it was the third-largest Aquarium in the world with salt water being shipped directly in from the ocean. Today, it is home to a unique collection of fish. With one of the largest collections of air-breathing fish in the world, they house the only known collection of all 7 species of gar in North America. Walking through the aquarium, you will travel all over the globe exploring the Great Lakes and Waters of the world. From Africa to South American from rocky shores to sandy depths all different environments are on display.
Designed by Albert Kahn, the Belle Isle Aquarium has a Beaux Art-style entrance that is decorated with an ornate arch incorporating two spitting dolphins and the emblem of Detroit. The Aquarium's interior features rare, green opaline glass 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.
One of the Belle Isle Conservancy's goals since assuming the responsibility of the aquarium has been restoring much of the historical aspects of this amazing building. Repairing and stabilizing the envelope of the Aquarium with roof repairs and window tuckpointing was a priority to reopening and expanding hours. The facility's skylights have been reopened and pendant lighting has been added to reflect the original lighting design.