Preparing A Feast For The Beasts At The Tennessee Aquarium

Monday, November 19, 2012 - by Thom Benson
Chattanooga Chuck, the Tennessee Aquarium’s groundhog, enjoys a traditional Thanksgiving treat – sweet potatoes.
Chattanooga Chuck, the Tennessee Aquarium’s groundhog, enjoys a traditional Thanksgiving treat – sweet potatoes.
- photo by Tennessee Aquarium

Imagine preparing a huge Thanksgiving feast every day. Staff and volunteers at the Tennessee Aquarium create specialized diets for more than 10,000 animals daily. There are two kitchens where Aquarium “chefs” spend long hours bringing all of the ingredients together. Most of the food is restaurant quality, and in some cases, it’s enhanced with nutritional supplements to ensure each animal receives a varied and well-balanced diet.

Whether it’s giant stingrays from Australia or a veggie loving green sea turtle, animal experts provide flavorful dishes that are tailored for each species.

Like many of you, Chattanooga Chuck - the Aquarium’s groundhog - loves sweet potatoes. But haute cuisine for fish, frogs and birds is much different than what you’d see alongside turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie.

The numbers for the Aquarium’s daily gourmet feast for the beasts are rather staggering. Seahorses for example, are fed three times each day. Collectively, they eat more than 2 million tiny shrimp each year.

Here’s a sample of what’s on the Aquarium’s annual grocery list:

832,000 meal worms for birds

5,616 heads of romaine lettuce for turtles and fish

5,184 pounds of squid for sharks and other fish

40,000 crickets for frogs, salamanders and newts

10,800 pounds of capelin fish for penguins

3,000 night crawlers for turtles and amphibians

2,000 shrimp for cuttlefish

681 pounds of grapes and 200 pounds of macadamia nuts for the macaws

1,056 oranges for butterflies

More than 5,000 mice and rats for reptiles and owls

The Aquarium is thankful for the dedicated volunteers who help prepare food and feed the animals throughout the year. If you’d like to learn more about animal care and help feed some of the animals, the Aquarium offers a Backstage Pass experience which allows guests an opportunity to go behind the scenes.

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