The Aquarium

Who are we ?

The “Aquarium des Lagons” is a public establishment operated jointly by the Government of New Caledonia, the Government of the Southern Province, and the City of Noumea.

Objectives and core activities of the joint establishment :

  • The management of the Aquarium
  • Participation in the promotion, protection and conservation of New Caledonia’s aquatic environments
  • Participation in the promotion of tourism in New Caledonia
  • Participation in developing educational and scientific research programmes
  • Contributions to the distribution of scientific information relating to aquatic flora and fauna
  • Development of relationships with other French, European or international institutions engaged in similar activities.


Mission 1 : Introducing the New Caledonian ecosystems to the public

Our core mission is to help the public discover the beauty and diversity of New Caledonia’s aquatic ecosystems.

The tour of the Aquarium is a journey through the different aquatic ecosystems of New Caledonia. The visitor enters a watery world, where he is first offered displays of lake and river habitats. Then, following the flow of the water, he arrives at the mangrove forest, discovers the lagoon, admires the reef-building corals, and the visit ends on a dive down to the ocean depths.

Mission 2 : Awareness raising

The Aquarium is a valuable educational tool for discovering, observing and understanding marine environments.

Beyond presenting the various ecosystems, the Aquarium aims at developing an awareness of their fragility, and of the need to preserve them.

The transmission of knowledge and awareness is accomplished through tours, guided or not, of the displays, and through a rich programme of weekly activities, evening presentations and lectures, and temporary exhibits. Through a network of volunteers, the Aquarium is present in the country at large: information booths on turtles in the various country fairs, ecological tours and mini-lectures for tourists on the lagoon islands, etc.

Mission 3 : Research

Scientific research has been an important facet of the Aquarium’s activities from the beginning. It was first brought to the public attention when our founder, Dr René Catala, presented the newly discovered fluorescent corals, and through the publication of a number of learned articles. It has made the Aquarium world famous.

Over the years, much research was conducted, and many partnerships were established with other institutions.

The basic aim is to contribute to a better understanding of New Caledonia’s aquatic environments, while, by doing so and sharing the knowledge with the general public, help foster a culture of respect and intelligent management.

From the beginning, the Aquarium has operated an animal clinic, particularly concerning ill or injured sea turtles, suitably equipped for the purpose.

Our jobs

The Aquarium has a staff of 22, representing many different specialties,
but sharing a common passion for the marine environment and its denizens.

The upkeep of the tanks and basins and the daily care required to keep the resident specimens healthy requires the presence of 7 technicians, who must be ready to respond to a call 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
Their mission is to ensure the quality of the displays, manage and diversify the resident species, make sure they are kept healthy, while monitoring reproduction.
All these technicians must have a variety of talents :

  • Biologists : they observe the behaviour of the animals, see to their feeding and ensure their wellbeing.
  • Divers : they maintain the display tanks, and collect new specimens from the lagoon and ocean.
  • Lab technicians : they monitor the physical and chemical parameters of the water in the tanks (temperature, salinity, pH, etc.)
  • Veterinary care-givers : they deal with disease among the resident animals, and particularly the sea turtles found injured in the lagoon and brought to the Aquarium.
  • Cooks : they prepare food specifically designed for the needs of each species, using fresh or frozen material (fish, crustaceans, molluscs, vegetables) to be distributed according to species-specific schedules.
  • Plumbers : an Aquarium is a vast maze of pipes, valves, pumps, etc.
  • And artists concerned with designing and implementing realistic and esthetically pleasing display environments.

During the visiting hours, 3 members of the staff are on hand to advise and explain.
They contribute to making the visitor’s experiencce more entertaining and educational, whether during regular visits or on the occasion of special events (eg: World Oceans Day).
They are also responsible for setting up the temporary exhibitions.

