How do you keep the Aquarium
September 14, 2004
The Aquariums use a number of methods
to keep tanks spic and span for animals and visitors. The
best method is, of course, good old-fashioned elbow grease.
To keep tanks clean,
clear and healthy, the Aquariums rely heavily on
their team of volunteer SCUBA divers. These volunteers
assist with routine maintenance. Coral and shipwrecks
are scoured with toothbrushes. Sand and gravel
are cleaned with an underwater vacuum. Glass is
hand-cleaned on a regular basis.
However, there are also mechanically-designed
features to help with tank maintenance. At the
North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, each tank
is equipped with a life support system to ensure
high water quality. These systems consist of numerous
filtering and circulation devices. The water in
each tank is completely recirculated, ranging from
three times a day for larger tanks to more than
a hundred times a day for smaller tanks.
Divers at Fort Fisher present public education
programs and perform tank maintenance five or more
times per day in various tanks.
Pumps, from a half horsepower to one hundred-horse power,
operate life support systems. Some tanks use one pump.
Others require six. Many tanks use a device called a protein
skimmer that actually pulls protein from waste and food
off the surface of the water. This helps prevent poor water
Most of the filtration systems have a sand filter and
Bioball tower. These are contained areas that allow bacteria
to break down harmful chemicals, such as ammonia, which
is produced naturally by living creatures. Sometimes other
methods, such as ozone or ultraviolet light filters, are
used to further break down these chemicals and control
parasites and algae growth.
Both the Aquarium on Roanoke Island and the Aquarium at
Fort Fisher have volunteer SCUBA dive programs, and the
Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores will operate a volunteer
dive program when its expansion is complete in spring 2006.
Volunteer divers descend into natural settings, where animals
such as skates, sharks, morays, groupers and a multitude
of colorful tropical fishes swim amid shipwrecks and reefs.
For more information, or to become part of an Aquarium
volunteer dive team, contact the Volunteer Coordinator
at Roanoke Island at 252-473-3493 or toll free 866-332-3475,
or at Fort Fisher 910-458-8259 or 866-301-3476.