Photo: Javni beogradski akvarijum
Tropical home for lizards in the middle of Belgrade
Among the steep and quiet streets of Savski venac, in the area connecting Dedinje and Senjak there is a small tropical oasis. It is the home of dozens of fish, lizards, rodents, turtles and some birds. Not very well known due to its hidden location, this is the public Belgrade aquarium and tropicarium.
On the entrance you will be met with a fountain and a gigantic figure of a seahorse, while inside our staff who spends their time among leaves and lizards. Under the greenish light of the Tropicarium there is an entire small ecosystem: colorful fish from the Adriatic and the Mediterranean sea, glittering, long inhabitants of the Pacific ocean, colorful gang from central America.
If you look better at one of the aquariums, you will recognize all the characters from the animated movie “Finding Nemo”. If you find yourself here when there is no crowd, while you are looking at the lives of these small beings, don’t be surprised if one of the employees comes up to you and asks if you’d like to play with a baby rat or pet some hedgehogs. Seeing that these animals were born at the Tropicarium they are used to people and very friendly, just like cats and dogs we raise in our apartments – they like attention, scratches and they are more than up for some snacks you might give them. As we found out on our own visit there, the rats are much more amicable than the adorable, fluffy chinchillas.
In addition to chinchillas, rats, hedgehogs and mice, there are also Guinea pigs and also tarantulas and scorpions. If cuddling with rats is not your cup of tea, you can always go back to fish and observe them through the glass. We have a huge aquarium with piranhas, cycloids, eels and a special corner for Japanese koi fish. Through the kindness of our employees we learn that Feng Shui rules state that seven gold fish (and by gold, we mean orange) and one black goldfish together bring fortune and wealth – of course if you take good care of them and they live a good, long life together.
What is especially interesting is our corner for miniature dragons – geckos, chameleons, gerrhosaurus, and one very special agama lizard called Stevo who is used to being handled and tickled on the chin because he used to be sick for a long time and spent a lot of time in the hands of veterinarians. Perhaps the most fascinating resident of the ‘dragon district’ is one, reportedly very strong-willed tortoise. It came from China and its shell is just as soft as the rest of its body. It ended up in the Tropicarium after she ate all the carp from her previous owner’s pond.
Her hard-shelled relatives live in the yard of the tropicarium in a small, green paradise under the fountain, around which there is also a bonsai exhibition. Seeing how most of these animals are mute – at least to the human ear, you will be surprised by the throaty cries that sometimes fill the room. It is a number of birds and parrots, mostly from Africa, whom the employees sometimes hide away when they are expecting a larger group of kids because they are easily disturbed.
On the other hand, Tropicarium is highly dedicated to educating children and does its best to use its own programs to add to the school curriculum and bring it to life in our own way. Even if you haven’t been a child in a long time, you will have fun in our video projection hall and lectures, where there is also a library, a full coloring book, encyclopedia and some more serious literature for those who want to know even more about the world of oceans and tropical forests. If you are intrigued by the idea of spending the afternoon in a slightly different way, without coffee or TV, don’t wait for the Night of Museums and join the horde – on ‘regular’ days there’s barely a soul in the Aquariums. On top of everything there is no entrance fee, although there is a basket on the entrance where you can volunteer a small (or large) donation to help the life of Belgrade piranhas and geckos.