One of their most important role is to oversee group visits by school children : every year, nearly 9000 school children are taken to the Aquarium for guided tours and workshops ( lien : en savoir plus sur les visites scolaires – non traduit )

Our guidess are also responsible for developping the teaching support material proposed by the Aquarium: interactive quizes, posters, educational games

Scientific research has always been one of the Aquarium’s missions.

The research team comprises a PhD in marine biology and a technical assistant. They also participate in the educational programmes proposed by the Aquarium.

They participate actively in the furthering of knowledge of the aquatic environments of New Caledonia, and in the transfer of this knowledge to the public with a view of improving their conservation.

Their research is conducted either in-house or in partnership with local research establishments. They contribute to the developofment experimental protocols and data processing, participate in field collection, and publish scientific articles.

Theirs is an essential but thankless task: the public is not even aware of their existence.
Yet they are very much on the job throughout the facility, always with something to maintain of fix (pumps, filters, aeration, lighting, air-conditioning, etc.), from the entrance hall to the projection auditorium, and even in the gardens.
They also participate in any new improvements or extensions to the Aquarium, providing field savvy and skills, whether as plumbers, carpenters or electricians.

Our hostesses add greatly to the pleasure of a visit to the Aquarium. Two of them work at the ticket counter, welcoming the visitors, and two operate the shop. Often, they are the only staff members that the public gets to meet.
Not only do they have an indispensable role in the good running of the establishment, they are the face of the Aquarium: their ready smile and efficiency will leave the visitor with a pleasant memory.

They are the Director, two secretaries/accountants and one in charge of communication (part-time). They ensure the smooth running of the establishment.
The administration staff prepare the purchase orders, the invoices, the payroll, they handle the suppliers, they communicate with the other institutions and the media. They define the annual objectives and establish relationships with international institutions. They make sure the Aquarium endures, is widely known and widens its scope of activities.

Behind the scene

While the public is only aware of the various exhibition areas, much goes on ‘backstage’.

In 2011, on the site of the original Aquarium, a facility was erected to house a variety of technical functions, called ” Plateforme Humide Expérimentale” (PHE).

The PHE receives new live specimens, keeps them in quarantine, and makes sure they are stabilized before introduction into the Aquarium.
The PHE also shelters a number of research projects.

The 400 m2 building contains the technicians’ office, staff locker room, mechanical and electrical rooms, and a large multi-purpose area which can be configured to suit the different species of new animals and their handling. It also houses laboratories for the study of the reproduction process of various marine animals (jellyfish, corals, fish, echinoderms, molluscs). A 200 m2 outdoor area has also been set up outside the building for ponds used for coral reproduction and care of sea turtles.

  • – The building is divided into 4 areas :
  • – an office for the Aquarium technicians
  • – an area, containing 3 enclosed spaces, reserved for the care and acclimatation of new arrivals, including its own waste-disposal system
  • – a large central modular space where various environments can be simulated
  • – staff locker rooms, compressor room for filling dive tanks, general field equipment storage.

An outdoor area has also been set up for ponds used for coral reproduction and care of sea turtles.

This building serves several functions :

  • 1/ Quarantine : to prevent contamination, all live specimens collected in the wild must spend some time in quarantine before being introduced into the Aquarium displays.
  • 2/ Acclimation : once collected, the animals undergo an acclimation phase, meant to ease adaptation to life in captivity and a slightly different diet.
  • 3/ Housing for spare specimens : specimens on display may die and need to be replaced, and larger specimen need a long period of acclimation before transfer to the public displays.
  • 4/ Veterinary care : unfortunately, some animals may become ill. They are then removed from the public displays and brought to the PHE for care. The Aquarium frequently works in collaboration with Noumea’s vets. The facility also handles sea turtles found ill or wounded in the wild (on average ten per year). Once cured, these are released in the lagoon.
  • 5/ Reproduction, research : in order to minimize its ecological footprint, the Aquarium carries out research on the reproduction of various animals (jellyfish, corals, fish, echinoderms, molluscs). The Aquarium scientific team also participates in a variety of marine research programmes together with New Caledonia’s research establishments.