Last week we met the spotted turtles that will soon be calling the water exhibit home. Now it’s time to meet the freshwater fish and the Pacific habitat fish…
The residents of the freshwater river habitat have presented a bit of a challenge for the Museum staff. This habitat will include a variety of fish species collected from the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers. Determining which species could coexist peacefully in the habitat has been a learning process. For example, the staff tried to keep a group of large- and smallmouth bass in a tank with a group of Bluegill fish. But the bass decided that the Bluegills would make better snacks than roommates – they ate half of the Bluegill population in one night. For now, the more aggressive species of freshwater fish are kept in separate tanks in the Animal Care Facility. When the fish go on display, these predatory species will be separated from the less aggressive fish by an invisible Plexiglass barrier that bisects the freshwater aquarium.
There may be conflict between the freshwater river fish, but the residents of the Pacific habitat are getting along just fine. The Pacific tank, which is already on display in the Museum’s cafeteria, is a biodiversity habitat, meaning that it contains many different species that can live in harmony. The water in their tank is kept at a cool 9 degrees Celsius. This relatively low temperature means that they don’t eat too much (and therefore don’t produce much waste), so a large number of animals can share the habitat. This tank includes a wide range of vertebrates (including a foot-long gunnel fish) and invertebrates (such as brightly-coloured starfish). Each day, these laid-back West Coast species receive their nutrition in the form of an “algae shake.” It’s not very appetizing-looking, but it seems to hit the spot.
Having a lengthy acclimation period is extremely important for both the animals that will be living in the exhibit and the staff who will be caring for them. It means that that there will be fewer surprises (and fewer conflicts between tank-mates) when the water exhibit goes live in May.