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Animals & Ecosystems

See creatures you’ve never seen before!

Learn About Animals & the Habitats They Live In, from River to Reef!

The Cairns Aquarium showcases a wide variety of ecosystems from across the local region of Tropical North Queensland, Australia. Many animals rely on the connection between these ecosystems for their survival, travelling upstream or down river for food or to find a mate, or even to complete their life cycle. These ecosystems are laid out to showcase how each environment in the region is connected and how the animals that live there are perfectly adapted to these unique tropical conditions:

Freshwater Streams & Rivers

The journey begins as a droplet of water, cascading down a waterfall into freshwater creeks and streams. As you travel with this water, you venture through the ancient volcanic crater lakes, through the river systems into the flooded billabongs. In these aquatic systems you will meet Pig-nosed turtle, Freshwater moray eels, Barramundi, Eel tail catfish, Freshwater stonefish (Bullrout), Red claw crayfish, freshwater Whiptail stingrays, Mangrove Jack and so much more!

Wet Tropics Rainforest

Drift through the calm waters of the Wet Tropics Rainforest, along the way, we encounter animals living in swamp areas, the canopy and emergent layers of the rainforest, all the way to the wildlife hiding amongst plant life on the forest floor. The Rainforest animals include Keel back snake, river turtles, pythons, Boyd’s Forest dragons, Mangrove monitor, Johnston’s crocodile, White lip tree frogs, Spiny leaf stick insects, Australian tarantula, Leaf Tail geckos, Giant Burrowing cockroaches.

The Mangroves

We make our way from the Rainforest towards the coast line, moving through the giant root structures of mangrove trees. We encounter animal nurseries and watch as the tangled roots of the mangrove trees provide the necessary safe havens for baby fish prior to them swimming out into the Great Barrier Reef. In the Mangroves, you will find Archerfish, Estuarine crocodiles, Rabbitfish, Giant mud crab, Upside Down jellyfish and many other brackish water species!

The Great Barrier Reef

Once we’ve tracked our way through the muddy and humid mangrove forests, we arrive at the largest living structure on planet Earth; The Great Barrier Reef. Here, we’re met with the intertidal rock pools, and as we move along the journey, we venture into the depths and are able to see all the brightly coloured Reef fish followed by the venomous, poisonous and even deadly, “Dangers of the Reef” species. Thousands of animals live on the reef and at the Aquarium, you will see a wide representation of species including Painted crayfish, Epaulette sharks, Hump head Māori wrasse, Common Clownfish, Harlequin Tusk fish, Long nose Butterfly fish, Common Lionfish, Black Blotched Porcupinefish, Reef Stonefish, Moon Sea jellies, Crown-of-thorn starfish, Olive Sea snakes, Long horn cowfish, Palette Surgeonfish, Blue spot lagoon rays, Stars and Stripes puffer fish, sea stars, sea cucumbers, soft coral, hard coral, sea horses and lots more!

The Coral Sea

Finally, we dive off the edge of the Great Barrier Reef into the open ocean, we head 350 kilometres out from the coastline, to a ribbon reef in the Coral Sea. As we move through the open waters of the South West Pacific Ocean, we encounter a wide diversity of predatory oceanic wildlife, all species big and small. You will meet Leopard sharks, White Tip, Black Tip and Grey Reef sharks, Rays, Giant Qld Grouper, Blue Fin Trevally, Coral Trout and so many more who live far out in the ocean depths!