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National Aquarium in Baltimore

The National Aquarium is a noted marine museum and cultural attraction, located on the Inner Harbor waterfront in Baltimore. Built in 1981, the aquarium has a collection of more than 10,500 specimens of 560 different species. The triangular glass building that houses the aquarium is a familiar landmark along the celebrated waterfront. The aquarium consists of five levels, which house various simulated natural habitats of marine mammals, amphibians, birds, and fishes. The visit to the main aquarium starts and ends in the lobby on Level I. The Marine Mammal Pavilion can be accessed through a bridge from the lobby. That level features a 265,000-gallon pool, which accommodates sharks, sting rays, and turtles. Level II has a gallery that depicts the water cycle — from a freshwater pond in the mountains of Western Maryland through a tidal marsh and coastal beach, into the Atlantic shelf — is an informative, as well as educative, spectacle. Here, one can catch a closer glimpse of various amphibian species, fishes, and other invertebrates. The gallery on Level III of the aquarium is a favorite among visitors. It has a stunning collection of marine species, which includes electric eels, giant Pacific octopi, blue crabs, tiny jaw fish, such primitive fishes as sturgeon and gar — which have not evolved in more than 70 million years — sea urchins, and anemones. Level IV features a re-created Amazon River Forest and a section of blackwater Amazon River tributary. Along a 57-foot acrylic wall, visitors get to see dazzling tropical fish, as well as giant river turtles, dwarf caimans (crocodiles), and pygmy marmosets — the smallest species of monkey in the world. The Atlantic Coral Reef is contained in a 335,000-gallon tank, which is home for a large school of such tropical fish as spiny porcupine fish and striped sergeant majors. In the Open Ocean, visitors can experience a nose-to-nose encounter with large sharks. Level IV also features a re-creation of a seacliff habitat, which is home to such North Atlantic bird species as puffins, razorbills, and black guillemots. An Upland Tropical Rainforest — a simulated rainforest ecosystem — occupies Level V. A keen eye can spot any of those colorful birds, golden lion tamarins (monkeys), two-toed sloths, red-bellied piranhas, iguanas, and poison dart frogs, that live amidst the dense foliage. The Dolphin Amphitheater stages daily dolphin shows. The National Aquarium is available for rent to host corporate events, banquets, and special celebrations. The gift shop stocks collectables, models of exhibits, and books. The aquarium also has a coffee shop for light refreshments.