National Aquarium Napier Hawkes Bay Attraction
Friend of the National Aquarium
Friend of the National Aquarium
Marine Parade, Napier
Phone: 06 834 1404
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Napier City Council Hawkes Bay Wine Country Qualmark Endorsement


The National Aquarium Oceanarium is 24 metres long, 30 metres wide and 3 metres deep. It contains 1.5 million litres of water, which is constantly exchanged with water being pumped from the ocean. There are 1,500 fish to be seen here. The underwater tunnel is 50m long.
Sharks are the most fearsome creatures on earth although more people are killed by elephants than sharks. Only five of the 375 shark species attack humans.
Sharks are cold blooded and mostly eat dolphins, seals and other fish. Adult sharks go through 7–12 sets of its hook-shaped teeth each year but have the ability to regrow new teeth. They have huge mouths and swallow food whole or in big pieces; they don’t chew. They tear at flesh or lash their bodies against victims, using the razor-sharp scales that cover their bodies. Sharks feed only a couple of times a week in the wild and are mostly solitary, living and hunting on their own.
Sharks have keenly developed senses and rely on all these working together. Twin nasal cavities are used to detect the direction of a smell. Small clusters of electrically sensitive receptor cells positioned under skin in the head are connected to pores on the skin’s surface. This electrosense enable sharks to “see” weak electrical fields generated by living organisms. A shark reaches full size when it is between 10–15 years old.
Sevengill Shark (Notorynchus cepedianus)
Size: up to 2m
A very primitive looking shark distinguished by having seven gill slits and a single dorsal fin. Its colour can be grey or brown on top with scattered black and white spots and a creamy-white belly. Generally a slow moving shark but is capable of short bursts of speed. The sevengill shark is the largest of the sharks at the National Aquarium.
School Shark (Galeorhinus galeus)
Size: 2–2.5m
Most common in New Zealand. The school shark has a distinctive tail.
Related to sharks in having a cartilaginous skeleton and no true bony support for body. Stingray are sedentary, bottom living creatures that spend most of their time resting on the sea floor. Poison is produced in the thick layer of darkly pigmented tissue in a groove on each side of the under surface of the sting. Give birth to live young, about 15 cm across in size.
Short-tailed Stringray (Dasyatis brevicaudata)
Size: Up to 1.8m across
Bulky in build, these rays are commonly found in shallow water. Short-tailed stingray are not aggressive or dangerous unless accidentally trodden on in which case the tail barb can inflict a painful injury.
Porcupine Fish (Allomycterus jaculiferus)
Size: to about 60cm
When attacked the porcupine fish swallows air or water and puffs itself out so becomes like a multipronged balloon. Its flesh is poisonous and it has very powerful jaws.
Leatherjacket (Parika scaber)
Size: up to 30 cm
Skin feels like sandpaper. Cheeky, inquisitive and will nip at divers with their pinking-shear type teeth. Will attack a sea urchin, gradually nipping away its hard spines. The leatherjacket feeds on small animals and algae scraped off rocks. Can swim forwards or backwards. Freshly caught specimens are distinctly yellow but this colour fades in captivity.
Conger eel (Conger verreauxi)
A marine conger eel can be distinguished from freshwater eels by its top jaw projecting beyond the lower jaw and its thick set body. The aquarium conger eels have
become quite friendly.
Terakihi (Nemndactylus macropterus)
Size: up to 30-60 cm
Distinguished by a dark saddle across its head. Lives in mud and sand, eats crabs, worms and shellfish, feeding mainly at dusk. Female is bigger and faster than the male. Males live to about 45 years. A common commercial species.
Terakihi flesh is firm, juicy and delicately flavoured.
Kahawai (Arripis trutta)
Size: 40–50 cm
Found in estuaries, bays, harbours and reefs. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as sea trout or salmon because of its appearance. Surface, schooling fish. Kahawai puts up a good fight when taken on a line. Juveniles are usually spotted with brown bars, adults are greenish blue above and silver below. Eats small schooling fish, crabs, worms. Kahawai will gorge itself and then stop eating until its stomach empties. Shy. May live up to 26 years.
King Fish (Seriola lalandi)
Legendary as a game fish. King fish is plentiful in Hawke Bay. Excellent eating. Can be distinguished from Kahawai by its yellow tail. Is a fast swimming fish and needs much water passing its gills, making it difficult to keep in captivity.
HapukaHapuka, also called Groper (Polyprion oxygeneios)
Highly valued deep water game fish. Likes rugged rocky areas. Hapuka is a gregarious, curious fish. Young are pelagic. Slow growing, taking 10–13 years to mature but live up to 60 years. Eats fish,squid, crustaceans.
Snapper (Pagrus auratus)
Size: up to 70cm
Snapper was once the most abundant commercial species on the coastal North Island fisheries but is being over-fished. Small snapper are known as Bream. Shy, flighty fish. All snapper begin life as females. During third and fourth year half change their sex, going through a hermaphroditic stage to become males. Highly intelligent and elusive. Can prize paua and mussels from rocks with sharp canine-like teeth and crush them. The scales of the snapper show growth rings but these can be affected by unusual weather conditions or variations in food supply. Live up to 63 years. Lovely eating fish.
Kelp Fish (Chironemus microlepis)
Size: to 55cm
Kelp fish browses among seaweed and kelp beds and rocky reefs. Distinctive circuit board pattern.
Spotty (Notolabrus celidotus)
Size: to 20cm
Member of the Wrasse family. Spotty are ften caught by children fishing from wharves.