Merlin, which operates a range of well-known attractions brands in its domestic market, remains the world’s biggest aquarium operator and already has 31 other Sea Life centres in Europe.

Pegged for a spring 2010 opening, the Phoenix Sea Life Aquarium will be a 26,000sq.ft development with 12 different habitat zones housing over 30 separate display tanks.

Merlin Entertainments managing director responsible for Sea Life, Glenn Earlam, said: "Visitors to California have already shown us that the Sea Life concept has great potential in the US and we believe the location in Phoenix Mills Mall is ideal for us."

The group opened its first Sea Life centre in the US two years ago. Merlin currently has eight other attractions in the US, with three more scheduled to open in 2010, including Phoenix.