The Naples Aquarium is a unique example of a nineteenth century aquarium, which opened to the public on 12 January 1874, when elsewhere in Europe comparable institutions were only just beginning to be conceived. It may not be able to match the visual splendour of its large European and American counterparts, but its sombre, almost austere atmosphere embodies the age in which it was founded and contemporary taste in both architecture and criteria for exhibiting marine life, making it a monument of extraordinary historical importance.
The Aquarium attracts numerous visitors a year, including groups of school children, students and tourists. The Aquarium is equipped with 23 display tanks lined with volcanic rock to simulate a natural setting. The tanks are illuminated mainly by natural daylight from skylights in the roof, which enhances the natural effect. According to one of the Aquarium's principle aims to conserve the local fauna, all the specimen on display are from the Gulf of Naples. Seawater is supplied by a ‘semi-closed' system, in which the water is pumped from two large underground cisterns into the tanks and then flows back down, during which time about one third of the water is renewed. The water is drawn from the sea in front of the aquarium at about 300 metres offshore and at a depth of 11 metres; it is left to decant into the cisterns.
The activities within the Aquarium are various, including the choice of the exhibition criteria, the maintenance and care of the animals, prophylaxis against diseases, and acclimation and quarantine of arriving organisms. The aim is to maintain the animals alive as long as possible to reduce the catch of new specimens from the wild. In the end the success in these activities is demonstrated by the birth of specimen in captivity, such as the five new-born stingrays, Dasyatis pastinaca, in July 2006.
Over the years the Aquarium of the Stazione Zoologica has enhanced its status as a unique historical monument and collection of marine life by providing a full range of educational, ecological and research activities which ensure its place among the world's most up-to-date aquariums. Many collaborations with other aquaria in Europe and elsewhere in the world were formed, providing the exchange of both animals and information on maintenance principles. The Aquarium is also collaborating with the local authorities, such as the coastal guards, by providing temporary shelter for sequestrated animals or by assisting in emergencies with marine animals, such as stranding and incidental by-catch of dolphins, sharks and sea turtles.
European Union of Aquarium Curators (EUAC)
European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA)
Guardia Zoofila del Comune di Napoli