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Introducing Aquarist Volunteer Chris Corpus

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Hi there, fish-fans! My name is Chris Corpus and I’m very excited to be joining the team of bloggers here at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

I have been studying and caring for fish as a hobby for over 10 years. I have volunteered at the Aquarium for almost 2 years now, most of it as an aquarist in the Husbandry department. What does an aquarist do? Well, essentially being an aquarist is simply being a glorified janitor for fish!

Haha, just kidding! Actually, an aquarist is someone who takes care of fish, invertebrates, and the exhibits they live in. We prep the food for the fish and invertebrates that you see in all the exhibits around the Aquarium! We also clean the exhibits and maintain excellent water quality. We do this inside each exhibit by wiping down the glass on the inside, scrubbing algae off the décor, and hydro-vacuuming the sand and gravel. Outside of the exhibits, we clean the filter equipment and conduct water changes. These are all the same things you do for your aquariums at home, just on a much larger scale!

And of course, we pay attention to the animals! We’re always watching to see if there’s any new pregnancies or spawning occurring. The aquarists here are always very excited by opportunities to raise a new generation of fish and invertebrates. We also keep a close eye for any sicknesses or parasites that might slip in.

Behind the scenes there are several enclosures called Quarantine Facilities. These are used to house animals while we medicate them or help them recover from sickness or injury. We also use these enclosures to quarantine new arrivals before placing them inside the display exhibits. This is done to avoid any outside parasites or diseases sneaking in to our healthy setups! (Just as a side note, you can check out some of the quarantine areas and our filter/equipment setup when you take our Behind The Scenes tour – take it, it’s fun!)

So, while I joke about being merely a glorified janitor, there’s clearly a lot more to being an aquarist than simply cleaning up after the fish. We are responsible for maintaining the health of the animals in our exhibits and to make sure that their environment is both healthy and clean as well. It’s a serious responsibility, but a fun one!

As a child I always wanted to be a zookeeper, but my collegiate decisions and resulting career took me on a different path. Getting the opportunity to volunteer at least once a week as an aquarist has helped me obtain my personal goals, while keeping my career intact! If you have ever considered volunteering at an aquarium, zoo, nature preserve, or animal shelter – I urge you to do it, it’s extremely fulfilling! You can find out more about volunteering at the Aquarium of the Pacific here.

So that’s a little about me, I look forward to sharing my experiences with you in the future. As a volunteer aquarist, my area of responsibility is in the Southern California/Baja Gallery of the Aquarium of the Pacific. I love this area, because these are all the fish and invertebrates you can find right here in Southern California!

In future blogs, I will be discussing many of these animals and what you can look forward to finding in your travels along our shores. Thanks for reading, fish-fans, talk to you again soon!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009 08:49 AM

Having a job that you do love is a blessing!

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009 02:22 AM

I am 22 and have been in love with fish since I was a little kid and my “ultimate goal” you could say is to be an aquarist.  The problem is I don’t know where to start. I grew up on a farm in Minnesota and the idea of becoming an aquarist is really stepping out of the bubble for a farm boy like me, but that

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009 10:15 AM

It really is!  I am definitely grateful for the opportunity to be a part of an organization like the Aquarium of the Pacific, and to have the opportunity to work closely with the amazing creatures here.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009 12:27 PM


You are starting out great by literally getting your hands wet. In this field, it is all about experience. Where did you get all your equipment? Was it at a local store? Perhaps you can start out there. Our aquarists come from all sorts of backgrounds but the thing that brings them here is their love for this job. Look around and see if there are any small aquariums that you can scout and help out. They many not even have robust volunteer programs but they might still be happy to have you help them out. Once you have the experience, you can start looking for paid jobs like the ones here at the Aquarium.

Good luck, Bradley!

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009 10:02 PM


I noticed your file said you are from Portland, is that correct?  If so, the Oregon Zoo has a strong volunteer program. 

From what I understand they also have several marine animal exhibits and a volunteer diver program.  I would look into their program and see if you could start volunteering in any sort of educational or husbandry type position.  Prove yourself as a hard-working volunteer and perhaps you could climb the ladder there. 

I don’t know if you are in school or not right now?  If so, look into their biology programs, many west coast schools have beginning marine science/marine biology classes.

Another way to keep learning is the library.  There’s volumes and volumes of great books about marine husbandry and marine life.  You could also learn a lot from any of the major fishkeeping magazines that are published out there.  I subscribe to the three major publications here in the U.S. and am always learning from them.

Like Anitza said, our aquarists are driven by love of the job.  You sound like you’ve got the drive, so keep building up experience and don’t give up!

All blogs and comments represent the views of the individual authors and not necessarily those of the Aquarium.

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