Cool jobs at the Seattle Aquarium

All about creepy, crawly, squishy, slippery, bird and mammal food prep!

Whole fish and shrimp—some with heads that need to be removed before they’re served to the animals. Live crickets. Pounds and pounds of clams and mussels. Dungeness crabs. Superworms. (What’s a superworm? An extra-big, extra-wiggly mealworm.)

That’s just a sampling of the kinds of foods eaten by the Aquarium’s birds and mammals—all of it prepped by staff members, starting at 5:30am each day. It’s messy work, so rain pants are required, along with top-notch organizational skills.

Above: an ice toy in the making.

“Cooking” for a crowd

Why is it so important to be organized? Because putting together a day’s worth of food for these animals is like packing meals for a big, diverse family…one composed of 26 individuals, some of whom eat live bugs and others who need to eat eight times each day. At least none of it actually has to be cooked: like all animals, those at the Aquarium eat their food raw—and, in some cases, while it’s still living!

One prep step at a time

To work most efficiently, the best approach is to prep the food by type, not by individual animal. Using our example, if you were making two dozen lunches, you’d probably do all the sandwiches first, then move to the veggies, then fruit, then cookies. The same applies to our animals: staff members might start with butter clams, then move to shrimp, pollock, capelin and herring, and on down the line until all the food is ready.

Unlike a typical human lunch though, every bit of food consumed by our animals is carefully weighed to ensure each individual is getting precisely the right amount. The varied diets are based on nutrients, the fat and moisture content of the different foods, and other factors. And, just like humans get tired of eating the same meal over and over again, animals do too—so lead staff members regularly change foods and combinations to keep things interesting and ensure everything, even less-exciting food items, gets eaten.

Take your vitamins!

Also like humans, animals need their vitamins. Staff members must sometimes get sneaky—like tucking a vitamin inside a clam’s mantle—to ensure they get eaten. That’s less of an issue for animals that swallow their food whole, like harbor and fur seals; in those cases, staff members just tuck the vitamins into the gills of a fish.

Only the best for our animals

As for the quality of the food? We’re not bragging when we say it’s the best. The Aquarium’s mammals and birds enjoy a delectable diet of sustainable, restaurant-quality seafood—the same seafood you’d get on your plate at a five-star restaurant. Providing them with the highest-quality food available helps safeguard their health, and sets a great example for their human counterparts, as well. Thanks your support that helps ensure that our animals get the best food, the best care, possible!




“It’s fun to play chef for our
animals, and it sets the animal
care team up for success for the
rest of the day.”
—Kelli Lee, animal care





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