Explore with Kids: MSUM Oceanarium

MSUM Oceanarium
Photo Credit: Anthea Varriano-Joregenson

Do you or someone you know love learning about marine life? Then a tour at MSUM’s Oceanarium is a must-do!

The MSUM Oceanarium is an investigative marine laboratory where college students and researchers study aquatic life and habitats. And what’s really cool about the Oceanarium is it’s also open to the public for scheduled tours! They also have open hours on Saturdays from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. for just $5 a person.

Visitors to the Oceanarium will find numerous aquatic species, interactive exhibits, and recreations of various oceanic habitats.

Aquatic Life

The Oceanarium is home to more than 50 species of marine life, such as horseshoe crabs, stingrays, jellyfish, and seahorses.

Oceanarium Seahorse

We particularly enjoyed watching the stingrays. One was exceptionally sociable during our visit, and repeatedly circled the tank to wave a friendly fin at visitors.

The lab hopes to obtain other specimens, such as octopus and pufferfish. To achieve these goals, the laboratory relies on donations from the public. To learn more about how you can help, visit the MSUM Oceanarium donation page.

Interactive Exhibits

MSUM Oceanarium provides several interactive exhibits to teach visitors about ocean habitats and current ecological issues.

To draw attention to the dangers of ocean pollution, visitors can sort through items that should be in the oceans, and others that should not be.

Adjacent to this activity is Rubbish Reef.  This aquarium is made of equal parts rocky reef and garbage and poses the question – which side does the marine life seem to prefer?

Oceanarium Rubbish Reef

My toddler was very excited to find Nemo’s look-alike in the reef!

One of our favorite exhibits was the tide pools. By using a tide pool surge tank, water is pumped into the constructed tide pool habitats to demonstrate how water in natural tide pools is refreshed and replenished by ocean waves.

Clownfish in Rubbish Reef

The tide pools experience high and low tide twice a day, as well as frequent wave surges during low tide.

Some of the species you will find in the tide pools include fish, crabs, sea stars, and clams.

Another great ecological representation is Mangrove Island. This exhibit mimics the natural conditions that mangroves have adapted to survive in, and in turn demonstrates how they provide critical habitats for land and sea wildlife.

Oceanarium Mangrove Island

Visiting the Oceanarium

The Oceanarium is located at Langseth Hall on the MSUM campus. It is accessible by elevator.

Visitors should park in the G3 or G4 lot located west of Langseth Hall and there is no cost for parking.

The facility is currently available for scheduled tours on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and has open hours on Saturdays from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. for $5 per person.

Tours are conducted by MSUM undergraduates and are held for a variety of groups, including K-12 students, youth groups, and the general public. Tour groups of at least 12 people are preferred (tour groups smaller than 12 will be charged the minimum tour price of $60 per tour). Also, tour groups may not exceed 49 people.

Scheduled tours are 50 minutes long. And for groups of 12 or more, the cost is $5 per person, excluding chaperones, teachers, or caretakers accompanying groups. Cash or check payments are preferred. If a guest must use a card or purchase order, arrangements should be made with the MSUM Business Services Department prior to the tour.

Tours must be scheduled two weeks in advance to ensure staffing is available.

To schedule a group tour, you can fill out a form at Visit the Oceanarium!

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Anthea Varriano
Anthea is a Fargo native who graduated from NDSU in 2012 with degrees in Anthropology and Psychology. She loves the Fargo community and the opportunities available for her family here (but not so much the snow). Anthea is a self-described “Disney Nerd.” The movies, music, and theme parks – she loves it all! Anthea channels her love for Disney into her blog, Inspiring Magical Memories, where she shares Disney-themed recipes and crafts, Disney dinner parties, and trip planning articles for the Disney Parks. She and her husband have two daughters and a son: Aiden (2008), Gemma (2016), and Ezra (2021). With ages ranging from infant to teenager, Anthea keeps herself busy just trying to keep up with her kiddos! In the past 14 years, Anthea has seen the rules of parenting change and evolve, which just goes to show we are always learning and adapting. No parent is perfect! Which is why Anthea feels it is important for moms to have a network where they can support each other and learn from one another. Besides writing, Anthea enjoys cooking, crafting, working out, and attending community events with her family.


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