Thursday, March 20, 2008
The ocean is a pretty stable environment. Remember the last time you tried to boil water? It takes a lot longer to bring a large pot of water to a boil than a small pot of water. Larger volumes of water are more stable. Most marine animals are sensitive to change because they usually never have to deal with it in their natural environment. When an animal has to be moved from one place to another, any changes in water chemistry must be slow and subtle. Otherwise, health complications like shock can ensue. This is why we acclimate.
The acclimation process is quite simple. All you have to do is slowly add water from the new environment to the old. Take for example, the picture to the right. We are acclimating a ray to the quarantine area. The hose to the right is slowly adding water from the quarantine tank into the container the animal is in. At the same time, the hose to the left is slowly draining water out of the container so that it does not overflow. The key is to change out all the water in the container slowly, over the course of 1-3 hours. This way, we give the animal ample time to adjust to the new water’s chemistry.
For a smaller animal in a smaller container, we do the same thing but on a smaller scale. We can use two airline tubings to let new water slowly drip in and old water slowly drip out. What about enormous animals? We can acclimate them to the new environment like all the other cases. However, sometimes it is easier to ditch acclimating them altogether. Recently, we had to move the bowmouth guitarfish out of Shark Lagoon because he needed a time out. At the time it was decided that he should move, the bowmouth guitarfish weighed roughly 90 lbs and was 6 feet long. Unfortunately, we did not have a container large enough to fit him so we decided not the acclimate him. Instead, we drained all the old water out of P3, the holding tank he was going in to, and ran a hose into P3 from Shark Lagoon! Soon, P3 was filled with Shark Lagoon’s water. The bowmouth could be carried from Shark Lagoon and placed into P3 immediately because there was nothing different about the water chemistry in his new residence! This was a special case. For all other animals making a transition from one place to another, we must acclimate.
The extremely large volume of water in the ocean normally keeps temperature, pH or any water parameters from changing drastically. We must always take that into account to ensure that all the animals at the Aquarium remain comfortable.
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