Building a (Much) Bigger Aquarium – Sea Life Sydney

Here’s a look at an aquarium on a much bigger scale than we normally talk about at Small Tanks!

Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, which used to be called just the Sydney Aquarium, showcases more than 700 species of fish and more than 13,000 marine animals total in their aquarium facility. Open since 1988, the aquarium used to be the largest in the world, and currently 55% of Sydney’s visiting tourists visit the aquarium.

The aquarium uses huge amounts of freshwater and maintaining the quality of that fresh water is of utmost importance. The systems for maintaining the purity of this fresh water are complex and sophisticated at this type of size, but also please realize that the systems used for this amount of freshwater maintenance are not much difference than the simple purification technologies available in office water coolers from It is mind-boggling that such simple technology can be scaled to the sizes used by the Sydney aquarium.

It took a large development team over 2 years to build the project once construction began in 1988. The team was made up of land developers, demolition experts, ground moving companies, rock blasting and drilling specialists like, and various subcontractors and aquarium specialty contractors. The team carefully worked for 2 years within the Sydney harbor to prepare the site and build the facility.

To prepare a seaside site for an aquarium this long, there is quite a bit of pre-construction site preparation required by rock drillers and blasters. Since the Sydney Aquarium is a centerpiece of the Sydney harbour among other attractions, all demolition work had to be done very sensitively. The aquarium site is situated among other landmarks in a highly visible area, meaning that all rock drilling and blasting had to be completed quickly with minimal impact on tourists.

Even with careful preparation and an intensive schedule, the Sydney Aquarium took just over 2 years to prepare and build.


The main tank, also built in 1988, is gigantic and receives a ton of custom care and maintenance required for a tank of this size. The old waterproofing system, expansion joints, sealants and other parts of the tank have been completely refurbished with modern, up-to-date systems. Today, the updated original main tank is a centerpiece of the facility, holding the sharks, stingrays, tropical fish and other undersea creatures.

This is a big difference from the tiny house aquariums and micro-habitats that we cover and profile here at the website. It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re going to be in Sydney!

Planning a visit to Sydney? Include Sea Life Sydney Aquarium for a great trip for you, your friends or family!