Kelp Facts

Algae that's as tall as a building: Giant kelp belongs to a diverse group of organisms called algae. Simpler than most land plants, algae have no roots, stems, leaves or flowers. They range in size from microscopic cells to 100-foot-tall giant kelp.

A turbulent life: Bull kelp is an annual plant that is ripped loose by stormy waves each winter and grows anew each spring. Kelp keeps a firm grip: What looks like roots on a giant kelp plant is really the "holdfast" that anchors it to the rocky ocean floor.

Nature's recycling program: Kelp is one of the world's fastest growing plants. Ninety percent of this growth ends up on the beach as drift kelp or sinks into the deep sea where it's eaten by pink sea urchins and other animals.

We use kelp every day: For hundreds of years, people have gathered kelp and its kin for fertilizer, chemicals and food.

Spring surge: Cold, nutrient-rich sea water upwells along the coast of Monterey Bay from March through August making our kelp forests flourish.

Exhibit Facts

An Aquarium icon: The Kelp Forest exhibit was designed as the centerpiece of the Aquarium and was situated to give it the longest possible sun exposure each day.

The Kelp Forest is cloudy at night: An open seawater system pumps up to 2,000 gallons of seawater per minute through the exhibit. During the day this water is filtered to help visitors see the animals and plants in the exhibit. At night, the huge sand filters are turned off.

We're making waves: The surge created by a special wave machine maintains the constant water motion kelp requires to absorb enough nutrients. You can see this surge machine from the third-floor viewing area.

One of the world's biggest windows: The large acrylic windows in the exhibit are 7.25 inches thick, 8 feet wide by 16 feet tall and weigh about 2.8 tons.

Our plants come in with the tides: There are approximately 80 species of seaweeds growing in the exhibit. Many are volunteers—spores that arrive in the raw sea water and settle on the rockwork.

Our Kelp Forest was a first: The exhibit holds approximately 333,000 gallons (1,260,542 liters). We were the first aquarium in the world to exhibit a living kelp forest.

Underwater gardeners: The fast-growing kelp in our exhibit require weekly underwater gardening by scuba divers to untangle and trim the plants.