Enjoy a FREE visit (donations always welcome). 117 Island Street at the Farmer's Market. Green way-finding signs in town guide you to the Aquarium. On days we are open (see below for open days and hours), look for the sandwich boards at the north end of the Everett Street bridge. 828-488-7857. Well behaved, leashed dogs are welcome.
Located on the Tuckasegee River, the Appalachian Rivers Aquarium exhibits as many regional species of non-game and game fish as possible among its fourteen tanks, with a total exceeding 4,000 gallons of water. In addition to those tanks, there are two terrariums and a hellbender exhibit to showcase the variety of amphibians and reptiles in the Southern Appalachians, currently including frogs, turtles, and several species of salamanders.
New species include Tangerine Darters, Gilt Darters, Banded Darters, Greenfin Darters, and Tuckasegee Darters. Also Mottled Sculpins, Warpaint Shiners, Tennessee Shiners, Mirror Shiners, and River Chubs. All are small non-game stream species.
The mountain stream is a three-tank exhibit of the many trout species found in our area. A waterfall flows from our second floor down into the tank that contains both the northern and southern strains of brook trout, and at times tiger trout, which is a natural, sterile hybrid of brook and brown trout. This tank is viewable from the underside of the waterfall. The other two tanks contain both the Loch Leven and German strains of brown trout, as well as rainbow trout and at times, golden rainbow trout. All with the habitat readily available to also eventually exhibit dozens of the more than 140 species of small dace, minnows, shiners, darters, madtoms, sculpins, and other small game fish.
Two Eastern hellbenders, which are a species of protected salamander, are special guests at the Aquarium under federal and state permits. Eastern hellbenders are the largest salamander in North America and our two share the largest display tank in the southeast, providing a habitat conducive to their longevity and contentment. And what a tank it is! Designed with fascination in mind, it sits on a tall, strong, steel frame that is enclosed by beautiful barn wood except for a single entry point. At this point you can view the tank’s clear underside, which allows anyone willing to climb under it the chance to peek up at the bellies of the hellbenders as they rest under their nest rocks or move between stones. The below-tank viewing area is padded with carpet for the comfort of both those young and young-at-heart, and is roomy enough to fit several curious children (It’s been kid-tested and approved!).
To learn more about hellbenders, read the GreatSmokies.com blog post "Bryson City’s Hellbenders Are a Once in a Lifetime Experience"
In addition to the mountain stream, the hellbender tank, and the terrariums, there are nine additional tanks that exhibit living species of both game and non-game fish, currently including bluegill, rock bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, two species of catfish, and yellow perch. With many more regional species of fish to come!