The first exhibit you encounter as you enter the Aquarium, the immersive Nearshore Experience portrays life at the shoreline, where sand dunes and mangroves meet shallow saltwater habitats. The Nearshore Experience creates an introduction to the gradual deepening of waters as you tour the building.

As you enter the Nearshore Experience, you will be surrounded by the sights and sounds of the shoreline. You will walk directly beneath and nearby shorebirds, such as the roseate spoonbill and white ibis. A variety of species will fill the area, both beneath and above the water – from cownose stingrays, flounder and spotted sea trout, to avian species like the roseate spoonbill, green heron, and white ibis. American alligators and hermit crabs are just a few of the other creatures that will amaze and entertain you as you make your way through the exhibit.



The Texas coast is lined by a series of barrier islands that protect the sensitive estuarine waters, in the bays where river and Gulf water mix. The crashing waves on the Gulf side of the island are home to many game fishes that grow up in the estuaries and then move through passes to the open Gulf of Mexico. Shorebirds spear, scoop, or pluck fishes, crustaceans, shellfish, and insects from their hiding places in the shallow waters and sands of the barrier island environment.

When we understand these nearshore environments and their importance, we can work together to conserve their beauty and interest for future generations. Who owns the Texas nearshore? We all do! Do your part to conserve it and keep it clean. People and wildlife need help from everyone!

It is important to preserve healthy marshes and estuaries. Two-thirds of all marine animals spend part of their lives here or are dependent upon species that do. Not only do we rely upon the wealth of fishes, shellfish, and water fowl supported by these habitats, but marsh plants help trap and cycle many pollutants that would otherwise foul the sea.

Grassflats help stabilize the physical environment and support a large population of juvenile marine life. Several species of shrimp and crabs are common, as are several important game fishes. Many of these animals spend only the juvenile stages of their lives in the sea-grass beds before moving offshore. This habitat’s continued health and productivity depends upon maintaining the delicate balance of salinity, water clarity, and water depth.

Species of Fish

Nearshore   Back Bay Marsh
Atlantic Bumper Atlantic Spotted Scorpionfish Alligator Gar
Atlantic Croaker Black Drum American Alligator
Atlantic Needlefish Brotula Bluegill
Bighead Searobin Common Snook Rio Grande Cichlid
Blackedged Moray Hardhead Catfish Largemouth Bass
Gulf Toadfish Lane Snapper  
Ladyfish Pigfish  
Longnose Killifish Red Drum  
Ocellated Flounder Sheepshead  
Pigfish Southern Stingray  
Silver Mojarra Spottail Pinfish  
Southern Kingcroaker Spotted Seatrout  
Southern Stingray Southern Flounder  
Spotted Seatrout Yellow Spot Croaker  
Striped Mullet    

Species of Birds

Green Heron Roseate Spoonbill
Ruddy Duck White Ibis