Larry at the Moody Gardens Aquarium in Galveston, TX, Nov., 2006.
Because most people have limited resources, small home aquariums are just a drop in the bucket, so to speak. The real magic of the underwater realm is revealed in large public aquariums. While obviously not as complete an experience as an actual ocean dive, a visit to one of these facilities is the next best thing, and is vastly easier to accomplish. From the time the first public aquarium opened in London (1853), people have been able to glimpse a world as previously unknown as that seen under a microscopic or in the most remote areas on Earth. The largest aquarium to open was the Shedd in Chicago (1930). As a child, I could never spend enough time in their superb "Balanced Aquarium" room, which consisted of a round space containing numerous tanks with tropical fish and plants, each a little gem; a waterscape in miniature. Nowadays, technical achievements make huge habitat tanks possible, so that one can look into a towering seascape complete with coral columns, big schools of fish, and large sharks. We can even be surrounded by the aquarium so that we are the ones enclosed in our own life-support systems.
While terrestrial zoos are great places to see animals, watching a gazelle, flamingo or tiger cannot produce the sense of discovery that one feels when peering into the depths of a tank filled with bizarre fish and other marine life. Aquariums really are like windows into an otherworldly, alien environment.