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Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

Recap: International Sawfish Day

On Tuesday, October 17, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada joined several aquariums across North Americain celebrating the first annual International Sawfish Day!

Did you know? There are only five species of sawfish in the world – Dwarf, Knifetooth, Smalltooth, Largetooth and Green sawfish. The largest being the smalltooth sawfish, which can grow up to 25 feet!

One of the ways that Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada celebrated these incredible species with TWO Facebook LIVE events! If you didn’t get the chance to “tuna” in on Tuesday, check them out below.

First up, our Marketing Coordinator Sarah joined our Senior Aquarist Ka in the Dangerous Lagoon Tunnel to discuss all things sawfish. During their chat, they were even joined by a very special guest – our male green sawfish! The male and female green sawfish that call Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada home can often be seen lying on the tunnel, giving guests the perfect view.

 

During the second Facebook LIVE, Sarah joined one of our Lead Educators, Danielle, behind the scenes to give viewers a look at how we feed the animals in the Dangerous Lagoon, including the two resident sawfish.

Danielle answered some great questions – including the purpose of the sawfish’s rostum, how they are able to eat and even what they are fed here at the Aquarium.

 

One important topic that both Kat and Danielle discussed was the many threats that face these animals, and how we can help.

The sawfish gets their name from their long rostrum, or “saw”. Due to this unique morphology, combined with slow growth, all five species of sawfish are listed as endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

Their rostrum often causes entanglement in fishing nets and other marine debris and can often lead to targeted trophy hunting. They are also continuously hunted for their meat, liver oil and fins for the shark fin trade. And, as a species commonly found in shallow coastal waters, their habitat is at risk due to development.

Even though we may be located thousands of miles from the nearest sawfish habitat, there are many ways that we can help. Most importantly, it starts with education and creating awareness. By participating in activities such as International Sawfish Day, we can create awareness of these animals and their importance in the ocean and threats they face.  We hope that you enjoying “tuna”ing in to our Facebook LIVE events, and they you will share them with your friends so that they too can build a connection with these magnificent ocean creatures.

 

Have a question about the Aquarium, or something you would like to see on Deep Sea Diary? Comment below for the chance for your question to be featured in our monthly Q&A post!

Celebrating the Sawfish

Next Tuesday, October 17th is the first annual International Sawfish Day!

There are only five species of sawfish in the world – Dwarf, Knifetooth, Smalltooth, Largetooth and Green sawfish. The largest being the smalltooth sawfish, which can grow up to 25 feet!

Sawfish are considered the most threatened group of Elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) in the world. Here at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, we have two resident green sawfish, who live in the Dangerous Lagoon exhibit.

Green sawfish are more closely related to stingrays than sharks. They are a modified ray with a shark-like body, and can grow over 15 feet in length! Commonly mistaken for swordfish, sawfish are elasmobranchs meaning their skeleton is made of cartilage (like our ears and nose), and not bone. Our female green sawfish is easily our largest animal at the Aquarium, weighing in at over 400 pounds over 14 feet long from end to end! (Don’t know which one is female, and which one is male? When viewing the sawfish from within the Dangerous Lagoon tunnel, look for the presence of claspers. These male reproductive organs are modifications of the pelvic fins and are located on the inner margin of the pelvic fins.)

The rostrum, or “saw,” is what makes these animals so unique!

A sawfish’s rostrum is long and narrow, edged with teeth and can comprise up to 30% of their length! Depending on the species, the rostum is comprised on 16-37 pairs of teeth on either side. Once lost, these teeth will never grow back.Contrary to popular belief, the saw is not used to saw into other animals. An efficient weapon covered in electroreceptors, called ampullae of Lorenzini, the rostrum allows sawfish to detect their prey in the substrate, before taking lateral swipes to stun or kill.

With all five species listed as endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN, the first annual International Sawfish Day couldn’t have come at a better time!

Sawfish are a vulnerable species due to their unique morphology and slow growth. Their rostrum often causes entanglement in fishing nets and other marine debris and can often lead to targeted trophy hunting. They are also continuously hunted for their meat, liver oil and fins for the shark fin trade. And, as a species commonly found in shallow coastal waters, their habitat is at risk due to development.

