A quartet of purple sea urchins in the Discover Tidepool touch tank.

Answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about the Discovery Tidepool. 

Tidepool 101

Are visitors allowed to pick up the animals?
We invite visitors to gently touch the starfish, sea urchins, and other animals in this tank, but to please refrain from picking them up. Docents or biologists are happy to assist you. 

Does it bother the animals to be touched?
Most tide pool inhabitants, including the starfish and sea urchins you'll see here, have evolved to survive the force of pounding waves and turbulent ocean currents on a regular basis. The effect of light human touch hardly compares.

Can toddlers visit the Discovery Tidepool?
Absolutely—the Discovery Tidepool is great for visitors of all ages. 

Where did the Academy find these animals?
Close to home. Creatures in the Discovery Tidepool were collected (by permit) from tide pools along the California coastline.

Where does the water in the tank come from?
We create all of the saltwater in our aquarium tanks ourselves, a process that helps us protect Academy animals from contaminants, pollution, and waterborne diseases that are sometimes present in natural seawater.

Why is the water so cold?
Our tide pool recreates many of the conditions of natural tide pools found along the northern California coast, where waters are chilly, thanks to currents that bring colder waters from great depths and northern latitudes. 

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Experience the Wonder

Visit an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum—all under one living roof.

Cal Coast Educators' Guides

Dive even deeper into our California Coast exhibit with a series of educators' guides designed for Pre-K through 12th grade. 

Discovery Tidepool Location

Find us at toward the rear of the California Coast exhibit, right next to Animal Attraction