National Sea Life Centre, Birmingham
Entrance to National SEA LIFE Birmingham in 2016
52°28′43.83″N 1°54′48.57″W / 52.4788417°N 1.9134917°W / 52.4788417; -1.9134917
Date opened5 July 1996
LocationBirmingham, United Kingdom
No. of animals2,000+
Volume of largest tank1,000,000 litres (220,000 imp gal; 260,000 US gal)
Major exhibits360° Ocean Tunnel, Ocean Tunnel, Shark Lagoon, Penguin Adventure

The National Sea Life Centre is an aquarium with over 60 displays of freshwater and marine life in Brindleyplace, Birmingham, England. Its ocean tank has a capacity of 1,000,000 litres (220,000 imp gal) of water and houses giant green sea turtles, blacktip reef sharks and tropical reef fish, with the only fully transparent 360-degree underwater tunnel in the United Kingdom. The building was designed by Sir Norman Foster.[1]


It is located alongside the Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line Canal by Old Turn Junction and opposite Arena Birmingham. It opened on 5 July 1996, at which time it was the only inland sea life centre in the UK.[2][3][4]

In the Victorian era, the site was the location of two canal basins in Oozells Street Wharf.[5]


The gentoo penguin colony

Housing over 2,000 creatures from around the world,[4] the centre describes itself as a place that 'transports visitors into an underwater world of discovery'. 'Breed, Rescue and Protect' conservation projects are undertaken by aquarium staff,[6] including an extensive seahorse breeding programme, with many species of newly reared seahorses in tanks viewable by visitors.

In other displays, it has a giant Pacific octopus, as well as horseshoe crabs, green sea turtles, lobsters, sharks, sting rays, and otters.

In 2009, the centre announced as its newest attraction, a "Sensorama 4-D Cinema".[7] In addition to 3-D viewing, the audience can be subjected to sensations such as wind, salt spray, and the smell the seaweed, or other sensations depending on the (sea-themed) film.[citation needed]

In 2014 the centre opened a £2,000,000 'Penguin Ice Adventure' habitat that became home to a colony of gentoo penguins.[8]

During March 2020, the centre became home to a pair of northern sea otters, named Ozzy and Ola. They were the first and only sea otters to be displayed at any zoological collection in the UK and were rescued in Alaska.[9]

In media

Newly birthed zebra shark hatches

The centre has been featured in a number of documentaries, including the BBC's 'Penguins on a plane: Great animal moves'[10] and 'Shark'.[11] Sir David Attenborough visited the centre in 2010 while filming his BBC2 series First Animals.[12]

Accolades and awards

The National Sea Life Centre Birmingham is one of the West Midlands' most popular tourist attractions and welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. It was voted Aquarium of the Year and Warwickshire Family Attraction of the Year (despite not being in the current administrative county of Warwickshire) by the Good Britain Guide 2004.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Matthew Carmona (2001). The Value of Urban Design: A Research Project Commissioned by CABE and DETR to Examine the Value Added by Good Urban Design. Thomas Telford. ISBN 0-7277-2981-0.
  2. ^ "The National Sea Life Centre Birmingham is gearing up for its big 20th birthday bash!". Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  3. ^ "National Sea Life Centre: 20 year anniversary - Plutonium Sox". Plutonium Sox. 3 July 2016. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  4. ^ a b Chamberlain, Zoe (30 August 2016). "Review: Bham Sea Life Centre's Ocean Tunnel and Clownfish Kingdom". birminghammail. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  5. ^ "Map of Birmingham and its Environs (Southampton, 1884-1891)". British History Online.
  6. ^ "*Official* SEA LIFE Birmingham - Protect our Seas". Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  7. ^ "Birmingham Sea Life Centre". Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  8. ^ Young, Gary. "Penguin Ice Adventure set to be Sea Life Centre's new hot attraction". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  9. ^ "Meet Ozzy and Ola the UK's first and only sea otters!". Merlin Entertainments. 2 March 2020. Retrieved 17 September 2022.
  10. ^ "Penguins on a Plane: Great Animal Moves - BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  11. ^ "Shark - BBC One". BBC. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  12. ^ "Sir David Attenborough and the spider crab". Discover Wildlife. Retrieved 16 October 2018.