The Georgia Aquarium is the world's largest aquarium with more than 8.5 million US gallons of marine and fresh water and containing more than 120,000 animals of 500 different species and built on a 20 acre site north of Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta , Georgia, USA at Pemberton Place. The aquarium's most famous specimens were four young whale sharks from Taiwan named Ralph, Norton, Alice and Trixie.
The Georgia Aquarium is the only institution outside of Asia to house whale sharks. The sharks are kept in a 6.3-million-US-gallon (24,000 m3) tank, and the aquarium was actually designed around the whale shark exhibit. The aquarium’s four whale sharks eat more than 47,000 pounds of food each year whereas the average American eats about 1,996 pounds of food yearly. The aquarium is currently one of only two aquariums in the United States to exhibit Great Hammerhead sharks; the other is the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey.
The aquarium has also been home to as many as five 11 foot (3 m) long beluga whales at once. More than 170,000 gallons of water per minute filters through the aquarium's life support system. The life support system makes sure the water is clean to support the more than 100,000 animals that live in the aquarium. The aquarium's animals are displayed in six different galleries: Georgia Explorer, Tropical Diver, Ocean Voyager, Cold Water Quest, River Scout, and Dolphin Tales. Each corresponds to a specific environment.
According to aquarium founder Bernard Marcus, the aquarium's conservation and environmental mission is just as important as its status as an attraction. More than two million people from 143 countries visit the aquarium each year.
The Aquarium is involved in several research initiatives that focus on whale sharks in the Yucatan Peninsula, beluga whales in Alaska, penguins in South Africa, manatees in Quintana Roo, Mexico, loggerhead sea turtles on the Georgia coast, and spotted eagle rays in Sarasota, Florida.
On the first day of 2011, Marineland of Florida was purchased by the Georgia Aquarium for a reported 9.1 million dollars. It was opened in 1938 and is known as the "world's First Oceanarium". Marineland of Florida was the first to successfully birth and raise a dolphin calf in human care. Georgia Aquarium has more volunteers than staff members. More than 1,100 volunteers serve 9,000 to 13,000 hours every month, a total of 1.6 million hours since it first opened.