Vancouver Aquarium

February 27th, 2010

I haven’t posted in almost two weeks, as I was vactioning in Vancouver for the Olympics. The Olympic experience was fantastic, but during my trip I also wanted to follow our tradition of visiting the public aquarium of whatever city we traveled to. The Vancouver Aquarium resides in a beautiful area of Vancouver called Stanley Park, which is full of walkways, huge trees, sea walls, and much more. The area around the aquarium is very nicely landscaped, and easy to navigate.

Vancouver Aquarium

One of the first areas that we toured inside the aquarium was a series of biotope aquariums from around British Columbia. They really did a fantastic job showcasing the different habitats throughout the province, providing excellent signage and information plates throughout. As someone who really appreciates native North American habitats and fishes, this may have been my favorite section of the aquarium.

British Columbia Biotope Tanks

One of the natives that I enjoying watching was this sculpin (below). Since sculpin don’t have swim bladders, they lay prone on the ground and dart around. To me, this tends to give them a little bit of personality, and this particular fish seemed to be posing for the camera.


Speaking of swim bladders, we got invited into a classroom area by a couple of interns to watch them dissect a salmon. All the while, they pointed out the various prominent parts of the fish anatomy, including the swim bladder, heart, liver, testes, gills, etc… They also talked about how the aquarium tracks various fishes in the wild using embedded transmitters that they surgically implant into the animal so that they can monitor their life cycles.

Dissected Salmon

Like most aquariums these days, they had a nice jellyfish exhibit, back-lit with the intense blue lighting.


One of the things I was most impressed with throughout the aquarium was the aquascaping ability of the maintainers for these tanks. In some public aquariums, they do a fine job showcasing the inhabitants of the tank, but in Vancouver, it was obvious that they were equally concerned with making the habitat equally as attractive without making it look artificial. A fine example of that is this reef “clownfish” aquarium where they used a combination of macro-algae, rocks, and anemones to really make a nice display tank. Well done!

Nice Reef Scape

Like the aquarium in Baltimore, the Vancouver Aquarium also has nice tropical exhibit which includes a rain forest area. The rain forest had a series of parrots, butterflies, and other animals from the Amazon on display.

Rainforest - Vancouver Aquarium

They had a rather large aquarium showcasing one of my favorite South American beasts, the Arapaima, an air-breathing fish that can survive very low oxygen levels. They can grow to over 400lbs, and are very prehistoric looking creatures. I very much enjoy everytime I’m able to see one.


The Aquarium also has a nice amphibian exhibit, including a whole set of terrariums featuring frogs from around the world. I thought that this particular terrarium was another nice example of putting together an attractive layout, while still showcasing the tiny frogs therein.

Frog Terrarium

It wasn’t just the small colorful frogs that were on display, however. They also included a few others, such as bullfrogs, which are an invasive species in this part of the country, which were originally introduced as a food source. (frog legs)


Outside, there were several much larger pools containing dolphins, whales, turtles, and other large sea creatures. While you could view all of the pools from above, each pool was also available to be viewed underground via a series of rooms that included more information and more views into the tanks. One area that was particularly interesting was an arctic fishes exhibit, showing fish and other animals that thrive in sub-zero waters.

Beluga Whale

Having been to several public aquariums throughout the U.S., I always hope that each new one will offer something different from the rest. The Vancouver Aquarium did that with theor B.C. set of exhibits, and their superior attention to presenting nicely aquascaped aquariums throughout. They also had an equally as impressive 4D theater which featured a short Planet Earth “Shallow Seas” film in 3D with water sprays, seat rumbles, and bubbles in the air during the show. It was a nice value-add to an otherwise exceptional experience. I highly recommend visiting the Vancouver Aquarium.

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Apistogramma baenschi ‘Inka 50’ Videos

February 10th, 2010

Since there’s multiple feet of snow outside, I’ve been sitting inside trying to come up with creative things to occupy my time. Today, I pulled out our old video camera and headed into the fishroom. I lucked upon some interesting activity going on in my 50G with the colony of Apistogramma baenschi ‘Inka 50’ . First, I have a video of a female in full bright yellow coloration guarding a little patch of territory she’s carved out underneath some Blyxa japonica stems.

Next, I caught two males displaying to each other, with the largest, most dominate one eventually chasing the other away. This happens all of the time, and doesn’t usually end up with anyone getting injured. It’s interesting to me how in both of these videos, the Apistogramma only cares about other cichlids. They never chase away the other tetras. (This would change if they were actually protecting fry.)

Finally, after the male-to-male domination display earlier, his female approaches him doing a kind of odd-looking dance to indicate that she’s not a threat. Recognizing this, he lets her go into their patch of Blyxa that he’s protecting.

The behaviors of these cichlids provide unending fascination to me as I enjoy my aquariums during a  cold wintry day. Comments welcome!

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Where’s My Pond?

February 7th, 2010

I live in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., which was just hit with record snowfall. I figured it would be fun to provide a little perspective for those not from the area. Normally, during the spring, my raised brick pond in the backyard looks something like this:

Raised Brick Pond - 7/13/2007

This morning, I took a quick picture with my phone. Where’s the pond? For a frame of reference, the fence is a six foot fence. Keep in mind that I did shovel a little bit of snow onto that area to make a designated “doggie bathroom” area in the yard, since even our labs aren’t tall enough to wade through 3 feet of snow, but still, it’s incredible.

Blizzard 2010 - Where's my Pond?

Nevertheless, I’ve spent a good deal of time this weekend shoveling snow. I’m incredibly thankful that we have not yet lost power (knock on wood), as some other local hobbyists have and are very worried about the temperature of their aquariums falling far enough to threaten the lives of their inhabitants. Now that we’ve beat the modern snowfall record, I’m ready for spring, and gardening, and all the other niceties that come with warm weather!

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GWAPA: January 2010 Meeting

February 4th, 2010

Two weekends ago, GWAPA hosted its first meeting for the year at our member Ghazanfar’s house. Ghazanfar is an accomplished aquascaper, and had a fantastic aquascape on display in his ADA 90P aquarium. He also has an extensive emersed setup, with several racks of 40G breeder tanks filled with various Cryptocoryne and similar plants. In the past I’ve always marveled at his huge 210G in-wall aquarium, with automatic water changes, metal halides, and a nice aquascape, but this meeting everyone was glued to his 90P.

Ghazanfar's 90P

Ghazanfar's 90P - Photo By Jim Michaels

The actual topic of the meeting was about growing aquatic plants in tissue culture. Ghazanfar showed us some jars of various Cryptocoryne that he has started to produce via tissue culture techniques. Doing this allows you to preserve and propagate large quantities of genetically identical plants, which could otherwise take much more time and space using traditional growing methods. We ended our meeting, as always, with an auction full of aquatic plants.

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