World Fair of Paris 1889

Centenary of the French Revolution

May 6, 1889 - October 31, 1889


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Freshwater Aquarium

Freshwater Aquarium at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1889

All Parisians and even all foreigners who have come to Paris since 1878 are familiar with the freshwater aquarium, which was installed for the last Exhibition, and which has not been substantially modified since.

I believe, however, that it has been enlarged by increasing the capacity of some of the compartments, but I would not answer for that; what I am sure of is that it has been restored, refurbished, for there were broken tanks, and that it has been considerably repopulated.

Assuming that it has remained as it is, it is still one of the most important known, and if not the best installed of all, at least the most picturesque, and one can say, the most amusing.

For it is very amusing to walk through the long underground galleries, when they are not too crowded with people, lined with large mirrors, through which you see, wriggling happily or swimming melancholically, according to their temperament, fish of all colours, from all countries, since this is also a world exhibition.

The aquarium occupies an area of about 2,800 square metres; on the ground, it forms a pile of artificial rocks of the most picturesque effect, with the six rustic bridges that connect them, the vegetation that partly veils them and the streams of water that escape in rivulets, cascades and even cascades.

It is in these rocks, arranged underground to form basins and cemented accordingly, that the fish frolic, which we allow to be seen in the open air, at the risk of inflicting a Tantalus-like torture on hardened or softened anglers, who spend half their lives catching nothing and the other half regretting it.

Moreover, it is especially from below that one sees the most and best of the inhabitants of the wave distributed in twenty-four tanks, each with a capacity of about 25 cubic metres, arranged on each side of concentric galleries 6 metres wide, and presenting to visitors two hundred and sixty-six ice cubes, 22 millimetres thick, which are the lower walls of these tanks.

Needless to say, all these tanks are arranged and furnished internally, according to the habits and customs of the inhabitants and in such a way as to give them the greatest possible comfort during the time, which is quite short for some, when they are trying to acclimatise, for there are many who cannot get used to the waters of the Vanne, and who spend their time missing their homeland, like Mignon, with the difference, however, that they never see it again.

The tanks are numbered, and in addition to this number, each of them bears a sign, on which one can read the name of its inhabitants, chosen so as to present to the public specimens of all freshwater fish, not only from France, but also from abroad and from all over the world, for German fish, which are not jealous of French fish, did not refuse to take part in the Exhibition. You can see salmon from the Rhine, sterlets from the Volga, catfish from the Danube, fera from Lake Geneva, trout from all over the world and even cyprins from Lake Constance.

Two staircases lead down to the aquarium's underground galleries. The main entrance, next to the large avenue that runs from the Avenue d'Iéna to the pavilion at the head of the right wing of the Trocadero, leads to a hallway decorated with a beautiful waterfall.

Not far from this entrance, a curiosity has been provided for lovers of particularities, which is not to be despised; it is, opposite tank no. 10, a passage of which all the walls are made of ice, not only the sides, but also the ceiling, so that with a little imagination the visitor who looks at the fishes which come and go, to the right, to the left and above his head, can believe himself to be in a diving bell.
There are, moreover, here as in the other tanks, very curious effects of light which are impossible to describe, especially as they are essentially variable, since they depend on the weather, on the greater or lesser intensity of the sun, on the solitude or congestion of the galleries, as well as on the visitors who are above in the garden, and can intercept all or part of a ray of sunlight, shimmering in a tank or making its walls sparkle.

This is one of the hazards of visiting the aquarium, but without counting on anything in advance, one can always expect something, it would be very rare to waste one's time.

©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition - G. Vital Meurysse