THE AQUARIUM AT MATLOCK BATHS
By David Marshall
As you arrive in the Derbyshire town of Matlock Baths you get
the strange feeling that you have been transported back to an
early 1960's seaside resort that has somehow been transported
into the heart of the Peak District.
Your 'fish day' begins in the Tourist Information Centre car
park as here you find a lovely pond, surrounded by trees, that
is home to some beautiful Golden Rudd and various Carp species.
The aquarium itself is situated above an amusement arcade in
buildings that once formed the Matlock Bath Hydro (which dates
back to 1883). With an adult entrance fee of only £1.80p
you will not find greater aquatic value anywhere else in the
The 'inside display area' consists of 18 aquariums, mainly
tropical freshwater, which vary greatly in size and dimensions.
What all have in common is that they are well maintained and
contain very healthy looking fish.
Of the smaller displays one containing a shoal of Red Line
Torpedo Barbs, Danio devario, Sucking Loach, Schistura species
and Red-tailed Black Shark really caught my eye. In the one
tropical marine display the colours of the various Clownfish
and Angels were a delight to see.
But it the larger tanks that really stick in the mind. The
aquarium pictured contains three extremely large (and old) Snakeheads,
Golden Tilapia, Hornet Tilapia, Hypostomus multiradiatus and
has two carefully constructed 'rock piles' at either end from
which Mbuna of several sizes maintain 'order' in what is like
a community within a community.
The Snakehead community tank.
In another, but deeper, aquarium are two huge Giant Gourami
who have Tinfoil Barbs, an Albino Plecostomus, Jaguar Cichlid
and young Red-tailed Catfish for company. In the adjacent aquarium
a Short-nosed Clown Tetra is so old that all the usual black
and orange body stripes have faded into what is now a solid
The only real Biotope aquarium you will find here is home to
a mainly Amazon community where large Black Pacu and a Red-tailed
Catfish rule. Once again a large rock pile allows for Mbuna
to interact without fear of becoming 'cat food'.
Non-fish exhibits also have their share of the space with Rainbow
Crabs and Terrapins on display. During our visit a Toad was
'hopping' around the floor and an assistant explained that no
matter how many times this creature is removed from the building
it always returns. Perhaps it is as intrigued with the fish
exhibits as we human visitors are?
Now we are outside and find the thermal pool. Fed by a spring
from the hillside, which moves 600,000 gallons of freshwater
through the pool each day, the pool has a constant temperature
of 20 C. In Victorian times patients with rheumatic and digestive
problems bathed here but now a collection of 'baby whale' Mirror,
Common and Koi Carp call it 'home' and what a spectacular sight
When we were first here, several years ago, you only had a
small viewing area from which to view the fish but now all the
walkway (which was a little slippery) around the pool is open
with a fence to protect visitors from getting too close to the
water. To make the fish even more 'people friendly' visitors
are allowed to purchase, via vending machines, feeding pellets.
Just to add to your visit, and at no extra cost, you can also
enjoy a petrifying well, gemstone and fossil collection and
a hologram gallery.
The aquarium is open daily from Easter to the end of October
(10.00a.m. to 5.30p.m.) and during winter weekends and the Christmas
holidays (10.00a.m. to 5.00p.m.). Believe me this aquarium is
well worth a visit.