We’re excited to welcome an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) to the Open Sea exhibit! Always a fan favorite, this mola comes to us from Monterey Bay. It’s likely less than two years old and weighs about 17kg/37.4 lbs. We’re the only aquarium in North America to exhibit these sensitive animals, thanks to our proximity to their habitat.
These uniquely-shaped fish can be found in tropical and temperate waters around the world. They’re common visitors to Monterey, feasting on the bounty of the bay, including the smacks of jellies that come in with the currents. Along with their colossal cousins, the bump-head sunfish (M. alexandrini), ocean sunfish have earned the title of world’s largest bony fish, topping out at 2,300kg/5,000 pounds!
Before joining Team Open Sea, new molas must first successfully complete mola boot camp. Our aquarists target-train the ocean sunfish through positive reinforcement, teaching the sunfish to recognize a visual cue and associate that cue with meal time. When the symbol is set in the water the silvery sunfish swim right over to start snacking!
Molas are always temporary guests at the Aquarium. We weigh them regularly, and once a sunfish grows to be around 230kg/500 pounds, or if their behavior changes letting us know they’re ready to go, we release them back to the wild with tags. The tags allow us to find out how large the molas have grown should someone come across them again. We’re never quite sure how long a sunfish will stay with us, but for now, enjoy some magical mola moments in the Open Sea!