ATLANTA — The Georgia Aquarium has made a bigger splash than anticipated, drawing as many people in its first six months of operation as aquarium officials had hoped for in the first full year.

The downtown Atlanta attraction has drawn 1.97 million visitors since its Nov. 21 opening, which nearly equals the 2 million-visitor goal aquarium officials wanted to reach by its first anniversary.

Now, the aquarium is likely to receive 3 million visitors in its first year, thanks to an average daily attendance of nearly 10,000. The ship-shaped building, which houses the world’s largest indoor fish tank, has attracted everything from high school proms to bar mitzvahs — not to mention celebrity visits by likes of magician David Copperfield and musicians Travis Tritt and Ludacris.

“Success like this is a good problem to have,” said Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, who donated $250 million of his home-improvement fortune to build the $300 million nonprofit facility.

“But it’s one you have to constantly work to make better. We’re not sitting on our haunches,” Marcus said.

Until Labor Day, the opening time has been moved back to 8 a.m., and closing has been extended to as late as 8 p.m. on some days. Aquarium officials also reduced the number of people who can be inside the building at any one time from 6,000 to 4,000.

They repositioned the giant Pacific octopus exhibit, where visitors clogged the path between the penguin exhibit and the upper-level beluga viewing window. And they’re looking at ways to ease congestion around other heavy-traffic exhibits.

The aquarium had planned to hire 140 part-time staffers but increased that to 180 to better deal with the crowds. The facility has about 220 full-timers and about 1,000 volunteers — and could use more, aquarium officials said.

The fish tank has been a boon for the city, generating free international publicity. CNN, ABC, Fox and NBC’s “Today Show” have done features on the aquarium, as have major newspapers. Reader’s Digest recently named it to the “America’s 100 Best” list, dubbing it the nation’s “Best Ocean Voyage.”

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