South Carolina Aquarium: Ideal Time to Go + 10,000 Amazing Animals to See

Jellyfish with neon glow light effect
© VictorHuang/iStock via Getty Images

Written by Debra Pamplin

Updated: February 6, 2024

Share on:


Both visitors and locals enjoy trips to the South Carolina Aquarium, which is open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. More than 10,000 animals thrive throughout 12 unique exhibits and a few touch tanks. While most are fish or water mammals, be on the lookout for feathered friends as well.

What Do River Otters Eat?

The South Carolina Aquarium has two river otters, Charlie and Beau.


When to Visit

The aquarium is only closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. certain times and days will provide a smoother, less-crowded experience. Summertime is always busier compared to the off-season. If visiting during one of the summer months, arrive early to beat the crowds. Alternatively, arriving closer to the entrance cut-off time of 3:30 also helps ensure fewer people.

Spring-breakers, winter snowbirds, and fall travelers will likely benefit from smaller crowds. Children will be less likely to attend during these periods, especially on weekdays.


At the South Carolina Aquarium, a plethora of animal species are at your fingertips, with a few located in touch tanks. The aquarium is broken down into 12 specific exhibits, each housing different animals.

Mountain Forest

Visitors to the Moutain Forest exhibit can view a bald eagle named Liberty, alongside a fish-filled stream and waterfalls. Be sure to look for the adorable river otters, Charlie and Beau. The pair can be seen swimming, napping, or snacking at various times throughout the day.


The Kelp bass (Paralabrax clathratus) is a benthopelagic species is found in or near kelp beds. Is endemic to the Eastern Pacific, and is found from central California to the tip of Baja California.

This aquarium is home to not only bass but suckerfish and crappies as well.

©Gilberto Villasana/iStock via Getty Images

This exhibit brings the foothills to life, replicating the natural environment of bass, crappies, and suckers.

Coastal Plain

A curious endangered Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) walks on the grass in Florida.

A curious endangered gopher


lives at the South Carolina Aquarium.

©Brian Lasenby/

This exhibit within the South Carolina Aquarium replicates a swamp at sunset! Spot gopher tortoises, longnose gars, and rattlesnakes.

Saltmarsh Aviary

Birds are prominent throughout the aquarium, including spoonbills.

©Lee Karney – Public Domain

One of the outside exhibits, the Saltmarsh Aviary, overlooks Charleston Harbor. A 6,000-gallon tank houses burrfish and diamondback terrapins. Additionally, visitors can view roseate spoonbills and gulls.

Touch Tank

Visitors of all ages will enjoy interacting with hermit crabs, sea urchins, whelk, Atlantic stingrays, and horseshoe crabs at the touch tank. Staff or volunteers will answer any questions guests might have.


This exhibit displays fish living along the city’s shoreline. See the local camouflaging southern flounder and the aquarium’s goliath grouper, Mel.


As the country’s deepest tank, the Great Ocean Tank is two stories tall and holds 385,000 gallons of water. Stand just inches away from sharks and view the aquarium’s 220-pound loggerhead sea turtle named Caretta.

Carolina Seas

This 15,000-gallon tank is the first exhibit guests will see after entering the aquarium. It houses a wide variety of colorful fish from various reef habitats off the Eastcoast.

The Shallows

This impressive


fish shows its mouth to the camera.


Guests at The Shallows can interact with gliding cownose stingrays. Between 10:15 a.m. and 4 p.m., visitors can purchase a $5 feeding voucher to give them treats.

Backyard Habitat

The education gardens feature native plants, along with animal shelters. Visitors can learn how to create a garden that attracts butterflies, native birds, and insects.


More than 10,000 animals live throughout the South Carolina Aquarium.


An American kestrel named Phoenix lives at the aquarium. She moved in after an accident with a live electrical wire in 2009 that caused her to lose a talon and a toe. The aquarium has been her home ever since.

The barn owl is one type of owl you can spot in Tennessee.

Barn owls reside within the aquarium, serving as a reminder that visitors can spot more than just fish.

© Henk Bogaard/ via Getty Images

Other birds calling the aquarium home include northern pintails, a bald eagle named Liberty, and a barn owl named Pippen, named after the Chicago Bulls basketball star, Scotty Pippen.


As mentioned, bass, crappies, and suckers reside within the Piedmont exhibit. Additionally, there are Atlantic spadefish, Atlantic tripletail, barracudas, cownose rays, and green moray eels. Grey triggerfish, nurse sharks, lionfish, and porcupine fish round out the species of fish available to view at the South Carolina Aquarium.

Other Sea Animals

River otters, common octopus, Caribbean spiny lobsters, chain dogfish, and green sea turtles reside here. Further, visitors can view horseshoe crabs, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, loggerhead sea turtles, purple sea urchins, and moon jelly.

Visitors can also find yellow rat snakes, as well as sergeant majors, sea stars, robust red horsefish, a gopher tortoise, eastern indigo snakes, diamondback terrapin, and the slipper lobster.

Several other areas teach children to appreciate the wildlife found on the coast of South Carolina.

Share this post on:
About the Author

Debra Pamplin is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on wildlife sanctuaries and travel. Debra has been a writer and researcher for over a decade and is currently earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism. A resident of coastal Georgia, Debra enjoys time at the beach, and taking care of her three cats, dog and rabbit.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.