Shane Price was looking for something fun to do with his daughters in Santa Clarita when he discovered the Newhall Aquarium on Google.
“It’s nice having a local aquarium to go to, so I can show my children different sea animals without having to drive out to somewhere like Long Beach,” Price said. “I’ve always enjoyed the ocean, and I scuba dive, so this is a great way to let my daughters experience these creatures up close until they’re old enough to do that.”
Tony Taymourian opened the Newhall Aquarium in 2015. Taymourian has a degree in marine biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and had worked at aquariums of various sizes as a way for him to professionally make use of his degree. Taymourian then worked at a company that built and maintained aquariums, where he learned more about how to keep the fish alive in captivity, and he eventually started his own aquarium company.
He needed a place where he could store the fish for the aquariums he made and found a small building in Newhall. Family and friends suggested that instead of just using the space as storage he open a fish store, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Slowly, he began to assemble multiple fish tanks, many from his own house, and purchased different kinds of fish and eventually Taymourian opened the Newhall Aquarium to the public.
“I got attached to the fish here, and I didn’t want to sell them to people if I didn’t know they were going to take care of the fish and they wouldn’t survive,” Taymourian said. “I had always wanted to have an aquarium, and I think that it’s a good resource for Santa Clarita, because I think educational institutions are what communities like this need.”
Due to funding restrictions and running his other business, the aquarium is only open to the public on the weekend. On weekdays, the aquarium runs an educational outreach program and often goes to schools in Santa Clarita and the surrounding Los Angeles areas, but Taymourian doesn’t like to go too far because of the difficulty of transporting the fish and the stress that travel puts on them.
It’s nice having a local aquarium to go to, so I can show my children different sea animals without having to drive out to somewhere like Long Beach,” said Shane Price, local resident.
The aquarium is home to about 100 species of tropical marine life including eels, sharks, seahorses and starfish. Many of the other aquariums in Los Angeles house cold water fish that are native to California’s coastline, but Taymourian said having tropical fish makes his aquarium unique and helps keep the cost down.
“Cold water fish require a lot of special equipment, and they’re harder to take care of, and besides, the tropical fish are much more colorful and fun to look at,” he said. “Some people are disappointed with how small we are, but I like how intimate it is and that we’re able to have more one-on-one interaction with the guests and the animals. Most people are very excited when they come in.”
Julia Grothe has been a docent at the aquarium for four months and said she wished she had discovered the aquarium sooner and had visited it more often.
“I love working with the animals, and it’s so amazing to be able to care for them and to learn their different personalities,” Grothe said. “But, really, one of my favorite parts of this that surprised me was I really enjoy working with the public and the kids. It’s really important to instill an interest and appreciation for nature so that they’ll respect it and care for it.”
Omar Ruvalcaba also brought his daughter to the aquarium after he discovered it on Yelp.com while looking for a place where he could expose his daughter to different kinds of animals.
“When you think of Santa Clarita, you don’t really think of fish and aquariums, so having this aquarium is a great resource, especially when the people here are knowledgeable and can answer my daughter’s questions,” he said. “Usually, you only see fish on a plate and when you swim in the ocean you never really see what’s below you. Things like eels just seem so alien, so I think there’s a real fascination for learning about the different kinds of animals we share the planet with.”
The aquarium’s biggest challenge is attracting visitors. Since advertising is expensive, Taymourian started an Instagram account and uses Google Maps to get the word out. Taymourian is already working on a new deep sea exhibit and acquiring jelly fish and an octopus, but if he is able to grow interest and attendance, he would like to expand to a bigger venue and put in more tanks.
“I can’t ever see myself not having this aquarium,” Taymourian said. “Even if things don’t work out like I plan, I’ll still find a way to make it work and stick with this. There’s nothing about this that I can see in a negative light that would make me want to walk away.”
The Newhall Aquarium is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. or during the week by appointment. A $5 donation per person is suggested.