Come see the new Giant Octopus exhibit July 4 at the Oklahoma Aquarium

Come see the new Giant Octopus exhibit July 4 at the Oklahoma Aquarium

The Oklahoma Aquarium is channeling its inner-Jules Verne with its new Giant Pacific Octopus Exhibit.

The new exhibit was under construction for more than a year with nine months of that time spent building the multi-thousand-gallon tank for the aquarium’s newest attraction.

The Octopus was put on display March 13 for one day before the Oklahoma Aquarium was forced to close its doors March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Giant Pacific Octopus Exhibit has a “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” theme to it, as aquarium staff was able to get specific parts for the new attraction from Total Valve Systems and U.S. Pioneer Inc., which makes parts for actual United States Navy ships.

The exhibit cost a little more than $110,000 to construct with 100% of the funding coming through fundraising. Joe and Carol McGraw are the sponsors of the attraction. This is not the first exhibit in the Oklahoma Aquarium to have the McGraw’s name on it. They were the sponsors of the beach exhibit before the new playground was built in that location last summer.

The tank in the octopus exhibit is about eight feet wide, which allows the octopus to be able to stretch its entire body when it is full grown.

“The idea was to do something we hadn’t seen,” Oklahoma Aquarium Deputy Director John Money said. “We go to aquariums around the country and see Octopus tanks with similar volume, full of rocks with cracks and crevices, and he does what he does, disappears. They always tend to do these big exhibits and people always ask where the Octopus is. We wanted to make sure wherever he is, you can see him.”

With the “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” style, a lot of look-alike brass and copper is needed. The aquarium could not use real brass or copper because those are toxic to an Octopus. Several staff members traveled to Pennsylvania to learn how to cast molds and use right proxies and paints at a company called Smooth On.

The aquarium staff was able to recreate the items that were going into the exhibit and made sure it was safe for the Octopus.

“Everyone did a lot of great work on this,” Oklahoma Aquarium Director of Exhibits Phil Tate said. “The tank took about nine months to put together and the whole exhibit took about a year.”

The lifespan of an Octopus is three-to-five years and it takes the aquarium staff about a year to prepare the animal to be able to show. The current Octopus is around a year-and-a-half. It was eight pounds when it arrived at the aquarium, 17 pounds when it was put in the tank in the exhibit, is now around 20 pounds and it will get bigger.

Kyle Salomon

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