The 411 on the Tennessee Aquarium’s lights

The Aquarium's peaks always light up Chattanooga's skyline | Photo via NOOGAtoday

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“Oh the lights? They’re run by our electric eel, Miguel Wattson.” That was the first response we got when talking with Thom Benson, the Tennessee Aquarium’s Chief Communications and Marketing Officer, about the story behind the aquarium’s popular exterior lights that display different colors throughout the year.

No, he wasn’t being serious.

The lights are actually run by a computerized system that requires a bit of programming. Back in 2012, the aquarium switched from the cathode-ray tubes that were formerly strung along the building’s peaks — and only stayed white — to an LED system that allowed for different colors + greater energy efficiency.

How are the colors chosen?

The Aquarium’s LED lights actually allow for practically any color imaginable, but they often stick to bolder, brighter ones that show up well + look best at night.

According to Thom, the lights are often changed to celebrate holidays (like Valentine’s Day), commemorate events (such as the anniversary of the Fallen Five), or support community-wide efforts (like Breast Cancer Awareness month). Here are some colors to look out for atop the peaks:

  • Red + white | Throughout the month of December (Thom pointed out that this makes the building look a bit like a gingerbread house)
  • Blue + white | Hanukkah
  • Red + green | Kwanzaa
  • Red | Valentine’s Day
  • Pink | Breast Cancer Awareness
  • Green | St. Patrick’s Day
  • Red, white + blue | Fourth of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Fallen Five anniversary

When The Aquarium isn’t celebrating or commemorating a particular day, the lights shine their standard “Aquarium Blue” that we all know + love.