How Much Does a Penguin Cost?

Written by: Staff

The penguin — an aquatic, flightless bird, highly adapted to life in the water — has a distinct tuxedo-like appearance, known as countershading. This is a form of camouflage which helps keep them safe inside the water. Penguins do possess wing-bones, even though they are flipper-like and really suited to swimming.

These birds, as you probably know, are quite popular attractions in aquatic parks and zoos across the world.

Antwerp Zoo by Nigel
Antwerp Zoo” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Nigel’s Europe & beyond 2

 How much does it cost to buy a penguin?

Before thinking about purchasing a penguin, keep in mind, in order to legally own one, you will need a special permit and paperwork from your local state.  Plus, a penguin, when adopted, will need to come from a facility that holds a USDA permit.  Let’s just say the chances of owning a penguin as a pet is extremely slim.

Depending on its breed, age and the breeder, a penguin can cost anywhere from $500 to more than $20,000 from classified ads we have researched.  Since penguins can’t live alone, more than one will likely have to be adopted to ensure they live a healthy life.

What are the extra costs?

As with any animal, they need a constant supply of fish, supplements and vitamins.  The average penguin can eat up to 400 pounds of fish per year and must be fed daily — no exceptions.  Feeding one can cost close to $1,000 per year, greatly depending on the type of fish you choose.

Penguins will need a large habitat with vegetation, temperature control a deep pool of salt water.  A habitat can cost tens of thousands of dollars and maintenance, especially for the water, can reach well into the thousands annually.

Penguins are social birds, and most species swim, feed, and nest in groups. During the breeding season, certain species form large groups, also known as rookeries’, will include thousands of penguins. Each penguin has got a distinct call, allowing the individuals to find their mate and chicks even in large groups. The king and emperor penguins lay only one egg while all other penguin species lay two eggs.  As mentioned, penguins will need to be in groups to live a natural, healthy lifestyle.

Permits, as mentioned, can be an additional cost to consider.

As with any pet, routine and unexpected vet bills need to be factored in.  Seeing this is considered to be an exotic pet, it may be hard to find a local vet who’s willing or has the knowledge to work with this type of pet.  With that being said, a vet, if they were to travel to your location, could charge much more than a local office.

Tips to know:

Penguins are flightless marine birds and an iconic figure in the avian world. They inhabit every continent within the Southern Hemisphere, from the tropical Galapagos Islands situated near South America where the Galapagos penguin inhabits to Antarctica where the emperor penguin resides in. All penguins belong in family Spheniscidae.

The precise number of species of penguin is a subject of discussion, with estimates ranging from 15 to 19 distinct species. The smallest penguin variety is the Little Blue Penguin of New Zealand and Australia, which stands at 14 inches, and the largest is the Antarctic Emperor Penguin, topping out at an impressive four feet when fully grown.  Other varieties include the Adelie, African, Chinstrap, Gento, Galapagos, Humboldt, King, LIttle, Magallanic, Macroni, Rockhopper, Royal, Snares and Yellow-Eyed.

In all instances, penguins have essentially retained the same coloration, having dark backs and pale bellies.

Penguins can spend up to about 75 percent of their lives in water as they conduct all of their hunting in the water and their prey can be found within 60-feet of the water surface, so penguins have no need to swim in the deep waters.

Penguins catch prey in their beaks and then swallow whole even as they swim.  Certain species only leave the water for breeding and molting.

Generally, penguins species closer to the equator will eat more fish and those closer to Antarctica eat more krill and squid.

The penguin coloration assists it in hunting seafood like fish and crustaceans since the dark back camouflages these penguins from the predators above, while their white belly makes them less visible to the prey from below.

Most penguin species are endangered and are illegal to purchase or keep as pets in the United States.  You can find specific information in regards to the legalities of owning a penguin by going to

Buying a penguin shouldn’t even an option.  Consider “adopting” a penguin via an adoption program that could be available at your local zoo.

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