Regina Garcia Cano
Plain Dealer reporter

First-day visitors to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium couldn’t contain themselves. They just had to point out treasures they discovered inside the fish tanks to everyone around them.

“Look” is what everyone seemed to be saying Saturday.

“Look, Mom, it’s coming!” Joey Jirmasek, 6, of Independence, said as he pointed at a sand shark swimming above his head. “Look at his teeth. Wow!”

The aquarium, in the west bank of the Flats, had a steady flow of visitors. More than 5,500 people braved slippery streets and worked their way around a broken bridge to get to the facility.

Many seemed mesmerized by the colorful and exotic creatures on display.

The touch tank, one of 40 enclosures in the aquarium, was a favorite among the young crowd. Children flocked to the hands-on display hoping to touch horseshoe crabs, pencil sea urchins, Bahama sea stars and hermit crabs. Children asked their parents to stay a bit longer around the exhibit.

“It felt like bumpy,” Logan Lowe, 5, said of a sea star.

The boy and his family have visited other aquariums because of the child’s infatuation with sharks.

“It’s a very nice place,” said Logan’s mom, Hallie Lowe, of Valley City. “It’s a great place to spend time with the kids.”

The new attraction takes up 45,000 square feet in the FirstEnergy Powerhouse’s basement. It was constructed around the building’s architectural characteristics — including its smokestacks, columns and narrow hallways.

Marinescape NZ Ltd., the New Zealand company that developed the facility, has built more than 20 aquariums in Europe, Asia and Australia. Cleveland’s new attraction is the developer’s first in the United States.

The aquarium’s staple, a tunnel that cuts through a 4,738-square-foot tank housing 15 sharks and other saltwater fish, was at times so busy that people had to wait to get in.

Many visitors were already planning their next trip to the aquarium.

“It’s really nice. I’m probably going to come back with my niece,” said Stephanie Grasl, 19, of Huron. “She’d love it.”

People drove from across Northeast Ohio to be among the first to tour the state’s only free-standing aquarium. Visitors enjoyed the contrasts between the brick of the powerhouse and the aquarium’s tanks.

“I like the architecture and history behind the building,” said Andrew Rossi, 14, of Warren, who visited with his family. “It’s pretty cool.”

Saturday’s visitors found their own special creatures to gaze at ­— meaning the sharks were not the only stars of the show.

“I like the big fish, the yellow one,” said giggly Montie Henderson, 4, as he pointed at a 3-inch-long foureye butterfly fish in the aquarium’s coral reef exhibit. “Is this the bottom of the sea?”

The aquarium is located at 2000 Sycamore Street, Cleveland, 44113, and does not currently allow strollers or wagons. Admission for adults is $21.95 and $15.95 for children ages 2-12. An annual family pass is $130. For more information, call 216-862-8803 or visit: http://greatercleveland?