The Marine Resources Department (MRD) collects, maintains, and distributes, for educational and scientific purposes, approximately 200 locally available aquatic plant and animal species. The Marine Resources facility allows long-term husbandry and availability of many species normally out of season to field collecting and provides worldwide shipment of many organisms. For a complete catalog of available specimens, see the link below or e-mail a request to

Marine Specimens Catalog (updated 1/29/2021)
For price inquiries, please email

Marine organisms for aquaria and their required maintenance

The Marine Biological Laboratory’s Aquatic Resources Division offers a selection of marine organisms for a 10-gallon aquarium. This collection of live marine organisms is an economical way for students to observe a mini-intertidal ecosystem of invertebrate life in your classroom. To find out current prices and how to order, please contact the Aquatic Resources Division at 508-289-7375 or email

This Collection Includes the Following:
2 Brittle Starfish (Ophioderma)
4 Periwinkle Snails (Littorina)
2 Starfish (Asterias forbesi)
1 Coral (Astrangia)
2 Sea Urchins (Arbacia)
2 Sea Cucumbers (Sclerodactyla)
4 Grass Shrimp (Palaemonetes)
5 Barnacles (Balanus)
4 Hermit Crabs (Pagurus longicarpus)
2 Small Blue Mussels (Mytilus)
Small amount of Sea Lettuce (Ulva)
10 gallons of Woods Hole Natural Filtered Seawater

Note: We reserve the right to substitute marine organisms as determined by availability.

A few of these organisms like snails, mussels, and barnacles are not very hardy and/or may be preyed upon by other organisms in this set. They are included for the observational opportunity they provide. With reasonable care, most of the organisms will live for an extended period of time.

Click here for the full Teacher’s Guide

The Marine Resource facility’s sophisticated life support and water treatment systems enhance both the quality of organisms provided and the diversity of research that can be conducted within the building. As many as ten different regimens of seawater can be provided simultaneously to any of the research or animal holding areas. In addition to raw seawater and a filtered/ozonated water supply, eight independent recirculating seawater systems provide flexible tailoring for almost any aquatic environment Recirculated seawater is ozone-sanitized to control fouling organisms and facultative pathogens. Accurate temperature and photoperiod control within the building allow for the manipulation of the reproductive state of organisms.

Fees for Tank Space and Facilities Use
Visiting researchers are generally exempt from fees for tank space and facility use. Researchers are expected to take daily care of their animals and regularly feed and clean tanks or enclosures assigned to them. Support by MRC staff is available at $40/hour.

The MRC was designed for versatility and efficiency to maximize the health and longevity of the aquatic organisms that are the lifeblood of research at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL). Keeping aquatic organisms alive and available to scientists year-round is crucial to research at the MBL. To ensure reliability and to safeguard organisms being cultured or maintained in the MRC, all incoming seawater supply lines, filtration systems, and treated-water heat exchangers are redundant. All pumps, temperature sensors, and the ozone distribution system are alarmed and under computer control. Water temperatures are continuously monitored and adjusted every 4 seconds by computer to ensure a temperature stability of 0.5oC. The system is also remotely accessible by portable computer and telephone modem and is backed by staff on call 24 hours a day. Any failure in the system is immediately detected and, because of the system’s redundancies, is rapidly corrected to ensure no major losses of organisms. The entire system is supported by routine security checks as well as an emergency 500-kW generator.

The MRC’s ground floor houses a variety of healthy organisms in seawater tanks, and a procedures room for handling, examining, and preparing aquatic organisms. A large portion of the floor space is available to scientists conducting individual research projects.

The second floor contains offices, a classroom, as well as dry and wet laboratories. In-house veterinary services are provided by the MBL staff veterinarian. The floor includes a research holding room for injured or diseased organisms, a necropsy room, histology and microbiology/parasitology labs, a water quality/chemistry laboratory, a mariculture facility, and zebrafish facility.

The third floor contains the mechanical equipment that is crucial to the life support systems of the MRC plus additional laboratory space and offices.

The Marine Resource Department (MRD) staff conducts routine chemical analyses on all seawater systems on the Marine Biological Laboratory campus. These analyses include salinity, pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, as well as nitrogen compounds (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate), phosphate, sulfate, and some cations. The biochemical stability of the recirculating and treated seawater systems is assured by daily monitoring of the water systems within the Marine Resources facility.


