Orange Coast College Dennis Kelly aquarium logo with leopard shark drawing

The Dennis Kelly Public Aquarium at Orange Coast College is one of the cornerstones of the Marine Science Department. This versatile resource is a unique training and community education facility where students get hands-on experience working with a remarkably diverse collection of aquatic organisms. The aquarium helps provides a depth of experiential learning unrivaled by traditional lectures, textbooks, photos, and videos. From leopard sharks to jellies, the aquarium is a key resource for OCC students to refine their species knowledge, animal husbandry, and Students setting new coral frags into a systemaquarium life support maintenance skills.

The OCC Aquarium is a student-run aquarium that features facilitated peer education. Students working towards the Certificate in Aquarium Science play an active role in the design, maintenance, and management of the OCC Aquarium. While the marine science faculty teach all courses within the department, maintenance of the life support systems and organisms primarily falls to the students, student aquarium managers, work study students, and aquarium staff. This provides hands-on experience in a format similar to an apprenticeship in disciplines ranging from biology, ecology, animal husbandry, aquaculture, water chemistry and water quality testing as well as system construction and maintenance. It also offers experience with group management and problem solving while maintaining multiple types of aquarium systems as part of a team, and requires student managers to be proactive in finding and addressing potential problems. Students learning to properly maintain the shark exhibitThe development of communication and teaching skills are critical since student managers take an active role in teaching new students as well as leading public tours and educational events. 

The aquarium and its dedicated student managers support a myriad of other classes ranging from marine biology to intertidal ecology and oceanography labs so students can view, study, and gain husbandry experience taking care of a diverse array of tropical and temperate saltwater, freshwater, and brackish organisms. It helps foster collaborations with other college departments, universities, educational or research facilities, and government resource management agencies. The aquarium is also used as a reference resource for classes from other departments ranging from art and photography to biology and astronomy. OCC students are encouraged to use the facility for student research symposium projects or to set up experiments to better understand marine community ecology and aquaculture techniques.

Students building the future reef tank  Corals  Student refinishing a donated tank  Small fish hiding in coral polyps  Tube feeding a swell shark with a goiter.

Discover the OCC Aquarium
Interested in sharks, fish, or corals? Looking to get hands-on experience with aquatic animal care and aquarium life-support operation and maintenance? The OCC Aquarium can help!
Sea star on rock wall in headlands exhibit  Students preparing to release white sea bass as part of a stock restoration program  Student placing coral frags in the tropical community tank  Students learning how to properly frag corals  Morey eel  Student aquarium managers

Public Hours

Public hours are held weekly during the fall and spring semesters (mid-Feb through May, & Sept through mid-Dec) to anyone to come learn about the facility, the organisms housed in the aquarium, our immersive program, or just to enjoy the exhibits. In addition to hosting public hours, we provide private tours to local schools, educational groups, potential OCC students, visiting dignitaries, and any other organization interested in learning more about local marine life and the science of aquarium-keeping.

The OCC Aquarium is located in the Lewis Center for Applied Sciences near the Library and the OCC Planetarium, which also features public events and field trips. For directions, see the campus map.

Contact Us

Office Hours

For the Fall 2022 semester (September through mid-December), the OCC Aquarium is open for Public Hours Tuesdays from 2pm - 4pm. OCC recommends, but does not require, all visitors to wear masks while indoors.