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Thanks to volunteer efforts, Belle Isle Aquarium “looks just like it did back in 1904”


One of Detroit’s gems, the Belle Isle Aquarium, had been open since 1904 until the cash-starved city shut the place down in 2005 and shipped all 4,000 fish elsewhere.

But people who love the aquarium took action, and as a result a reclaimed Belle Isle Aquarium is free and open to everyone.

General manager Fred Huebener joined us today.

Huebener told us that it really is thanks to the people who volunteered their time and their voices that the aquarium is returning to its former glory.

“We actually call it the people’s aquarium,” he said. “The Belle Isle Conservancy operates it on a daily basis, but the story starts in 2005 when folks were protesting the closing of the aquarium, and just kept that energy going until they were able to get the city to reopen it in 2012.”

He told us seven years of vacancy took its toll on the building, but thanks to volunteer efforts, it’s practically good as new.

“If you looked at it now you’d be hard pressed to see any damage, and it looks just like it did back in 1904 when it first opened,” he said.

When the aquarium opened back up in 2012, they had five tanks containing 20 species of fish, with about 150 fish total. Today, Huebener told us they have 43 tanks containing 160 species, with a total of more than 2,000 fish.

The aquarium will be holding a fundraiser to celebrate and launch its newest addition: piranhas.

The event takes place this Friday and includes authentic Brazilian street food and a live piranha feeding.

More information can be found on the aquarium’s website.

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