The 20 slick, mouse-gray blacktip reef sharks zipping through the waters at the National Aquarium look nothing like the bloodthirsty beasts of “Sharknado.” Two years old and only slightly longer than two feet, they’re toddlers — not much bigger than fat house cats.
Among sharks, these former residents of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef region are distinctive for their inky-tipped fins and tails. Last week, they arrived at their new home to play a unique role, one they will grow into over time: They are the stars of the Baltimore aquarium’s effort to re-create indoors an Indo-Pacific coral reef teeming with life.
In the new, permanent, $12.5 million, 13,500-square-foot Blacktip Reef exhibition, visitors will be able to watch these 11 female and nine male sharks mature. Over time, each will grow to as long as five feet. They will mate and, perhaps, bear pups of their own. Visitors can watch from high above, from just a few feet away from the water and through underwater windows as the sharks race dizzyingly close to more than 600 other fish. Cobalt-blue surgeonfish and dazzling diamondfish, among others, will glide around lumbering rays and become one with a “reef” that is, in fact, made of 3,000 pieces of painstakingly crafted man-made coral.