IF YOU’VE EVER OWNED A PERSONAL AQUARIUM, you know how hard it can be to maintain. You’ve got to keep the water clean, you’ve got to make sure it has the right level of saltiness, and you need to ensure the fish you put into it won’t eat each other. I once made the mistake of putting a goldfish into a tank with a Siamese fighting fish (also known as a betta). When I woke up the next morning, the betta was gone, and my goldfish was incredibly fat. Even if the pet-store clerk hadn’t led me astray, it was not the outcome I would have expected for that fight.

So naturally, it’s infinitely more impressive when major aquariums put together million-gallon tanks with thousands of fish and hundreds of different species. It’s a feat of planning we typically don’t recognize, beyond looking at the fish and saying, “Oooh, that’s pretty!”

And with our oceans in the state they are, these aquariums are often hubs for research and conservation projects, spearheading the movements to save our seas — while others may be mistreating their animals or obtaining them through sketchy means. The list below includes both.

1

Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California does a huge amount of marine research, and was the first aquarium to successfully keep a great white shark in captivity. It's also one of the few places where you can see an ocean sunfish.
Photo: Angelo De Santis

2

Hotel Atlantis Dubai

The Hotel Atlantis in Dubai offers these "underwater" rooms built right up against huge aquarium tanks. It’s a cool view, but I’d be terrified of it breaking in my sleep...
Photo: Werner Bayer

3

Okinawa Churaumi

The Kuroshio Sea is the main tank at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan. It held the record of the world’s largest tank when it opened in 2002, but has since been surpassed by the Georgia Aquarium.
Photo: Sonotoki

4

New England Aquarium

The New England Aquarium in Boston also doubles as a whale watching spot because of its location near the harbor, and many of its staff participate in marine animal rescue operations.
Photo: Theresa

5

L'Oceanogràfic

L'Oceanogràfic is in Valencia, Spain, and has a total capacity of up to 11 million gallons of water in all of its tanks. It also happens to be a particularly beautiful building.
Photo: Nickolay Pirogov

6

Aquarium of Genoa

The Aquarium of Genoa is the largest in Italy, and has a number of different marine habitats, including North Atlantic, Caribbean, and Ligurian Sea tanks.
Photo: Castgen

7

Chimelong Ocean Kingdom

The Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Hengqin, China, broke five world records—including largest aquarium—when it opened earlier this year. Unfortunately, it’s come under a lot of criticism for its methods of obtaining the animals.
Photo: Sina

8

Deep Aquarium

The Deep is an aquarium in Hull, England, that is the world’s only “submarium.” It also functions as a charity and a research center, and happens to be pretty beautiful from the outside as well.
Photo: Adrian S Jones

9

AquaDom Berlin

The AquaDom is a cylindrical, 25-meter-tall aquarium in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Berlin. Inside the cylinder is a glass elevator.
Photo: Jamie Mead

10

SeaWorld

Probably the most (in)famous aquarium in the world, SeaWorld is known for its shows with marine animals, particularly killer whales. It came under a ton of criticism for its treatment of those whales recently, thanks to the documentary Blackfish.
Photo: Chris A

11

Hilton Maldives Undersea Restaurant

The Hilton in the Maldives has both underwater suites and an underwater restaurant. The Maldives is actually at risk of sinking into the sea, due to climate change and sea level rise, so this might be the way the whole country is going.
Photo: Christian Jensen

12

uShaka Marine World

The uShaka Marine World in Durban, South Africa, is the largest aquarium on the African continent. It’s also connected to a water park and has SeaWorld-like shows.
Photo: Cat

13

The aquarium bed

Okay, so it’s not the largest by any measure, but I would’ve killed as a five-year-old to fall asleep with fish swimming over my head. And the sound of the aquarium must be insanely soothing.
Photo: Wicker Paradise

14

TurkuaZoo

The TurkuaZoo in Istanbul, Turkey, has the largest aquarium in Europe. It also allows visitors to go diving with sharks.
Photo: Pixage

15

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium has been in Chicago since 1930, and for a long time it was the largest aquarium in the world, though it has since been dwarfed by a lot of these other spots.
Photo: Smart Destinations

16

Georgia Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta was the largest in the world when it opened in 2005, and it remains the largest in the United States. It's home to 500 different species and holds a total of 10 million gallons of water.
Photo: Melvin "Buddy" Baker

17

Newport Aquarium

The Newport Aquarium in Northern Kentucky is probably best known for its shark petting exhibits.
Photo: Ken Colwell

18

Dubai Mall Aquarium

The largest mall in the world also has one of the largest aquariums in the world—the Dubai Mall Aquarium has a single tank with 33,000 animals in it.
Photo: Salis

19

Shanghai Ocean Aquarium

The Shanghai Ocean Aquarium has one of the longest underwater tunnels in the world, and is located right next to the Oriental Pearl skyscraper in Pudong.
Photo: Aapo Haapanen

20

National Aquarium Baltimore

The beautiful National Aquarium in Baltimore Harbor is technically partnered with the National Aquarium in Washington DC, but Baltimore’s aquarium is significantly cooler. It’s home to 750 species and can hold 2.2 million gallons of water.
Photo: Jeff Kubina

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