The Veterinary Services Department of the MBL is responsible for the health of both aquatic and terrestrial species of animals held at the MBL. We provide animal information, routine veterinary care and respond to animal health problems throughout the MBL. Investigators are encouraged to contact the Attending Veterinarian with any questions about care, housing, disease, appropriate animal models, and handling, as well as protocol pre-review, surgical and other experimental techniques.

Our facilities consist of:

  • Mammalian animal housing
  • Limited housing for avians, reptiles, and amphibians
  • Veterinarian’s office, MRC 311
  • Clinical laboratory, MRC 206

Veterinary consultation is provided at the request of the investigator or their technicians. Services provided are heath certifications, veterinary clinical services, and veterinary pathological services.

Attending Veterinarian: Lisa Abbo, DVM, ext. 7522; E-mail:
Animal Care Coordinator: Daniel Johnson, ext. 7288; E-mail:

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)
Before any vertebrate animal is used in research at the MBL, a protocol for its usage must be approved by the IACUC. Protocol forms and information can be obtained from the IACUC web site. Questions concerning filling out protocols, current protocol status, or post-approval modifications can be addressed to

The purpose of this application is twofold: (1) to ensure that researchers receive maximum benefit from the MRD services, and (2) to ensure that you are aware of the policies and procedures to be followed while using MBL aquatic holding facilities. This application will be reviewed by the MRD Manager, and semi-annually (April and November) thereafter. Questions should be directed to

The Tank Space form is available here.



We require a minimum of two week's notice for any shipment. A $50 rush fee will be added to any order within a 7-day delivery date.


We do our best to keep a variety of each species readily available to ship, however, some species require more time and effort to collect. We reserve the right to add a Special Collections Fee of $25. 


If we are unable to supply the organisms requested, we may substitute closely related organisms. If you do not wish to have any substitutions, please specify “No Substitutions”.


All prices are subject to change without notice. We reserve the right to increase the cost of organisms due to increased costs of collecting or handling.

Service Charges
$46.50 sexing fee when specifying males and/or females.
$66.40 fee for all shipments leaving the continental United States.
$94.00 Veterinary Health Certificate (required for all foreign shipments)
$66.40 minimum lab fee (tissue harvesting)
Additional fees may be added to shipments that require special handling, procedures or supplies.
Price quotes will be honored for 30 days only, from the date of quote.


We require a two-week notice before expected delivery date. Shipments are made on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. We do not ship on celebrated holidays or for arrival on celebrated holidays or weekends.


Live organism shipments within the continental United States are via Federal Express – Priority Overnight, for next day delivery unless otherwise requested. Containers of seawater are shipped via FedEx Ground Delivery unless otherwise requested (we will ship by air at the customer’s written request).

All domestic shipping charges will be added to the invoice.


All international shipments charged to a customer-supplied Federal Express account.
Customer assumes full responsibility for all shipments accepted and handled by third party brokers. MBL is not responsible for any delivery delays due to customs issues outside of our control. Any organisms that arrive DOA within the expected delivery time can be replaced free of charge.


Specimens suffering mortality or morbidity and need replacement may be requested within two (2) days of delivery. Replacements requested within this two-day period will be supplied at no cost, and shipped at no cost to the customer. Replacement requests made after two days will be handled as new orders and the customer will assume responsibility for the costs of specimens and shipping.


Customer assumes full responsibility for all shipments made when severe weather is anticipated and during periods of severe temperatures and adverse weather.


If the customer requests specific packaging methods, which differ from the established methods employed by the Marine Resources Department, the customer assumes full responsibility for the condition of the organisms upon delivery.

All shipping containers and packing material become the property of the customer, the cost added to the invoice. Containers are not returnable. No credit issued for the return of containers.

Containers used to ship seawater become the property of the customer, the cost to be added to the invoice. Containers may be returned for refill at time of placing subsequent orders for seawater. A nominal-handling fee may be charged. Do not return containers to us without placing an order for seawater.


Invoices will be generated by the MBL’s Accounts Receivable department at the close of each month and sent via postal mail. If you require a purchase order (PO) number on your invoice, it must be provided at the time your order is placed.


Payment terms are net 30. Instructions to submit payment via check, credit card and bank transfer are provided on invoices and statements.


Difficulties with order, shipment or invoices please notify us as soon as possible.
Direct questions concerning your order or invoice to:

Email MRD

Marine Biological Laboratory
Marine Resources Department
7 MBL Street
Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543