The Belle Isle Aquarium will be debuting its new exhibit, the Mbu puffer fish from the Congo River Basin, with a Congo-themed celebration and fundraiser as part of its Deep Dive series.

The Belle Isle Aquarium will be debuting its new exhibit, the Mbu puffer fish from the Congo River Basin, with a Congo-themed celebration and fundraiser as part of its Deep Dive series.

Photo provided by Danielle Jackson


Belle Isle Aquarium to unveil new puffer exhibit at fundraiser

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published August 3, 2018

 Fundraisers, such as the Deep Dive series, keep the Belle Isle Aquarium’s admission free for the public.

Fundraisers, such as the Deep Dive series, keep the Belle Isle Aquarium’s admission free for the public.

Photo provided by Danielle Jackson

DETROIT — The Belle Isle Conservancy is welcoming the public to join it for its Deeper Dive: Into the Congo program to highlight its new Mbu puffer fish exhibit. 

This event will include indoor and outdoor elements that are inspired by the puffer fish’s native home in the Congo River Basin, and it will highlight other African Great Lakes species of fish. It will be the fourth event of its Deeper Dive event series aimed to engage Belle Isle Aquarium supporters with a happy hour-style event at the facility.

“The overall theme of the aquarium is the great waters of the world,” said Belle Isle Aquarium Director Summer Ritner. “The Congo has some of those waters, and the Mbu puffer fish shows off the diversity of that part of that world, and it helps demonstrate aspects of nature like adaptation for kids. Since we do a lot of programs for young students, ... we thought it was a good fit — not to mention the puffer fish is just about the cutest fish in the world.”

The program will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16, at the Belle Isle Aquarium. Funds raised at the Deeper Dive events support maintenance and development at the Belle Isle Aquarium.

“We’re focusing on the Congo region of Africa, whereas we did other regions at past Deep Dives, like the Amazon or the Great Lakes,” explained Ritner. “We try to specify the event to match up with the region we are highlighting with food, refreshments and topics we explore, like conservation. In previous events, it took place in the winter. We are hosting this one in the summer, which lets us also spread the event outdoors as well.”

In the outdoor space, the event will include canopied lawn seating, an Atwater Brewery beer tent and an African drum and dance ensemble provided by Solid Foundation Cultural Arts. Inside the aquarium’s gallery, guests will enjoy the new exhibit along with Congolese artifacts provided by the Detroit Children’s Museum, and a mini marketplace featuring several local Afrocentric businesses. The Yum Village food truck also will be on-site for guests to purchase food.

As an added bonus, Belle Isle Conservancy members will have access to the aquarium’s speakeasy bar in the basement of the facility. 

The launch of the Mbu puffer fish exhibit is the third in the Deeper Dive series to feature the debut of a new species at the aquarium. The addition of this exhibit will mean 90 percent of the aquarium’s tanks will be active.

“Our team here, the aquarists along with our curator, Paul Shuert, and a group of very talented and dedicated volunteers, are amazing at creating habitats for fish that aren’t only reminiscent of their natural environments, but are a marvel for aquarium visitors,” said Ritner. “They put so much into creating beautiful tankscapes and bringing excitement to the visitor’s experience. It’s really a wonderful thing to be able to experience the sheer delight that visitors have when they explore our facility. And to top it off, there’s so much information and knowledge that our team strives to share, it really is a very meaningful experience to be in Detroit and have this kind of asset available to share with the people of the city.”

The Belle Isle Conservancy began the Deeper Dive series to encourage more people to join the organization, as well as to publicly highlight the amenities of the aquarium. The events are also a step toward keeping aquarium admission free to the public.

“The Deeper Dive events are special in that they take guests to different places and times with the event elements,” Danielle Jackson, the director of events and public relations for the Belle Isle Conservancy, said in a press release. “We’ve gone to the Amazon to debut the piranha exhibit at Deeper Dive: Bite of the Amazon, we took a look at the construction of the aquarium and conservatory complex with a display of blueprints over 114 years old at Deeper Dive: Albert Kahn, went back in history to revisit the Prohibition Era with the launch of the sturgeon exhibit and access to the speakeasy at Deeper Dive: Urgin’ for Sturgeon, and now we are taking guests to the African Great Lakes region for our first indoor/outdoor experience. We are so very excited to continue to build this event and hope that each time is an even more thrilling experience than the last.”

Advance tickets for Deeper Dive: Into the Congo cost $25 for general admission. General admission tickets will also be available at the door for the same price. Current Belle Isle Conservancy members at the Oak Tree Ally level and above get free admission to this and all quarterly Deeper Dive events. Eligible members must RSVP in advance for free admission. Drink tickets will be available for purchase. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.belleisle conservancy.org/deeperdive.

“We’re hoping to move to quarterly Deeper Dives. The goal of the series is offering four events each year by inviting people into the facility at a time they might not usually go to the aquarium, as well as educating people about our exhibits and immersing them in the species and parts of the world we are highlighting,” remarked Ritner. “It’s a unique experience that can’t be duplicated. People get that immersion and information that you might not come in contact with in your daily life in a fun, one-night-only event.”