The new Sobela Aquarium in the KC Zoo showcases 8,000 animals including half a dozen sharks.
The new Sobela Aquarium in the KC Zoo showcases 8,000 animals including half a dozen sharks.

It took 10 years of planning, fundraising and construction but on Sept. 1, the Kansas City Zoo will debut the Sobela Ocean Aquarium. 

The aquarium will be located near the zoo’s entrance and penguin exhibit and will feature fish and sealife from around the world — including half a dozen sharks. 

The aquarium will be divided into six zones, each showcasing a different type of marine habitat. Visitors will be able to see everything from sea turtles and giant octopus to coral reefs and tropical fish.

Zoo officials say there will be nearly 8,000 animals – yes, fish are considered animals – in the Sobela Ocean Aquarium. 

The zoo staff has had some fun naming the animals: there’s a zebra shark named Chewy, a green moray eel named Banner, an orange lobster named Larry Lombardi, and four sand tiger sharks named Chad, Chauncey, Charkuterie and Chunk.

The largest tank allows visitors to stand looking up at sea life swimming overhead. 

But it’s not just looking, zoo officials also say there will be two touch pools in the aquarium. Visitors get to touch animals in two exhibits: one featuring animals found in warmer water, the other featuring cold-water animals.

Admission to the aquarium is included in the price of the zoo’s general admission. However, to avoid congestion and overcrowding, the aquarium requires a timed reservation with groups of people let into the aquarium every 15 minutes.  

Once inside, visitors can take in the sites at their pace, with no limitation on the time they spend in the aquarium.

The aquarium is expected to be a win for Kansas City, generating $14 million in economic return per year and creating about 100 new jobs. It is also expected to attract an additional 300,000 visitors to the zoo each year. In recognition of this expected impact, the zoo has been renamed the Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium. 
To learn more or purchase tickets, visit