Saturday, September 15, 2012

Touch Pool Transformation

One day the touch pool at The Living Planet Aquarium held the stingrays. The next, it held horn sharks. Magical though this may seem, it took seven people about three-and-a-half hours after closing to make this transformation possible.

Stingrays have been replaced by sharks
and other critters in the touch pool.

The staff began by transferring the stingrays from the touch pool to the shark tank, a multistage process. They first had to match the salinity, pH, and temperature of the two systems as closely as possible. Then, they filled a transport bin with half touch pool water and half shark tank water. This allowed the stingrays to begin to acclimate to the new water while they were being transferred. The stingrays were moved into the transfer bins and wheeled into the back. The staff took this opportunity to weigh and measure each animal before using special nets to move them into the shark tank. The stingrays will reside in the shark tank from now on. They seem delighted by their new accommodations and get along with the sharks just fine.

The stingrays enjoy their new home in the shark tank.

Next, the staff drained the water from the touch pool using a submersible sump pump and the pool's main pump. Using dust pans, they scooped the sand out – 4,000 lbs. worth – and bagged it. Fine sand, purchased from an aquarium wholesaler, was put back into the pool. This sand is smoother, which is better for the species that will now be inhabiting the pool. Because the pool will now host species from colder coastal waters, rather than the stingrays which hail from tropical waters, the pool was refilled with 10 degrees cooler water.

4,000 lbs of sand removed from touch pool

The new animals were added to the touch pool a few at a time, giving them the opportunity to adjust to their new surroundings and tank-mates. While they waited their turn to enter the touch pool, they stayed in holding tanks in the back.

The horn sharks and round rays were the first to enter the pool.

Horn shark next to touch pool fish

Round rays blending in well with the sand

Next, a leopard shark was introduced.

Leopard shark, the largest touch pool animal

Recently, bat rays were added to the mix.

Bat ray exploring its new touch pool home

Eventually, the touch pool will also contain a variety of invertebrates, including sea stars, urchins, and anemones. All of these can be safely touched by visitors of all ages, following a few simple rules: use two fingers, touch gently and only where staff say is okay (usually along the back of the animal), and assist your children to ensure they follow these rules. The aquarium is excited to be able to offer this opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the ocean's most beautiful and fascinating animals.

A guest reaches to touch the leopard shark.

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