Indoor Oceans: The Aquarium at Moody Gardens, Galveston Island, Texas

I’ve visited lots of aquariums, or as I like to call them — indoor oceans — but never one located inside a bright turquoise glass-windowed pyramid! A total of 1.5 million gallons of saltwater exhibits are contained within the 10-story aquarium, including ocean life from the Atlantic, Pacific and Caribbean. It is the largest aquarium in Texas and houses seals, sea lions, sharks, thousands of fish and more than 90 penguins.

Moody Gardens Pyramids

The 10-story high turquoise Aquarium Pyramid was the first to open in 1999. It is part of the 242-acre Moody Gardens resort complex overlooking Galveston Bay that includes two other pyramids.

Moody Gardens Rainforest Saki MonkeyMoody Gardens Visitor's CenteA clear glass Rainforest Pyramid contains areas recreating the rainforests of Asia, Africa and the Americas. Home to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals, it received a $25 million enhancement in 2011. Free-roaming tropical birds and animals including cotton-top tamarins and saki monkeys are among the creatures visitors can look for as they walk through the rainforest.

Inside the pink Discovery Pyramid is an Audience Recognition Theater featuring the SpongeBob SubPants Adventure. 3D and 4D movie theaters are located inside the Visitors Center.

Now…let’s enter the Aquarium…

The entrance to the Aquarium Pyramid at Moody Gardens.

One of my favorite features of the Aquarium is the tunnel which guests walk through as part of the Caribbean exhibit. You can stand and watch sharks, rays and myriad tropical fish species swim overhead and on either side, simulating the sense of what it’s like to be underwater with these creatures of the deep.

Moody Gardens Aquarium TunnelA $37 million renovation project was completed in late May 2017, which included a new jellyfish exhibit, the addition of tropical penguins, a Mangrove Lagoon touch tank that is home to stingrays and sharks, and a two-story 30,000 gallon aquarium topped by a 23-foot scale model of an oil production platform. An interactive dive program has been added, too, so visitors can ask questions of divers about the underwater world.

This unusual sphere tank is part of the new Jellyfish Exhibit.

Moody Oil Rig Tank

A new two-story 30,000 gallon round aquarium topped by a 23-foot scale model of an oil production platform is a focal point soon after entering the Aquarium.

Children of all ages are mesmerized by the fish.

SLIDESHOW: Slow down and watch more scenes from the Aquarium…You can also click on any other photo in this post and it will start a slideshow. Enjoy!

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Both warm climate and cold climate penguins are on display at the aquarium in separate habitats. The new Humbolt (warm-climate) Penguin Habitat is home to banded penguins that live in the coastal areas of Chile and Peru in South America.

Moody Aquarium Humboldt penguins

Humboldt penguins were added to Moody Gardens Aquarium in May as part of a brand-new exhibit. (Photo credit: Moody Gardens)

King, Gentoo, Chinstrap, Rockhopper and Macaroni penguins that live in chilly climates are at home here, too, thanks to the aquarium staff who control their environment to emulate the cold waters of the south Atlantic.VIDEO: Short video of the penguins below…

Special private behind-the-scenes “animal encounter” experiences are also offered for small groups and individuals, including encounters with giant river otters, penguins, and seals. (Proceeds from animal encounters are used to fund conservation efforts.)

We were able to meet Hendrix, a Southern Rockhopper penguin in the penguin food preparation kitchen and also received a piece of penguin art.

Hendrix. a Southern Rockhopper penguin.

Book a private enounter and you may meet Hendrix. a Southern Rockhopper penguin.

Penguin private tour

Penguin art

Examples of the penguin art, created by penguin feet, are offered for sale in the gift shop and included in the package of those booking a private, behind-the-scenes “animal encounter.” (Photo credit: Moody Gardens)

Moody Aquarium Gift Shop

Penguin art and other penguin items are for sale in the Gift Shop.

A new pirate shipwreck has been added to the Caribbean exhibit, including a 1 million gallon tank containing sharks, rays and tropical fish swimming around a replica of Jean Lafitte’s 19th century rum-runner, The Pride.

Sunken pirate ship

The Mangrove lagoon touch tank, home to stingrays and sharks, is popular with families.

This Mangrove lagoon touch tank, home to stingrays and sharks, is a popular spot.

Also new is the Flower Garden Banks exhibit, featuring the unique tropical coral reef system located 115 miles off the of banks within the Northwest Gulf of Mexico.

Have a marine biologist in the making in your family? Those interested in a more in-depth look at the workings of the Aquarium can arrange observing staff in the conservation lab and ask questions as they work in the nursery, perform aquarium water quality tests, grow algae as a food source and other daily functions.

Click here for Visitor Information to Moody Gardens attractions, including ticket information, value passes, animal encounters and volunteer information.

All photos © Debbra Dunning Brouillette unless otherwise credited to Moody Gardens. Thanks to Moody Gardens for hosting me on this visit to the amazing attractions that await visitors to Galveston Island, Texas!

16 Comments on “Indoor Oceans: The Aquarium at Moody Gardens, Galveston Island, Texas

  1. The pyramid aquarium at Moody Gardens looks incredible – the tunnel is especially appealing and those jelly fish are beautiful. I’d love some of that penguin art! My grandsons would love to spend a day there

    • I hope to get to go sometime, Michele! The entire Moody Gardens complex is an amazing place. The Rainforest Pyramid is a must-do as well!

  2. What an incredible place! The photos are amazing, too. I’m going to recommend Moody Gardens to my friends who travel with grandkids!

    • It’s definitely a family-centered destination but great for adults wanting a different kind of getaway, too! I’d love to go back for a longer stay.

  3. I love aquariums too, Debbie. Not being a scuba diver, I get to appreciate them even more than you do. Although it’s not same same experience, for me is definitely the best I can get. The Aquarium at Moody Gardens looks incredibly beautiful. I haven’t seen anything like it before. I’d love to take my grandchildren to Galveston Island someday and visit this aquarium.

    • Each aquarium I visit is so different and has something special about it. You’d love it, with or without your grandchildren! I’d not heard of Moody Gardens before my recent visit to Galveston Island but am so glad I was able to go! It was soon after Hurricane Harvey and was nice to see it wasn’t damaged!

  4. Thanks for sharing this article. It has been a while since our last visit to Moody Gardens, and it looks like we need to plan another trip. We love aquariums, as well as zoos, and wonder if you have ever visited the Oklahoma Aquarium in Tulsa? If not, you may wish to add it to your list. You can get a little preview on our website, if you wish.

    • Yes, Jeff, with all the new enhancements just added this May, it would be a great time to plan another visit to Moody Gardens1 And no, I’ve not visited the Oklahoma Aquarium but I’d love to! I’m always interested in seeing what different aquariums offer and I know those in locations away from a coast have more challenges. I will put it on my list!

    • I know! I’d never seen a Rockhopper penguin before! They’re so different from other species! I hope you may get the opportunity to visit Moody Gardens in the future.

    • I’m glad you have visited! If you haven’t been there recently, you may want to check it out again as it’s undergone a major expansion! Thanks for commenting!

  5. Hendrix is actually a Northern Rockhopper Penguin, not a Southern Rockhopper. As you can see, he has really long feather crests on his head near his eyes, Southern Rockhoppers have a lot shorter crests.

    • Thank you, Kenny, for enlightening me about the difference between them. I looked it up and see that you are right about the long feater crests on the Northern Rockhopper! Whatever they are called, they sure are cute and Hendrix won me over immediately!

      • No problem, Hendrix is so adorable, I’d love to meet him one day, I’ve seen a lot of videos of him on YouTube, he’s so hyper and funny!!!!

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