Aquariums get makeover in State Fair's DNR building

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 21, 2013 - 5:19 PM

The DNR has replaced the 17 small, almost-ancient indoor aquariums with five much larger tanks — one stretching 18 feet and two measuring 14 feet. Each will show fish in their simulated native habitat.

In a state where walleye fever runs unchecked, sunfish and crappies thrill anglers ages 8 to 80 and a trout or muskie in hand still inspires awe, it’s no surprise fish are a top attraction at the Minnesota State Fair.

And we’re not talking fish on a stick.

Starting Thursday, upward of a half-million people will gawk at live fish in the Department of Natural Resource’s outdoor fish pond and wander through the DNR’s historic log building to view fish in aquariums.

This year, they’ll find a big change.

The DNR has replaced the 17 small, almost-ancient indoor aquariums with five much larger tanks — one stretching 18 feet and two measuring 14 feet. Each will show fish in their simulated native habitat: trout in a southeastern Minnesota stream, fish from the St. Croix River, and fish from central, southern and northern Minnesota lakes.

“Rather than just seeing individual fish species in a tank, they’ll see fish living together in their habitat,” said T.J. DeBates, DNR east metro fisheries supervisor. “It’s awesome.”

The St. Croix River tank, for example, will display a variety of habitats, from sand and muck to rock and woody debris. It will have game fish such as walleyes, catfish, sauger, muskies and bass, as well as nongame species such as suckers, gizzard shad and various minnows.

DeBates said he hopes the aquariums will help fair visitors understand the need to conserve fish habitat.

The state-of-the-art tanks were built lower to the ground, so youngsters will get a better view. The major makeover wasn’t cheap: It cost $460,000, taxpayer money that came from a bonding bill appropriated by the Legislature for the DNR to maintain facilities.

The old tanks had been around since the 1960s and were scratched and yellowed.

DeBates said each of the five new tanks will house at least 10 species. They hold a total of more than 5,000 gallons of water.

Meanwhile, the popular 50,000-gallon outdoor pond will display about 45 species of Minnesota fish — the largest being a 50-inch lake sturgeon.

The DNR’s building is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily during the 12-day fair.

Invasive species

A revamped invasive species exhibit in the DNR building will allow visitors to look for emerald ash borers, purple loosestrife, zebra mussels and Eurasian water milfoil as they walk along a recreated prairie trail, conduct a watercraft inspection or visit an imaginary state forest campsite. The goal is to teach people how to prevent their spread.

Wall of shame

Fairgoers also will find a major change outside the DNR building: The former DNR Nature Store near the outdoor fish pond has been discontinued, and that building now will house the Turn in Poachers “Wall of Shame” — a display of trophy antlers seized from poachers.


Doug Smith •

  • related content

  • Trophy tales: Landing big northern was worth the wait

    Tuesday August 20, 2013

    (As told by dad, Dale Claridge)“Will caught this big northern in the backwaters of the Vermillion River near Hastings using...

  • State fishing report

    Tuesday August 20, 2013

    State fishing reportAlexandria area: Walleye action has picked up again after a slow spell on Lake Ida and Miltona at...

  • Think muskies are big? Try a 513-pound halibut

    Tuesday August 20, 2013

    Huge fish caught off the coast of Norway

  • The new aquariums at the State Fair’s DNR building will be larger, lower for kids’ viewing and display fish in their native habitat.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 80 FINAL
Chicago 111
Golden State 108 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Utah 94
Denver 114 FINAL
Portland 120
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 4 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Colorado 5
Dallas 4 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
Notre Dame 66 FINAL
Kentucky 68
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 FINAL
Columbus 1
Portland 1 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Houston 0
Seattle 0 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question