Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park will boast the only public aquarium between San Diego and Albuquerque when it opens later this year.
“Bringing the ocean to the Sonoran Desert is quite a challenge,” said Assistant Zoo Director Mike Demlong, who is overseeing day-to-day construction. “We are about 70 to 80 percent complete.”
The aquarium will consist of three exhibit buildings, each with a different theme, with a total of 33,000 square feet. The $6 million project is expected to open in November or December.
As many as 400 species of animals will eventually be housed in a campus-like setting that features indoor and outdoor exhibits. The entrance and first two aquarium buildings are nearly complete. The final and largest exhibit building, also under way, will house a restaurant and bar featuring a 30-foot diameter shark tank and stingray feeding pool.
At completion, the aquarium will exhibit unusual species such as sea horses, stingrays, penguins, giant Pacific octopus, sharks and arapaima, the largest fresh water fish in the world. The design features fish as well as aquatic mammals, reptiles and birds.
At opening, the aquarium will contain about 135,000 gallons of water spread over 60 indoor exhibits.
Aquarium project manager Jeff Faucett is in charge of designing, building and maintaining life-support systems for hundreds of aquatic animals. A veteran aquarist, Faucett has helped launch aquariums at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas, and the Oklahoma State Aquarium in Tulsa.
“The Wildlife World Aquarium will be unlike any other,” Faucett said. “We’ve taken the best features from aquariums across the U.S. and tried to make them better.”