Hawaii: A trip to the Waikiki Aquarium (and lunch)

June 26, 2019 • 1:45 pm

Two days ago we went to the Waikiki Aquarium, which had mixed reviews on the Internet for being small. But I found it fascinating. And yes, it’s not a Sea World with trained mammals (ecch!), but it specializes in tropical reef fish, and that it does very well. It also has a great series of jellyfish tanks.

Here are pictures of some of the inhabitants. Since it was dark, the shutter speed was slow and some of the snaps are out of focus. So be it.

The Aquarium specializes in raising corals (which it must for a realistic coral-reef display), and outside it has an exhibit about how it raises and grows these cnidarians (they’re related to jellyfish). Here are some of the lovely corals on exhibit. I know only a few of their names.

Hammer coral:

Bubble coral:

Unknown (to me) coral:

Octopus coral (also called Frogspawn coral):

Leaf coral, also called “potato-chip” coral (Agaracia agaricites, I think):

There was a lone Nautilus in a tank—the first I’d ever seen. I took a video. What a magnificent animal! It floated in one corner and waved its tentacles, so I didn’t see it swim. The family Nautilidae comprises six species, and I don’t know which one this is.

Here’s a great mimic, a Leaf scorpionfish (Taeniaotus triacanthus). Wikipedia reports on its mode of crypsis:

The leaf scorpionfish resembles a dead leaf lying in the water. To enhance this camouflage, it even makes gentle sideways movements in its pelvic area which make it resemble a drifting inert object. It is an ambush predator, waiting until suitable prey, a small fish or shrimp, approaches. Then it slowly moves with its pectoral fins close to the victim. When the leaf scorpionfish is close enough, the prey is sucked in by a sudden opening of its mouth. It eats small crustaceans, fishes, and larvae.

Here’s a video (not mine) showing its rocking, leaflike movements. You can get to the video by clicking on the blue box below:

I think this is a banded coral shrimp (Stenopus hispidus), which Wikipedia describes as a “shrimplike decapod crustacean”. Is it a shrimp? I don’t know, for a quick trawl of the Internet seems to show that “shrimp” is a grab-bag name that may not be monophyletic.

It’s hard to photograph the many tanks containing diverse fish and corals, for the fish are always moving and the shutter speed is about 1/30 of a second. Here’s what they look like, though, and what I hope to see when I snorkel on the Big Island next week.

Is this Nemo? Nemo is a “false anemonefish”, but this is likely Amphiprion percula, the orange clownfish and a true anemonefish, which gains protection, as shown here, by hiding amidst the tentacles of stinging anemones.

Devil scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis diabolus), front, and green lionfish (Pterois sphex), rear:

Look this thing! No wonder it’s called the devil scorpionfish!

A jellyfish (species unknown):

Two videos of the jellyfish tanks in the aquarium. I’ve mislabeled these videos as from the “Honolulu Aquarium,” but they’re really from the Waikiki Aquarium:

A little girl and her relative look at each other:

And a post-activity lunch (yesterday) at Gina’s Bar-B-Que near Waikiki:

Gina’s is a kind of Korean plate-lunch place. For about $12 you get a Korean-style meat (like kalbi shortribs), three scoops of rice, and a choice of four Korean-style side dishes, including kimchi and picked daikon. Here are your selections:

My plate: Gina’s #1 special, with kalbi, barbecued beef, barbecued chicken, three scoops of rice, and daikon, a green (watercress), noodles, and, to be Hawaiian, macaroni salad. This was terrific, as the many five-star reviews attest: the quality of the meat and its flavoring was superb, and the sides were great as well. They have a huge cooler of ice water to wash it down.

I vote this one of the three best plate lunches of Oahu, along with the Waiahole Poi Factory and the Highway Inn (Waipahu branch only). As with all the good places, Ginas is an unprepossessing place that you’d overlook if you just judged by the storefront.


