Moray Firth Habitats

Moray Firth Habitats

The Moray Firth has over 800km of coastline, extending from Fraserburgh in the east to Duncansby Head in the north. It is Scotland’s largest bay with important marine habitats and is home to an amazing variety of wildlife.

At the Coast

At the Coast

Where the River meets the Sea
There are 11 major rivers that empty into the Moray Firth and the estuaries that form where the river meets the sea teem with life. Snails, worms and crustaceans buried within the sand and mud are a food source for globally important numbers of wading birds and wildfowl. Estuaries also provide food for many marine animals, and act as nursery grounds for young fish.

The Sheer Cliffs
The cliffs are busy places during the summer months as thousands of seabirds come to nest there and rear their young. Troup Head, just along the coast from the aquarium, has the only colony of nesting gannets in mainland Scotland.

The Rocky Shore
The rocky shore is a tough place to survive, but the tide’s edge is rich with life. Although there is plenty of food, waves and tides can cause problems for the plants and animals that live there – they risk drying out when the tide is out or having to cope with waves that batter the shore. Seaweeds, snails, crabs, mussels, barnacles, starfish, urchins and small fish all have different ways of making their living between the tides.

The Moray Firth is also home to the famous bottlenose dolphins, as well as grey and common seals. Minke whales and basking sharks come to feed on plankton and small fish during the summer.

The Kelp Reef

The Kelp Reef

Below the low tide mark, brown seaweeds, known as kelp, grow thickly along the shore’s edge. Kelp has a holdfast that attaches to rock, a tall stalk, or ‘stipe’, and leafy fronds that catch the sun’s rays as they filter through the shallow waters. Kelp provides a shelter for many species – like forests on land, kelp reefs attract sea creatures that live on and around them, forming a hugely diverse community.

Our recently refurbished kelp reef exhibit is the only one of its kind in the UK. It is open to the sky and natural daylight allows seaweeds to grow and create a realistic home for over one hundred fish and countless invertebrates. The tank is 5m deep, 10m in diameter and holds 400,000 litres of seawater.

The Sea Floor

The Sea Floor

As the seafloor slopes away from the coast, it bottoms out at an average depth of 80m in the Moray Firth. It is covered with fine sand and mud.

Shoaling fish such as cod and haddock and other flatfish, rays and sharks patrol the sea bed feeding on numerous worms, molluscs and crustaceans that live in the sand. 

Meet our curious rays and dogfish in the Sandy Seafloor display and see if you can spot all the flatfish hiding in there.