In July 1899 the Borough Engineer submitted plans for the aquarium and fish hatchery and was instructed to construct a building at a cost not to exceed £250. The aquarium was built in 1899 and was a small brick building with thatched roof, located roughly in the centre of the Botanic Garden. A thatched roof was chosen to help keep a uniform temperature in the building both day and night. In one section there were twelve or more glass tanks to exhibit hardy fish and a second section was laid out as a hatchery.
Although the building was completed in 1899, and the hatchery was operational in 1900 (see the section on Fish Hatchery), at this stage the aquarium was still not open to the public, as there were protracted discussions about the costs of equipment and staffing. By November 1902 the show tanks were ready for occupation and in the following March the sum of £5 was allocated to obtain specimen fish. In addition donations of fish were received from the Cardiff Piscatorial Society and Captain Treharne.
The aquarium finally opened to the public in June 1903, but an apparent lack of interest necessitated the placing of a notice in March 1904 explaining the nature of the building and its opening hours.
In 1922 the Parks Committee accepted the gift of a pair of Golden Tench for the aquarium.
The 1938 Inventory of Parks Buildings and Equipment indicated that the aquarium and fish hatchery was "in abeyance pending decision by Committee". No special equipment was recorded in the inventory: the only items listed were an extension ladder and two chairs. A few months later in June 1938 the Parks Committee accepted an offer from the Cardiff and District Aquarists Society to "stock the tanks with fancy fish and maintain them", so that the aquarium could then be open to the public without admission charge.
In November 1944 the Parks Director reported on the dilapidated condition of the thatched roof of the building; the estimate for repairs was £200. and it decided to defer the work.
In August 1947 an offer of £2 was accepted for the sale of a tank from the aquarium and in September the remainder of the aquarium equipment was sold for £35.
The aquarium was not shown on the 1954 Ordnance Survey map.
In August 1957 the aquarium was restored, though in a new location - the boat repair shop on the west bank of the lake. It proved quite successful but could only operate in the summer months because the boat repair shop was needed during the winter for its original purpose. It was decided that the fish would be stored until the aquarium could operate again the following summer.
After only two years the aquarium was discontinued, the Parks Director having reported on (poor) attendances during 1958 and 1959 and having stated that the building was unsuitable for the purpose. He was authorised to arrange for the disposal of the fish, which were subsequently presented to local schools. One of these was Allensbank County Secondary School for Boys, whose headteacher wrote to the Committee expressing appreciation for the fish and equipment from the dispersed aquarium.
Sources of Information
In general, the information in this section is taken from A. A. Pettigrew, The Public Parks and Recreation Grounds of Cardiff, Volume 3.
Other sources are: