The Dennis Kelly Aquarium is remarkably diverse and contains saltwater, freshwaterand brackish tanks to display organisms from different ecosystems and teach students the challenges associated with each system. Within these broad categories, there are examples of kelp forests, rocky reefs, sandy bottoms, coral reefs, open ocean species, mangrove estuaries, freshwater planted environments and an aquaponics system. Students gain experience caring for and learning about species from both warm-water tropical and cool-water temperate ecosystems, vertebrates and invertebrates, pelagic and benthic, large and small, common and exotic.
While the aquarium is overseen by OCC marine science faculty members, it is completely student run. Aquarium students and managers are enrolled in classes at OCC and are responsible for all maintenance, species planning and husbandry decisions in the facility. They have the opportunity to influence the types of systems and species displayed, new projects that are undertaken and the development of local collaborations to increase aquarium diversity.
Past students have started their own businesses in aquarium design and maintenance, participated in research at facilities like the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, and worked as aquarists at major aquariums like the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
If you are interested in learning more about the Dennis Kelly Aquarium, taking the marine aquarium science course, making a donation, or would like to schedule a tour of the facilities, please contact Robert Ellis at