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But, you can help!

One way to do so is by joining Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada on Facebook! On October 17, we will be celebrating International Sawfish Day with TWO Facebook LIVE events – 8:45am & 1:00pm (topics listed below).

8:45am – “All About Sawfish” Facebook LIVE with our Senior Aquarist Kat!

1:00pm – “Sawfish Feed” Facebook LIVE with our Lead Educator Danielle!

We hope to ‘sea’ you there!

 

Is there something that you’ve always wanted to know about sawfish? Leave your sawfish questions below (before Monday, October 16) for your chance to WIN a sawfish stuffed animal, two general admission tickets and a keychain, AND have them answered during our Facebook LIVE on International Sawfish Day!

Celebrating Coastal Cleanup Day

In September, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada’s Blue Team and over 50 members of the local community joined forces to celebrate Coastal Cleanup Day, cleaning Lake Ontario’s shoreline at the Humber Marshes.

Every year thousands of tons of garbage enter our oceans, harming wildlife, humans, and impacting the livelihood of those who work on the ocean.

Even though Toronto is located thousands of miles from the nearest ocean, the problem begins with us. Rivers, lakes, streams, storm drains and beaches are all connected, so litter at your shoreline can be transported far away from where it began.

Regardless of the origin, litter in the environment can have devastating consequences for wildlife. Animals mistake litter for food or become entangled in single-use plastic bags, rope and string. Litter can transport invasive species, or introduce dangerous toxins into an ecosystem. Plastic litter can break down into smaller pieces that are impossible to pick up and never truly disappear.

Over the course of the two-hour September cleanup, Aquarium staff and community members collected over 52 kg (113 lbs) of waste and recycling! The worst offenders? Cigarette butts, plastic bottle caps and small pieces of foam (less than 2.5 cm in diameter).

So, what do we do with that 52 kg of waste collected?

Waste collected during a Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada shoreline cleanup goes in one of three streams – trash, recycling and cigarette butts. The trash and recycling are collected by the City of Toronto, whereas the cigarette butts are sent to a recycling program called TerraCycle. Once collected in this program, the butts and packaging are separated by composition and melted into hard plastic that can be remolded to make new recycled industrial products, such as plastic pallets. The ash and tobacco are separated out and composted in a specialized process.

Coastal Cleanup Day was established by the Ocean Conservancy, an organization that work to help protect the ocean from the challenges it faces every year. The important day encourages us to get out to our beaches and help to limit this problem by cleaning up the garbage that has washed up on shore, and that left by visitors every day.

Twice a year, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada participates in a shoreline cleanup to help clean Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Humber River. This area, known as the Humber Marshes, is one of the few remaining river mouth marshes in Toronto. As part of Toronto’s largest watershed, the extensive marshes provide an important breeding habitat for ducks, turtles and fish, and are a significant corridor for migratory song birds and monarch butterflies. More than 60 species of fish live in the river including such sport fish as trout, pike and salmon.

A BIG ‘tank’ you to everyone that participated! Interested in participating in our next Shoreline cleanup in spring 2018? Subscribe to the Aquarium newsletter (located at the bottom of our website, here) for more information.

Have a question about the Aquarium, or something you would like to see on Deep Sea Diary? Email us at deepseadiary@ripleys.com for the chance for your question to be featured in our monthly Q&A post!

 

Drop Us a Line – September Q&A

You ask, we answer! Welcome to Deep Sea Diary’s monthly Q&A – a great way to connect with Aquarium experts as you fish for more information about all things Ripley’s.

 

Anna asked,

Q: How many types of fishes call Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada home?

A: Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is home to over 16,000 fish and invertebrates, as well as two green sea turtles. Nine galleries showcase a cross section of saltwater and freshwater environments from around the world – starting with species from Toronto’s backyard, the Great Lakes basin. The Dangerous Lagoon is our largest exhibit with 2.9 million liters of salt water, and Rainbow Reef is the most diverse, with over 100 different types of tropical fish.

Learn how we take care of the animals in our largest exhibit, the Dangerous Lagoon, here.

Patricia asked,

Q: What is the most common place that is photographed at the Aquarium?

