Kelp fronds
Claire Fackler, CINMS, NOAA

Kelp Forest

Find yourself immersed in the majestic grandeur of a giant kelp forest, where algae called kelp grow as large as trees and support a tremendous variety of life. You may be amazed to discover that examples of this spectacular ecosystem, which in the wild can support over 800 species, exist right off the coast of Southern California. Peer into our 188,000-gallon tank and get a glimpse of what life is like in these special underwater forests. And find the species you see in the tanks on our new iPads to learn more about them!

Solve the mystery behind why kelp is found in some spots along the coast and not others. Meet some of the animals that live in the kelp forest—and divers that like to visit! Find out how choices you make daily can affect the kelp forest and the ocean in ways you may not even imagine. Also, discover why and how we need to protect this important ecosystem for generations to come. This exhibit features live animals such as leopard sharks, horn sharks, moray eels, a giant sea bass, rays, rockfish, spiny lobsters, anemones and more! 

Exhibit Highlights

  • Diversity on Display exhibit in the Kelp Forest

    Diversity on Display

    Examine a huge variety of living organisms up close in our tabletop aquariums, featuring animals like a giant anemone, sea stars, lobsters and more. The animals you'll find in this area are a fascinating sample of the amazing diversity found in a kelp forest.

  • Kelp fronds

    What is Kelp?

    Though it looks like a plant, kelp is an algae, and the giant kelp we have in our exhibit is only found in a few places in the entire world—including in Southern California! Find out what makes giant kelp special, and discover the ingredients it needs to survive—chilly, nutrient-rich water, sunlight and water motion. 

  • Kelp Forest Homes exhibit

    Look for Kelp Forest Homes

    One of the biggest reasons for all the diversity in a kelp forest is the variety of homes animals can find there. From the kelp forest canopy to the rocky ocean floor, search for the right homes for some kelp forest tenants, like urchins, bat stars, kelp crabs, kelp bass and two-spot octopuses.

  • Jellyfish from the Kelp Forest

    Who Eats Whom?

    In our kelp forest food web aquariums, see different kelp forest animals and what they eat. You'll find scavengers that eat dead animals, drifters like moon jellies that eat microscopic organisms called plankton, scrapers that scour algae off rocks and eat loose algae, and algae that turn sunlight into sugars.

  • Curators Lab in the Kelp Forest

    Curator's Lab

    See real people doing science! Experiments available for guest participation may include examining brine shrimp and moon jellies bred at the Science Center, learning about sustainable seafood practices and more. The Curator's Lab is open Monday-Friday 11am - 2pm and weekends and holidays from 11am - 5pm.