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Get exclusive peek into aquarium life

By Nina Wu

LAST UPDATED: 3:47 p.m. HST, Mar 21, 2011

The Waikiki Aquarium is a different place after doors are closed.

The crowds are gone, the place is quiet and it's time for the ocean critters to eat.

With two new programs, the Waikiki Aquarium is now offering private after-hours tours to explore the premises behind the scenes.

The "Private Aquarium Tours," which can accommodate anywhere between 10 to 55 visitors, are led by staff members and available evenings, Monday through Friday.

Questions are encouraged during the private tours as you can wander the galleries past the jellyfish, Pacific giant clam and sharks.

Participants also get to peek at what goes on behind the glass windows, climbing up stairs to peer into tanks. From that vantage point, you can also see how pumps create a surge through the water, mimicking the ocean in the Barrier Reef display.

Check out the fish-in-waiting in quarantine tanks for a sneak preview of what's to come.

A "Marine Munchies" tour is also available Monday evenings for groups of five to 15 people, during which you can feed some of the fish and watch an octopus opening up a jar to get to the shrimp inside.

The octopus, which in the wild is used to hunting for its food, was trained to open the glass jar as a way to keep it challenged, according to James Wood, associate director of the aquarium and co-author of "Octopus: The Ocean's Intelligent Invertebrate."

On a recent media tour, the octopus — a Day octopus — managed to open the jar within minutes.

Watch the predator fish at the Hunters on the Reef display — including groupers, ulua and a zebra shark — get fed on the "Marine Munchies" tour.

Outdoors, you and your children can feed seaweed to reef fish at the Edge of the Reef exhibit, a 7,500-gallon exhibit that recreates a Hawaiian rocky shoreline.

To register or for more information, log on to or call 923-1771.

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