Press Release: Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association Aquarium Smallest Aquarium in the United States

For Immediate Release
August 2, 2018
Contact: Trinity Foreman

Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association Aquarium Smallest Aquarium in the United States

Nantucket, MA – Upon an extensive search of credible and public aquariums in the United States, it was determined that the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association Aquarium is the smallest in the United States (but biggest in Nantucket) at 1,228 square feet including the gift shop; the aquarium space measures 736 square feet of the 1,228. You won’t find leaping dolphins or orcas but you will find an amazing collection of fish and invertebrates native to the waters of Nantucket including dogfish, blue crabs, a trunk fish, and rare orange and blue lobsters. The animals are always changing but are collected locally in Nantucket’s surrounding waters. Despite its small size, the Maria Mitchell Association Aquarium welcomes over 8,000 visitors a season and provides family fun and marine knowledge for the young and old alike. According to a recent visitor Dr. Tim Weld, “The Maria Mitchell Aquarium provides exceptional value per square foot.”

The Aquarium is made up of a touch tank, an outdoor circle tank, and two rooms with tanks that house about fifty to eighty different species. Exhibits change every week to showcase something new and exciting so despite its small size, the Aquarium will never be the same exact experience twice. The deck, that wraps around much of the Aquarium, looks over Nantucket Harbor and the real-world aquatic ecosystem where much of the Aquarium life was gathered. Each day, live shrimp are caught in the harbor to provide a more realistic feeding experience for fish who, like the trunk fish, are accustomed to hunting for food. The Aquarium is dedicated to maintaining the quality of life of all of its inhabitants. At the end of the summer, all captured animals, with the exception of a few southern species of fish that lost their way and cannot survive in the now cold fall waters, are released back to the ocean by the children of Nantucket.

“’Release day’ at the aquarium is a visitor favorite. And it is mine as well. All the creatures at the aquarium are released back into Nantucket Harbor on the last weekend of the summer, except for the few ‘orphan’ fish that made their way from the southern seas via the Gulf Stream. Hundreds of children and adults stand in line to have the chance release their favorite fish or invertebrate,” said Maria Mitchell executive director David Gagnon.

The Aquarium’s staff is primarily comprised of interns and volunteers who become immersed in running a public aquarium They lead programs for visitors of all ages, care for marine life, and collect species through snorkeling, wading, and diving. The interns and volunteers are extremely knowledgeable about the fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and other sealife that they care for and love to share fun and memorable facts about each species as people tour this intimate aquarium. Many of the species are also collected and donated by local business including Glidden’s Island Seafood, Just Do It 2, Critter Cruises, and Sayles Seafood. Glidden’s Island Seafood recently found a rare blue lobster, now named Blooper, that is now residing at the Aquarium.

The Aquarium, located at 28 Washington Street, hosts a variety of programs and events including the popular “Feeding Frenzies” every morning before opening, “Marine Ecology Walks,” and the Beach Discovery Walks,” all of which can be registered for online ( or by calling the Maria Mitchell Association Administrative Office (508.228.9198).

The Maria Mitchell Association is a private non-profit organization. Founded in 1902, the MMA works to preserve the legacy of Nantucket native astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and educator, Maria Mitchell. The Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories, a natural science museum, an aquarium, a newly opened research center, and preserves the historic birthplace of Maria Mitchell. A wide variety of science and history-related programming is offered throughout the year for people of all ages. This year celebrates Mitchell’s 200th birthday with special lectures, events, classes, and exhibits all year-long, culminating in the Maria Mitchell Women in Science Symposium in October 2018 in Boston.