| Fishy tales
Taraporewala Aquarium is one of the many jewels at Marine Drive that line up to form the beloved ‘Queen’s Necklace’. Built at a total cost of Rs. 8,00,000, the aquarium was inaugurated by Dr. Rajendra Prasad on May 27, 1951. It was decided to name the institution after the Parsi philanthropist, Mr. Vicaji D. B. Taraporewala, who had graciously donated Rs. 2,00,000 towards its construction. Later, the Department of Fisheries decided to take over the task of maintaining this urban wonder, which houses an impressive list of marine and inland species. Today, even though the facility is facing an urgent need for further upgradation and maintenance, the aquarium remains a crowd favourite.
This marine museum is divided into 4 sections:
1. Community Hall: The entrance to the aquarium opens up directly into this section. A colossal skeleton that stretches over 48 feet covers most of the large hall. The remains belong to a whale that was found at Ratnagiri in 1994. With 6 head bones, 21 ribs and 34 vertebrae, the display is nothing short of awe-inspiring. This section also houses community fishes like the sea anemone and the arowana.
2. Freshwater Fish: Moving left from the community hall, one enters the freshwater fish section, filled with attractions including the humble seahorse and discus fish.
While most adults get drawn towards the modest silver dollar fishes, the silver sharks and the deadly piranhas remain popular with the kids. However, the fact that these majestic predators have outgrown their current habitats is painfully evident. This section also includes the visually stunning velvet cichlids, the jewel cichlids, flower horn fish and red parrot fish.
3. Sea Water Fish: This section includes creatures found in the Indian waters. Varieties like the edible sea crabs, lobsters and Indo-Pacific tarpon are kept on display here.
Fishes like the moray eels and butterfly rays that have troubled Indian fishermen for years are also found in this section. Unlike the docile butterfly rays, the moray eels are known to have a bad temper along with a tenacious grip and a deadly set of teeth.
Watching the easygoing sea turtles relax while the marine shells trot about the tank makes for a tranquil sight.
4. Miniature exhibits: This section includes a beautiful selection of shells, starfish and corals that have been gathered from several oceans. Artwork made using only shells is on displayed here. Fishes with ornamental and personified designs across their bodies are showcased, including the Christ crab which possesses a cross across its body and the Quran fish, with designs resembling Urdu scriptures. Other attractions are the hockey-stick fish, guitarfish and the tiger barb fish.
The two star performers in this section are the neon tetra fish (with iridescent blue and red stripes) and the black ghost knifefish (carnivorous, nocturnal fish that swim backwards in order to change direction).
The Department of Fisheries has planned for a complete overhaul of the Taraporewala Aquarium, including a prospective underwater oceanarium.