Find yourself immersed in the majestic grandeur of a giant kelp forest, where algae called kelp grow as large as trees and support a tremendous variety of life. You may be amazed to discover that examples of this spectacular ecosystem, which in the wild can support over 800 species, exist right off the coast of Southern California. Peer into our 188,000-gallon tank and get a glimpse of what life is like in these special underwater forests.
Solve the mystery behind why kelp is found in some spots along the coast and not others. Meet some of the animals that live in the kelp forest—and divers that like to visit! Find out how choices you make daily can affect the kelp forest and the ocean in ways you may not even imagine. Also, discover why and how we need to protect this important ecosystem for generations to come. This exhibit features live animals such as leopard sharks, horn sharks, moray eels, a giant seabass, rays, rockfish, spiny lobsters, anemones and more!
Students interact with divers and an educator during one of our dive shows.
Find out what it's like to experience our kelp forest from inside the tank as you get the chance to talk first-hand with a diver! Don't miss our Science Spectacular dive show, which happens twice daily at 11am and 2:30pm. Divers interact with animals in the tank, and also take questions from guests in the audience—like you!
If your visit to the kelp forest doesn't overlap with a dive show time, you may still get a chance to see a diver. We have divers working in our tank daily, feeding and examining animals, maintaining the tank...and often waving at guests!
Examine a huge variety of living organisms up close in our tabletop aquariums, featuring animals like a giant anemone, sea stars, lobsters and more. The animals you'll find in this area are a fascinating sample of the amazing diversity found in a kelp forest.
What is kelp?
Though it looks like a plant, kelp is an algae, and the giant kelp we have in our exhibit is only found in a few places in the entire world—including in Southern California! Find out what makes giant kelp special, and discover the ingredients it needs to survive—chilly, nutrient-rich water, sunlight and water motion. You can even help us grow kelp in our nursery.
Look for kelp forest homes
One of the biggest reasons for all the diversity in a kelp forest is the variety of homes animals can find there. From the kelp forest canopy to the rocky ocean floor, search for the right homes for some kelp forest tenants, like urchins, bat stars, kelp crabs, kelp bass and two-spot octopuses.
Who eats whom?
In our kelp forest food web aquariums, see different kinds of kelp forest animals and what they eat. You'll find scavengers that eat dead animals, drifters like moon jellies that eat microscopic organisms called plankton, scrapers that scour algae off rocks and eat loose pieces of algae from the water, and algae that turn sunlight into sugars.
See real people doing science—growing moon jellies, collecting and tracking data and more. Experiments available for guest participation may include examining brine shrimp we grow here at the Science Center to feed our fish, dissecting kelp and more. The Curator's Lab is open Monday-Friday 10am-1:30pm and weekends and holidays from 10am-5pm.
Kelp Tank News
Garibaldi Mating Season
Garibaldis, the official state marine fish of California known for their bright orange color, are mating in the kelp tank! In this video, one of our female garibaldis is laying eggs in a nest made of algae. The female can be seen swimming back and forth close to the nest while the male hovers above or to her right, fertilizing the eggs. Toward the video's end, the male, who protects the nest, chases the female garibaldi away.
For garibaldis to mate, the male garibaldi creates a nest and the female garibaldi has to decide that the nest is suitable before she will lay her eggs in it. Because the process is quite complicated, Science Center staff are amazed and pleased that it's happening right here in the kelp tank, which is not connected directly to the ocean. If garibaldis continue to lay eggs in the tank, and we can hatch the eggs and raise the babies, the Science Center could provide garibaldis to other aquariums to reduce the number being removed from the wild for display.
Garibaldis may continue this interesting behavior through the next few months, so visit the Science Center's kelp forest to see if you can spot it for yourself. Check the website for updates on this exciting development!
World Oceans Day
Celebrate World Oceans Day with us here at the California Science Center on Saturday, June 8, 2013! More information to come.
Kelp Tank News Archive
Fishy Success Story
Find out about the first kelp tank residents that came from eggs laid right in our tank!
Meet the baby surfperches that were recently born in the kelp tank, and find some surfperch facts.
The Science Center and Kelp Restoration
A diver collects urchins off a barren rock in an effort to give kelp the chance to return and support hundreds of animal species.
The Science Center's focus on kelp spreads far beyond our walls and out into the ocean itself. Through a partnership with Santa Monica Baykeeper, Science Center staff and volunteers work to protect and restore the kelp forests off the coast of Los Angeles County.
One of the biggest threats to kelp forests is devastation from sea urchins, who will eat kelp uncontrollably if left unchecked. Because urchin predators, like lobsters, sea otters and sheephead, are on the decline in our area, urchins have been left to grow and reproduce with almost no limits to their numbers. As a consequence, many kelp forests have been turned into barren underwater landscapes by ravenous urchins. Through the Kelp Restoration and Monitoring Project, hundreds of thousands of urchins have been removed from these barrens, giving kelp the opportunity to come back, thrive and support over 800 species in each restored kelp forest.
For more information, visit Santa Monica Baykeeper's website, or visit back here for updates soon.
Kelp Forest Links
Ecosystems: Kelp Forests
This webpage from the National Marine Sactuaries of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration gives a good overview about what kelp forests are, what they need to survive, and why they are important.
The Ocean Basket Kelp Forest Exhibit
This page from Two Oceans Aquarium in South Africa highlights kelp forests that exist around the tip of Africa, but lot of the information you'll find here also applies to our kelp forests. Don't miss the "Uses for Kelp" section that outlines
what products contain kelp. You might be surprised by what you find!
Is there Kelp in your Cupboard?
This page from the Monterey Bay Aquarium features a game that reveals products in our lives that contain kelp. You may be surprised by what you find! The page also includes an activity sheet to print out that you can use in your search for kelp in your own cabinets.