Key West Attractions

Happy First Day of Spring!

March 20th, 2018

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

March 17th, 2018

Happy Presidents Day!

February 19th, 2018

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14th, 2018

Happy Groundhog Day!

February 12th, 2018

The Florida Keys are one of 15 areas that are part of the National Marine Sanctuary. This program is administered by NOAA and protects 2,900 square nautical miles from Miami to Dry Tortugas. Within the barriers of the Florida Keys Sanctuary you will find that everything from history to living species are protected.

The Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary is home to over 6,000 species of marine life, shipwrecks and treasures, seagrass beds, mangroves and the world’s 3rd largest barrier reef.

Over 2 Million visitors come to the Florida Keys each year. That is a LOT of people to come through an area of  only 2,900 square miles. Of course, I don’t blame them for wanting to come here and enjoy our scenic views and wildlife. We have white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, chickens and iguanas that roam free and the most beautiful sunsets.

During your visit please keep in mind these Do’s and Don’ts:


– Move, remove, take, injure, touch, break, cut or possess coral/ live rock, protected wildlife or historical resources

– Discharge or deposit sewage from marine sanitation devices, trash, and other materials, except for cooling water or engine exhaust.

– Dredge, drill, or alter the seabed in any way including abandoning items on the seabed.

– Operate a vessel in a way to strike or injure coral, endanger life, limb, marine resources, property, seagrass, or other organisms living on the seabed, or cause prop scarring.

– Anchor your vessel on living coral in water less than 40 feet deep when the bottom can be seen. Anchoring on hard-bottom is allowed.

– Anchor your vessel 0n living or dead coral/ any organism attached to the seabed or when a mooring buoy is available.

– (Unless you are in a marked channel) Operate a vessel at more than 4 knots/no wake within 100 yards of shorelines, stationary vessels, navigational aids or within 100yds of a “divers down” flag.

– Dive or snorkel without a dive flag, touch or stand on living or dead coral.

– Damage or remove any markers, mooring buoys, equipment, boundary buoys, and trap buoys.

– Fish, remove, harvest, possess or land any marine life except as allowed by the FWC.

– Release exotic species



– Take pictures

– Pick up any waste/garbage that you find

– Report any mistreatment of living species you witness

– Fish under the regulations allowed by the FWC

– Anchor on a mooring buoy when available

– Observe marine life from a safe, respectful distance

– Visit the Key West Aquarium and the Eco-Discovery Center to learn more on conservation and protection efforts for the ecosystems in the Florida Keys





Sea Turtle Conservation

October 4th, 2017

Our mission here at the Key West Aquarium is to educate the public about the dangers of these turtles face on a daily basis. The sea turtles in this facility would not be able to survive out in the wild with their injuries. By educating and making the public aware, our hopes are to minimize these senseless encounters and allow the sea turtle population to thrive as they once did.

Some of  the Sea Turtles in our care at the Key West Aquarium are:

Spike the Loggerhead Sea Turtle. Spike was found at roughly 9 inches in length with 3 of her 4 flippers eaten off by an unknown predator. She was treated for her wounds and has resided with us ever since. Loggerheads are an endangered species that inhabit the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea. They can reach a size of 8-9 feet in length, weigh 900-1000 lbs. and live an average of 60 years.

Lola the Kemps-Ridley Sea Turtle. Lola was found twice entangled in fishing line. The second time the line was so tight on her right front flipper that it had to be amputated. The Key West Aquarium has had her fitted with a prosthetic that she swims with during the day. Kemps-Ridleys are a critically endangered species that inhabit warm waters in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. They are the smallest of the sea turtles and only nest on one beach in Mexico. They average thirty inches in length, weigh up to 100 pounds and the average lifespan is unknown.

Lola trying on her prosthetic flipper she received in 2015.

