AGA 2006 – Behind Monterey Bay Aquarium

November 10th, 2006

We arrived at the Monterey Bay Aquarium around 9:00am this morning. They shuffled us into a large conference room, with coffee and pastries, and gave a short presentation about what is currently housed at the aquarium, and what is in the works for the next couple of years. The new Otter exhibit will feature a number of freshwater focused tanks, including at least one large planted tank.

After the presentation, we split up into 6 smaller groups so that we could easily get in and out of the various behind-the-scenes rooms. There were a number of very interesting rooms that they took us through. It’s amazing to see the scale on which they work. For example, look at these huge tubes of green water being culture to raise daphnia and of small invertebrates. There were at least 5 of these in a row.

They used all of these things are food to raise everything from fish fry to baby jellyfish. They had a number of acrylic circular tanks specially designed to rear jellyfish babies to full size. Basically, the tank is designed to keep a constant circular flow of water so that the jellyfish are in constant suspension. Any intake or outtake pipes are screened, with powerheads blowing water across them so that jellyfish would not get stuck in the screen.
We moved to the roof to look down on their very impressive Kelp-forest. The Packard’s specially designed a plunger style pump to simulate waves inside of this tank. You can literally watch the top of the water oscillate up and foot by a difference of a foot every few seconds. The Kelp Forest itself is amazing. They have Kelp algae spanning over 2 stories tall. The tour guide mentioned that in the wild a Kelp stem can grow 14 inches every day. They get about half of that growth in captivity. During the day they pump in filtered seawater to keep it cleared. At night, they pump in raw seawater, bringing in all kinds of plankton and nutrients to sustain the inhabitants of this tank.

Finally, we got to see some experimental aquascapes for the tanks that will end up in one of their new exhibits. They’re showing plants from Africa and Asia. The tanks themselves are all custom built acrylic tanks, with the largest one being about 4 foot by 3 foot by 3 foot. They use SeaChem Oynx Sand and gravel in the tank, with metal hallides floating above the tank. Of course, these are not the final tanks, or aquascapes, but tests to see what plants grow well in their conditions.

The largest tank is very impressive (below), and shows that their final exhibit with definitely be something to marvel at. The fauna are species native to the habitat that they’re trying to represent. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which tank is which habitat. I’ll post more pictures from the public side of the aqarium as I have more time. Great first part of Day 1! The actually AGA convention is set to start in a couple hours.

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