Suction tube cleaning Pacific tank
A suction tube removes waste from the gravel in the Pacific tank.

Recently, I had the chance to observe as Stacey Tidman in the Animal Care Facility vacuumed, sorted and scrubbed the Pacific tank.

The process starts with emptying some of the dirty water from the tank. The Pacific Habitat is a saltwater tank, so white crusts of salt build up everywhere. These have to be wiped away. Then Stacey fires up a large suction apparatus that pulls the detritus (waste and uneaten food) from the gravel bed at the bottom of the tank.  This sucking tube is equipped with a screen so that no valuable sea creatures (like the worms that live in the gravel bed) end up going down the drain.

The next step is to remove any empty mussel shells. The starfish and sea urchins that live in the Pacific habitat love to snack on mussels, and the Museum staff provide them with a steady supply. The staff leave a few mussel shells in the tank as a source of calcium.

Scrubbing the Pacific tank
Scrubbing a week’s worth of algae from the Pacific tank.

Finally, Stacey scrubs the algae growth off the inside of the tank. There are snails in the habitat that help keep the tank clean by eating algae, but sometimes they need a bit of assistance. Stacey uses a special fibrous mitt to remove the algae from the tank without damaging the Plexiglass.

But bath time isn’t just a chore; it’s also a chance to get hands-on experience with some really beautiful and fascinating creatures. In my next post, I’ll introduce you to the colourful residents of the Pacific tank.