Rocky the Green Sea Turtle. Rocky was struck by a boat early in his life. This caused the loss of his right front flipper and damage to his shell buoyant. The weights mounted to his shell help him to swim and lie flat when he chooses. Green Sea Turtles are an endangered species that inhabit the worlds tropical and subtropical oceans. They can reach a size of 5 feet, weigh an average of 400 pounds and live up to 80 years.

Hector the Hawksbill Sea Turtle. Hector was part of a head start program during the mid to late 1980’s. Head starting of the sea turtle hatchlings in captivity allowed the sea turtles to acheive a size large enough to avoid most predation. Hector was and remains a part of our educational program here at the Key West Aquarium. The hawksbill is a small to medium-sized marine turtle having an elongated oval shell with overlapping scutes on the carapace, a relatively small head with a distinctive hawk-like beak, and flippers with two claws.

Hunter the Loggerhead Sea Turtle. Hunter, an adult male loggerhead was originally admitted to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL on August 8, 2o12. Hunter was emaciated with lockjaw, 5 fishing hooks were noted on the radiograph. After extensive rehab Hunter was released to the wild December 14, 2013. Hunter was rescued again on November 22, 2015. He had lockjaw and healed prop wounds from a boat strike. Hunter is fully recovered, eating and swimming well and a healthy body weight. He had surgery to remove a partial hook from his shoulder. The remaining two hooks are in areas that are too risky for surgery. Hunter is now placed here at the KWAQ where he can be closely monitored and will hopefully be released one day to the wild once the fishing hooks have degraded and are no longer an issue.

Hunter testing the waters of his new home in 2015.

Caribbean Reef Octopus

June 14th, 2017

The Caribbean Reef Octopus lives in warm waters around coral reef environments and grassy and rocky sea beds. There are more than 300 different species of octopus that have been identified. Considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates, the octopus is found in the tropical and temperate waters of the worlds oceans. They prey on crabs, crayfish, and mollusks, and will sometimes use their ink to disorient their victims before attacking. Its first line of defense is its ability to hide in plain sight. Using a network of pigment cells and specialized muscles in its skin, the octopus can almost instantaneously match the colors, patterns, and even textures of its surrounding. Predators such as sharks, eels, and dolphins swim by without even noticing it. When discovered, an octopus will release a cloud of black ink to obscure its attackers view, giving it time to swim away. The ink even contains a substance that weakens a predators’ sense of smell, making the fleeing octopus harder to track. Fast swimmers, they can jet forward expelling water through their mantles. And their bodies can squeeze into impossibly small cracks and crevices where predators can’t follow.

Odd-Shaped Swimmers

January 18th, 2017

Fish that are considered “odd-shaped swimmers” have a tendency to be quite slow and awkward which should naturally present them as easy prey. However, their distinctive defenses help compensate for their slow locomotion. A favorite among divers and hobbyists alike, the pufferfish  is full of personality and charm. They have excellent eyesight and powerful jaws for crushing shells in order to feed on mollusks and smaller invertebrates. The pufferfish moves by combining efforts of its pectoral, dorsal, and caudal fins. While they are slow moving, they maneuver quite well and use the caudal fin for a sudden burst of speed if a quick escape is needed. If they are unable to flee they will draw large quantities of water into their elastic stomachs, ballooning up to several times their normal size. All puffers have pointed spines so the predator may find itself choking on the inflated fish rather than swallowing it. This species also has neurotoxin and tetrodotoxin in the ovaries and liver that can have a lethal effect if consumed. Two popular dishes in Asian Cuisine, puffer soup, and raw puffer meat often cause intoxication, light-headedness, nad numbness of the lips and is often eaten for these reasons. However, if these dishes are improperly prepared they can cause death.

Boxfish, including trunkfish and cowfish are notable for the hexagonal or “honeycomb” patterns in their skin. Their plate-like scales are quite heavy and as a result the fish is slow moving. They have adapted to these obstacles by using their pectoral fins in a rowing manner for movement. While their slow nature should make them an easy prey item, few fish are able to consume them. Many boxfish secrete poisons through their skin when threatened, fouling the surrounding water and protecting them from predation.