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CretAquarium (Thalassocosmos)- Public Aquarium
by Thanassis Balaskas

Since I decided to spend my short vacations in Crete (Herakleion), it was obvious that I would visit the Crete aquarium. This complex is located several km out of the city of Herakleion - actually it is on the same location the US militare base used to be. Once you get off the cat, you see a very well built construction with high standards. Once you enter the complex, you will see a coffee shop at left and a restaurant at right, which will give you the opportunity of a coffee or even lunch before or after your tour.

Having been in many European public aquaria I was expecting to see something equally beautiful and interesting. Once I passed the entrance to the show tanks I saw the usual darkness which brings out the contents of the tanks even better. In some places you would also see some joysticks which allowed you to control the cameras which were in the tanks so you could see the interior from different angles, something which is rarely see in similar constructions. I was nicely surprised to see that there were special tables with the scientific name of every species as well as the common name in more than 5 languages, starting with Greek.

I would like to note that this, seemingly simple thing is not present in many public tanks in Europe, making the correct identification of the various species in any of the tanks a very difficult thing - sometimes even impossible.
In the first tank, with a capacity of around 1000 L we see the Macroramphosus scolopax (Linnaeus 1758) - common name: Longspine snipefish. I must confess that I didn't know this kind of fish existed in Mediterranean. This species belong to the family of Centriscidae (Snipefishes and shrimpfishes).

While taking the tour, I could sense the perfect scent of Mediterranean. In the next  tanks I was impressed by one which housed Homarus gammarus (Common name: European lobster). At first glance this tank seemed indifferent and quite empty, since the only thing you could see was a school of  Spicara maena (common name: blotched picarel). A closer examination revealed the tunnels which were created by the lobsters as if they were building their one subway. 

Next came a tank dedicated to the common scorpion fish (Scorpaena scrofa; common name: Great rockfish) as well as a large common stingray (Dasyatis Pastinaca). I must confess that taking a good picture of these species is an easy task since they spend their time motionless, which is their natural behavior, too.


Further down, I was really impressed by the first large tank, covering a surface of many square meters. Some really large fish were seen in it like two sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus), a school of amberjacks (Seriola dumerill), many Dicentrarchus labrax (common name: European seabass) and some Dentex Dentex (common Dentex). It should be noted that all of them were adults and had reached their maximum size. Still, they looked like neon tetra when compared to the dimensions of the tank.


After spending some good time there, I continued my tour. The next pleasant stop was a rather large tank housing two large Epinephelus Αeneus, which spend their time looking at the visitors without any sign of stress.


Down the road again and there it came: the second huge tank which also covered a very large surface. In contrast to the first one, this one had a podium in front on which visitors could stand and admire the magnificent view. A large school of Sparus aurata (common name: Gilt-head bream) were the performers, changing shape all the time and creating the strong impression that we were actually standing at the bottom of the sea.

This article is available in Greek, at

See next page for more photos from this tour

Official page : http://www.hcmr.gr/english_site/aquaria/crete/

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