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Situated within a marine sanctuary in the Florida reef tract, Aquarius provides invaluable access to one of the most biologically diverse and economically valuable ecosystems on earth. It sits on the most extensive living coral barrier reef system in contiguous U.S. waters and the third largest in the world. Coupled with its unique capabilities, it is one of few sites ideal for undersea equipment testing and training for study and exploration in extreme environments such as space.

Navigating to Aquarius

Aquarius is located at Conch Reef, 5.4 nautical miles offshore on Tavernier and 8.5 nautical miles northwest of the shore in Islamorada, Florida. Aquarius is located in a sand patch approximately 63 feet deep that is surrounded by spur and groove coral formations. Conch Reef is loosely described as a bank reef, with a shallow platform inshore and several deep reef formations found to depths to approximately 115 feet. The seaweed spur and groove formations are located a relatively long distance from the shallow reef flats and appear to be antecedent formations with this Holocene coral cover. A high resolution bathymetric map of the site is available. A good general description of reefs in Florida was compiled by Jaap (1984) and geological considerations are available in Shinn et al. (1989). Aronson et al. (1994) provides benthic community descriptions of Conch Reef and other sites in the upper Keys.


Detailed Bathymetry of Conch Reef Aquarius Site

Notice to boaters and divers: the portion of Conch Reef where Aquarius is sited is designated as a Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Preservation Area and is NOT open to divers, snorkelers or fishermen. 

Aquarius Shore Base Command Center

FIU Aquarius Reef Base

85932 Overseas Highway

Islamorada, FL 33036