Everyone likes a day out, be it shopping, sightseeing or pursuing some hobby. A day on the golf course is a favourite for many, though in many cases a non golf loving partner may limit those occasions.
Aquarists tend to love looking at other people’s aquariums. This could be pictures and descriptions in magazines or on the internet, or at a friend’s house.
If the partner, and perhaps the children, can be persuaded how about a day out at a public aquarium? I love these opportunities but have one strict rule – I won’t go if there isn’t a café. Got to have a coffee and biscuit at some stage of the proceedings! The café could be a welcome break for the partner and children too, when happiness can be restored if necessary with ice-cream and the like.
Many areas are within striking distance of a public aquarium. They vary in size and quality of course, like a visit to anything else.
One or two visits stick in my mind. It was a great pleasure when on holiday to see the Monterey Bay Aquarium, California. Wow! Professional and outstanding. This aquarium has been running for quite a time and has become well known generally, never mind just in aquarist circles. They have contributed to the knowledge of the sea over the years. The aquarium was also on TV not long ago, when some of the technical side was shown. This was good because on a visit as mentioned this isn’t really seen. I was particularly interested in the method of clearing the seawater intake pipe (natural seawater is used) of growths and other debris. A ‘bullet’ (it has a proper name but I’ve forgotten it) is fired down the pipe. As it is close fitting all is cleaned, and the gunk that exits the pipe is amazing. This act takes place once a month.
Another good aquarium I visited, again when on holiday, was ‘The Aquarium Of The Smokies’ at Gatlinburgh, Tennessee. This was large though not enormous. It is a fairly recent construction, just a few years old. The layout was logical and the displays were interesting. Unlike Monterey Bay, this aquarium uses synthetic salt, it was advised how much but again the figure is forgotten – it was a lot. Some of the technical side could be seen in operation, controlled by computers – flow rates, temperature and the rest. The size of the protein skimmers was something, perhaps 15 feet in height and full of bubbles.
Aquariums more local to me are ‘The Deep’ and the ’Sea Life Center’. The Deep is about 40 miles away so is easily accessible, fairly new, around 10 years old, and follows the normal pattern for ‘standard’ displays. I found the exhibits of fossils to cover too large an area, but that’s me. My wife was very interested. Just after opening the aquarium there were problems with seawater quality which caused the loss of some fish, but this has now been sorted out.
The Sea Life Center is very close, about 10 miles. It is small in comparison to those mentioned, but nevertheless has some good displays. A few compare to the larger home aquariums, but of course there are the big ones and the what is becoming normal walk through tunnel. They do a lot of good work with local seals, having a hospital for them if they are injured or ill. This has just been upgraded to include extra pens.
What is really good about public aquariums is that big fish can be seen, much too big for the hobbyist. Groupers are one of my favourites and everyone loves watching sharks. Many of these are the more common type such as the black tipped reef shark. The Monterey Bay Aquarium kept a Great White, but released it when growth could become a problem, and also because it had started to take chunks out of one or two tank mates. The period the shark was kept set a record. Previously many thought this type of shark would be impossible to keep in captivity.
There are the smaller aquariums of course, where captive reefs can be viewed. They are usually stunning with a high number of smaller fish..
Public aquariums do make mistakes though. The one close to me put some damsels and a large shoal of green chromis in a middle sized aquarium (still much bigger than large hobbyist tanks). To my surprise they then put in two large lionfish. Now we all know what lionfish do – and they did! A little while later the lionfish had been removed.
In the same establishment I noticed a plastic bag in a tank where a large turtle lived. I advised an assistant but nothing happened. A while later I advised the assistant of the potential danger of this bag and why – the bag was fished out.
I like to wander round marine stores but my wife, though really patient, is clearly not so enthralled. Public aquariums, though, usually have something for everyone. There are public aquariums I’d like to see – the one at Chicago (is it ‘The Shedd Aquarium?’) sounds great. Well, you never know.