If you visit the science centre regularly, you have likely noticed some changes in the Touch Tank over the last several months. In August 2018, we started the process of adding new animals to our Touch Tank. After unpacking the new animals, allowing them to adjust to their new home, and helping the aquarium adjust to much higher levels of animal waste (poop), the Touch Tank officially re-opened over the holiday break.
Here’s what has been happening behind the scenes over the past few months:
We started the process of restocking the Touch Tank in August. Our friends at WestWind Sea Lab Supplies in Victoria, experts in local marine invertebrates, helped us to identify the best species to add to our aquarium. They helped us to balance the need to house animals that can live happily together, are hardy enough for a touch tank, and who we could easily feed from land-locked Edmonton.
It was a tough job – but WestWind helped us to prioritize our needs and sent us some great new additions to our aquarium.
In late September, three giant boxes arrived with our new animals. Each animal was carefully packaged with sea water for transportation and there were lots of ice packs to keep the animals cool.
When Sam (Staff Scientist) and I started unpacking the boxes, we were shocked at just how many animals there were. We carefully catalogued every animal as we unpacked. Some of the animals had bizarre names; clams don’t have heads, so how could some have bent noses and others have little necks?
It took a full day to move all the new plants and animals into the aquarium. In total, those three boxes contained 51 species of animals and more than 200 animals in total.
With 200 new animals comes a lot of new mouths to feed. Feeding time at the Touch Tank is one giant game of “I spy…”. The carnivorous sea stars, crabs, anemone, and shrimp all need to be hand fed – but they’re still nervous around the feeding instruments. For the first several weeks, it took an hour and a half to feed the aquarium.
Of course, every well-fed animal needs to poop. All of the new animals added a lot of new animal waste to the aquarium. Animal waste quickly decomposes and becomes ammonia – a chemical that is toxic to marine animals. To fight this ammonia, our tanks needed to grow more good bacteria that transform the ammonia into nitrites and nitrates, which are safer for the animals.
Now that the water chemistry has stabilized – it’s time to open the touch tank again.
Some of our animals are ready for you to touch and hold and others are still getting used to humans. Please remember to be gentle when you touch them, and have patience with the animals that are still getting used to humans. If you’d like to meet our new animals, we’ll be opening the touch tank for a visit every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.
If you’re visiting TELUS World of Science - Edmonton on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, don’t fret. Those are feeding days at the touch tank and we’ll need your help to help find all of the animals. You may even have a chance to help feed a sea anemone.