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Shedd Aquarium Brings 'Underwater Beauty' to the Surface in New Special Exhibit Opening Memorial Day Weekend

Presented by Citadel, First-Look Access for Aquarium Members Begins May 18; General Public Opening Set for May 25

May 21, 2018

A photo of Shedd Aquarium's new special exhibit, Underwater Beauty, featuring a winding corridor of habitats interspersed with digital and physical interactive experiences.

The Patterns room in Underwater beauty has dark blue walls lined with flat and round habitats bulging from the walls. Five large, oblong panels hang from the ceiling, patterns cut into them reminiscent of the patterns found on corals and casting shadows on the floor as the overhead lighting passes through them.

White spotted jellies have a small, mushroom-like cap trailed by a large, flaring trumpet-like set of flaring tentacles, with smaller, round-tipped tentacles trailing after.

A moorish idol and scribbled angelfish swim in a rocky habitat, some of the larger fish compared to the orange anthias in the background.

A group of orange anthias swim together in a rocky habitat. Their sharply forked tails and bright orange fins and bodies make for a beautiful shimmering effect as they swim closely grouped together.

A closeup of the head of a ribbon eel. There is no visible transition between the eel's head and neck, though the bright yellow coloring around its mouth and eyes stands out against the light blue color of its body.

A young girl peers up into a focus habitat at eye level, getting eye to eye with small, darting fishes.

Sitting room with curved wall, water pattern projection and a round habitat with green plants and small fish in Underwater Beauty exhibit.

 A flower hat Jelly at Shedd Aquarium.

A weedy seadragon floating at Shedd Aquarium.

From boldly-colored fish and glowing coral to dreamlike patterns of wrasses and tangs, Shedd Aquarium’s new special exhibit, Underwater Beauty, aims to bring guests closer to the stunning and surprising spectrum of shapes, sizes, movement, patterns and colors that exist within the aquatic animal world to inspire the notion of “beauty worth saving.” Presented by Citadel, the exhibit opens to the public on Friday, May 25 with special members-only access beginning Friday, May 18. 

“At Shedd Aquarium, we peel back the water’s surface to connect millions of people to the discovery of animals and life beneath,” said Bridget Coughlin, PhD, President and CEO of Shedd Aquarium.  “This new special exhibit allows the opportunity to peek at the stunning and unexpected beauty of their world and to be enthralled by their remarkable biology and colorful adaptions. We want our guests to look nature in the eye and become inspired to take action – this is beauty worth saving.”

Featuring over a thousand animals representing 100 species from across the globe, including eels that ribbon, shrimp that can break glass, sea jellies that pulse and fish that swim backwards, Underwater Beauty welcomes guests with a water wall feature and showcases five distinct rooms, each designed to astound the senses and showcase a unique feature or form of beauty under the water’s surface. Several interactive stations also engage guests with colors, patterns and movement of the natural world.

“We are thrilled to help bring this spectacular ensemble of underwater animals to Chicago,” said Ken Griffin, Founder and CEO of Citadel. “Shedd is one of the city’s cultural crown jewels. We hope children and adults living in or visiting our great city will enjoy this wonderful new exhibit.”

Exhibit Room Features

Shimmer:  Guests embark on their underwater journey in this first room, encountering hundreds of shimmering Atlantic false herrings (Harengula clupeola) and becoming mesmerized by the school of fish moving together in unison. They will discover the mesmerizing and intriguing light that these fish reflect underwater.


In the next room, Underwater Beauty celebrates the bold, vibrant spectrum of colors in a living rainbow of fishes – from ruby reds to luscious green plants and the deep violet of purple sea urchins (Stronglyocentrotus purpuratus). Multicolored lights drench guests while displays interpret how colors benefit aquatic life: corals and rock flower anemones (Phymanthus crucifer) reflect beautiful colors of light to help them thrive and grow; and peacock mantis shrimps (Odontodactylus scyllarus) can see colors humans can’t observe.


Busy and beautiful patterns dominate some of the most charismatic and recognizable aquatic creatures. This high-energy space showcases some of the most incredible displays of pattern and the purposes they serve. Discover how black stripes allow animals like the zebra pleco (Hypancistrus zebra) to hide in plain sight, how an inky-black spot on the tail of the four-eyed butterflyfish(Chaetodon capistratus) can deceive predators, and how pattern changes on a Northern studfish (Fundulus catenatus) entice the perfect mate.


Some of the underwater world’s most breathtaking beauty comes from how animals move through the water. When sea nettles (Chrysaora fuscescens) hypnotize guests as they pulse through the water and other animals sway, dart and dance, guests might find themselves moving to the beat of the aquatic world, literally. With a one-of-a-kind interactive, this active and kinetic space invites guests to become part of the exhibit as they mimic and control the motions of animated animals, including an octopus, a cuttlefish, a barracuda or a seahorse.

Move You

Dozens of species – shimmering discus (Symphysodon aequifasciatus), rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani), gouramis (Trichogaster churna) and more – separate themselves into loose schools and highlight how freshwater lakes, rivers and streams also have beautiful, diverse aquatic life. “Move You” offers guests opportunities for quiet reflection with a relaxing soundscape.

“At Shedd Aquarium, beauty is weird, different, stunning, and unexpected,” said Tynnetta Qaiyim, Vice President of Planning and Design. “Underwater Beauty gives us a chance to celebrate the countless forms of beauty found in the aquatic world and become inspired to take action for beauty worth saving.”

Underwater Beauty is included in general admission.

General admission: Adult $39.95*, child (3-11) $29.95*
Chicago residents: Adult $19.95*, child (3-11) $14.95* A 50% discount!