Posts Tagged 'behind the scenes'



Animal Update – January 10

national aquarium animal update

Guieafowl Puffer Introduced into Blacktip Reef!

A guineafowl puffer has been successfully introduced into our Blacktip Reef exhibit!

national aquarium blacktip reef guineafowl puffer

Guineafowl puffers can be found in coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific region. They are omnivorous, feeding mainly on the tips of branching corals and, to a lesser extent, on sponges, mollusks, bryozoans, tunicates, forams, algae, and detritus.

Like other puffers, this species has the ability to inflate with water or air for protection!

Toby the Blue Lobster Settled into Atlantic Shelf

national aquarium blue lobster toby

Earlier this week, our blue lobster Toby was introduced into the Atlantic Shelf gallery of our Maryland: Mountains to the Sea exhibit. We’re happy to report that Toby has settled nicely into his new home!

Did you know? The genetic variation responsible for Toby’s blue hue occurs in 1 of every 2 million lobsters.

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

2013 Re-cap: The Making of Blacktip Reef

This year, many of us here at the Aquarium had one thing on the brain - Blacktip Reef

From demolition to animal acquisitions, construction to animal introductions, countless hours of work from all of our departments went into the creation of this $12.5 million dollar exhibit!

As 2013 comes to a close, we’d like to take a moment to look back at how Blacktip Reef was made: 

Animal Transports

Before construction could begin on our new exhibit, the animals in our old Wings in the Water exhibit had to be safely removed!

Many of the animals that called Wings in the Water home, like our zebra sharks (Zeke and Zoe) and green sea turtle (Calypso) were moved behind-the-scenes, where they could patiently await the creation of their new home. Others were moved to other exhibits at the Aquarium or to other accredited institutions.

Want to see how we transport animals like our 500+ pound sea turtle? Check out our video:

Construction

After all the animals had been safely removed from the exhibit space and the necessary demolition was finished, the construction phase could begin!

Blacktip Reef‘s construction process included the installation of a 28 foot acrylic window and the individual placement of over 3,000 coral pieces, creating the perfect re-creation of an Indo-Pacific reef habitat.

Want to see how all of that coral was crafted by hand? Check out our video: 

Animal Introductions

The process of introducing animals into the exhibit began in early July, with the transport of Calypso!

Calypso

After Calypso and a few hundred fish had acclimated well to their new home, all 20 of our blacktip reef sharks were added to the exhibit.

In October, our last animals were introduced into the exhibit! Over the period of two weeks, we added three wobbegong sharks and a huge Napoleon wrasse!

national aquarium humphead wrasse

It has been an incredibly busy and rewarding year. From all of us here at the Aquarium, we’d like to sincerely thank everyone for their continued support!

Here’s how YOU can support the continued growth and evolution of our newest exhibit!

Saltwater Science at the National Aquarium

Just add salt? Not quite. Here’s the inside story on how we get our water just right: 

As vibrant fish residents swim gracefully in their aquatic habitats at the National Aquarium, the most important element of their exhibit homes – the water – often goes unnoticed.

national aquarium clown triggerfish

In total, more than 2 million gallons of water are perpetually pumped, filtered and re-pumped within the Aquarium’s nearly 200 water systems. For perspective, the average bathtub holds 50 gallons of water, making the National Aquarium’s water content roughly equal to 40,000 bathtubs!

Maintaining the quality of these millions of gallons of water is essential for healthy animals, and it is through the tireless work of dedicated aquarists and laboratory and life-support staff that we can provide the highest quality of water to the thousands of marine animals that call the Aquarium home.

Testing the Water

In every high school across the country, chemistry teachers illustrate water’s elemental simplicity by connection to Hs to one O. Sustaining life at the Aquarium, however, as in the oceans, is infinitely more complex. Salinity (the amount of salt), dissolved oxygen (the “air” fish absorb through their gills) and nitrates (waste product) all affect water chemistry.

That chemical balance, in turn, affects those plans and animals on exhibit, as well as fungi and bacteria that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Presenting a healthy environment by maintaining the absolute best water quality for each and every exhibit and backup tank requires a well-coordinated effort between staff across departments.

Each morning, aquarists, under the guidance of water quality expert Kim Gaeta, extract samples from select exhibit spaces. Those samples are then labeled and deliver to the lab, where they are test for ammonia, nitrite and salinity, as well as pH and alkalinity. If there’s a noticeable imbalance, staff, under the watchful eye of Laboratory Services Department supervisor Jill Arnold, diagnose the problem and prescribe a solution.

The Right Water

Nearly all of the water in our exhibits is homemade seawater. The National Aquarium, like most Aquariums, manufactures its own. The millions of gallons circulating through the exhibits are a combination of Baltimore City water and a house blend of salts.

Consequently, these salt solutions affect the pH, dissolved oxygen levels and hardness of the seawater, based on their own specific chemistry. Tons of salt is shipped to the Aquarium every year to be used in the manufacturing process. At a cost of about 7 cents per gallon, we spend roughly $150,000 every year to manufacture seawater.

“The Aquarium utilizes a variety of food-grade salts to prepare artificial seawater, using our proprietary formulation developed by our chemist,” says Arnold. “Our goal is to mimic natural ocean waters as closely as possible,” guaranteeing all of our animals a healthy place to call home!

Our hand-crafted saltwater is just one of the many things we do everyday to give our animals the best quality of care possible. Here’s how YOU can support our efforts this holiday season! 

Animal Updates – December 6

national aquarium animal update

Banded Moray Eel in Surviving Through Adaptation

A banded moray eel can now be seen in our Surviving Through Adaptation gallery!

national aquarium moray eel

Did you know? There are over 200 species of moray eel! Known for their serpentine appearance, morays use their long, dorsal fin to navigate through water.

These eels are fairly secretive animals. They prefer to spend most of their day hidden in crevices within their coral reef homes.

Raccoon Butterflyfish in Pacific Coral Reef 

A raccoon butterflyfish has been added to our Pacific Coral Reef exhibit!

national aquarium raccoon butterflyfish

The raccoon butterflyfish gets its name from the black “raccoon-like” mask that covers its eyes!

This reef species can be found in both the Indo-Pacific and Southeast Atlantic. Their diet usually consists of a combination of benthic invertebrates (like tube worms) and algae

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

Animal Updates – November 15

national aquarium animal update

New Wolf Eel in Kelp Forest

A second wolf eel, former resident of our DC venue, has been introduced into our Kelp Forest exhibit!

national aquarium wolf eel

Did you know? The wolf eel is not a true eel, but part of the Anarhichadidae family of “wolf fishes.” This fish likes to live in rocky areas and is able to squeeze into small crevices due to its long, slender body.

national aquarium wolf eel

Wolf eels are attentive parents. Both males and females will wrap their bodies around the egg mass to keep it in place and protect it from predators. Only one wolf eel will leave the eggs to hunt at a time. A pair of wolf eels may remain together and mate for life.

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!


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