24 thoughts on “Hawaii: A trip to the Waikiki Aquarium (and lunch)

  1. These camouflage and blitz suck-up leaf scorpionfishes are convergent with the frog fishes.
    There are others, such as the stonefish and uranoscopes and the monkfish, which all use more or less use the same technique. It must be a successful way of life.

  2. Jerry – Did the Waikiki Aquarium still have their giant clam? When I was there in the early 2000s, they had a huge live clam on display – very impressive!

    I hope you will be able to get to Kaua’i to see the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Some very impressive plants/trees (they filmed part of Jurassic Park there) and some great conservation work on endangered Hawai’ian plants.

    And the cliffs of Moloka’i are super impressive. Highest in the world from top to sea.

    I’m enjoying your photos and food descriptions. When I worked there, I ate at a Filipino restaurant near Pearl Harbor that was out of this world, especially for breakfast. Can’t remember it’s name though, sorry!

    Have a great time there!! Send more photos!!

    1. Hi Howie,

      I didn’t see any giant clam, sadly. We won’t get to Kaua’i or Moloka’i this time. And I don’t know of any Filipino restaurants here. More photos will, of course, be forthcoming, as I’ll be here ten more days, with a week on the Big Island.

    1. And it’s rare to have a nautilus in captivity like that so it’s a rare treat to see one.

      1. Second that. I’ve seen quite a few Aquaria, but never a living Nautilus. Do they survive in well in captivity?

        1. “Aquaria”

          Google says:

          Latin : aquarius
          + English :vivarium

          … and it only appeared as a word around 1850, so I think the plural would simply be “aquariums” – but I’m not a language expert.

          1. Both are correct. Typically when you borrow a Latin word into English, it takes on English instead of Latin plurals but the Latin plural is also acceptable – it’s really just preference. For example: addendum/addenda vs addendums or the confusing data (plural) vs datum. Or appendix/appendices – that works out but it’s a Latin plural.

            So you can say aquaria or aquarium.

          2. I forgot to look til now : vivarium is, as I suspected, Latin. So now I’d argue “aquaria” is best – but more to the point, not pedantic….. isn’t that the real debate? Whether it is pedantic to use endings like, in this case, “-ia”? Because when is it ever a problem to use, in this case, “-s”?

            I’m not sure why Google has “vivarium” as an English word in the first place.

          3. I think it’s a word adopted into English from Latin and those can take an English ending because we are, after all, speaking English. It’s really a matter of preference….you see these things in guide books at organizations. it’s why some people consider “data” singular and some plural. Plural is technically correct but singular is accepted.

          4. On second thought

            Correct vs. incorrect is one thing. e.g. “octopi” (absolutely wrong).

            Pedantic is another : “octopodes” – that’s just ridiculous.

            … of course I assume “Aquaria” is correct, with the declination and all that.

          5. I enjoy being corrected when saying octopuses, because then I get to be even MORE pedantic by explaining that it is not “octopi” but “octopodes” because it’s Greek and that particular not forms it’s plural from the genitive and the “es” ending for the nominative plural. Yes, then they just stop talking to me altogether and I get to say “octopuses” in piece as I should.

  3. These are great Jerry. Thanks!!!
    The second coral is a SPS “small polyp stony” coral order Scleractinia. Looks like a stag horn…there’s so many with arbitrary names. When I raised corals, they were my favorite; so enjoyable observing their growth patterns. They are the most significant corals that build reefs as well.

  4. I was there last summer and also enjoyed it immensely! Have fun at the Big Island, it is the only of the main islands I’ve yet to see. The snorkeling around Maui and Lanai is also fantastic, particularly near the less inhabited areas.

  5. Thanks for sharing your travels, Prof. Your enthusiasm for all you see, eat and visit is a treat to me being stuck at work. Soon, though, soon.

  6. I do like these food posts, but I am sort of astounded by the number of places where the food is served on disposable/polystyrene plates; is this very common over the pond (single use plastic being a big topic)

  7. Nice pictures! I also found Sea World disgusting because it takes commercial advantage of animals like intelligent cetaceans for profit. It should be shut down. I don’t think they do anything to support the survival of species as do many other zoos and large aquariums.

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