A: One of the most iconic and photographed places inside Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is Planet Jellies, specifically the wall of sea nettles. The giant floor to ceiling kriesel stops everyone in their tracks, and is the perfect location for a selfie or silhouette photo against the stunning blues, purples and pinks.

We want to see your Aquarium photos! When sharing your photos of Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, be sure to tag us @RipleysAquaCA and use our hashtag, #RipleysAquaCA.

Learn more about how to capture the perfect photo at the Aquarium here.

 

Is there something you’ve always wanted to know about Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada? Drop us a line in the comments below for the chance to be featured in our monthly Q&A !

What is AZA?

Conserve. Educate. Inspire.

At Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, our mission is to provide a world class experience that will foster education, conservation and research, while providing fun and entertainment for all ages.

One way that we do this is by maintaining accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

AZA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. AZA has been the primary accrediting body for zoos and aquariums for over 40 years, and represents more than 230 institutions in the United States, Canada and internationally.

These accredited institutions meet the highest standards in animal care and provide a fun, safe, and educational family experience. Collectively drawing more than 180 million visitors every year and dedicating millions of dollars to support scientific research, conservation and education programs, accredited zoos and aquariums play an important role in connecting their visitors to the natural world.

Simply put, AZA accreditation is considered to be the “best” accreditation a zoo or aquarium can hold, due to the incredibly high standards and stringent requirements.

In September 2015, less than two years after opening, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada was granted accreditation by AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission.

To achieve accreditation, the Aquarium underwent a thorough review to ensure it has and will continue to meet rising standards, which include animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. In addition to a very lengthy written application, the Aquarium also took part in an intense multiple-day on-site inspection, which involved outside leaders in the zoo and aquarium industry observing all aspects of the institution’s operation. Over the course of three days, the inspectors observed the Aquarium’s animal care, safety for visitors, staff and animals, educational programs, conservation efforts, veterinary programs, financial stability, risk management, visitor services, and more.  The accreditation process then concluded with an in-person hearing in front of the Accreditation Commission, at which time accreditation was presented.

Accreditation doesn’t stop there. AZA member institutions are required to repeat the entire accreditation process every five years to ensure that they are upholding the continuously evolving standards, incorporating best modern zoological practices in animal welfare and management, and embracing modern AZA philosophies.

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So what does this mean for Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada?

Accreditation certifies that Ripley’s meets all mandatory and professional standards for animal welfare, management, veterinary care, behavioural enrichment, nutrition, staff training and beyond. This recognition ensure that the animals you visit receive excellent care every day.

“The Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredits only those zoos and aquariums that meet the highest standards and are proven leaders in the care and conservation of wildlife as well as education,” said former AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “The community can take great pride in knowing that Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of conservationists.”

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums and their member institutions are leaders in saving species, and your link to helping animals all over the world. So, the next time you visit a zoo or aquarium look for the AZA accreditation logo as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you and a better future for all living things.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is extremely proud to hold this accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums! You can find Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada’s accreditation plaque proudly displayed at Guest Services. Visit us today to experience one of our dive shows and aquarist talks, and to learn more about our conservation programs and animal welfare practices.

 

Have a question about the Aquarium, or something you would like to see on Deep Sea Diary? Drop us a line in the comments below for the chance to be featured in our monthly Q&A post!

Jellyfish 101

What is a jellyfish, and how do you take care of them?! A question on every visitor’s mind.

Being neither fish nor delicious fruit preserve, the name “jellyfish” is a bit of a misnomer.  Typically referred to as sea jellies, or just “jellies”, these animals belong to a larger collection of animals referred to as Cnidaria, and are more closely related to sea anemones and corals than they are to actual fish. They evolved over 580 million years ago when their ancestors laid claim to the planktonic, venomous marine predator niche of the food chain. And they’ve held onto it firmly ever since.

That being said, jellies are little more than a set of floating stomachs with stinging arms, a simple network of nerves and a reproductive system – so how much work can really go into their care? Let’s find out!

First, you just need to simulate the vast and fathomless open ocean in a relatively small space. How hard could it be?!

In order to recreate a jelly’s natural environment, we have to build a tank that ensures they aren’t exposed to powerful currents, walls, corners, edges, holes, any solid objects whatsoever, excreted waste, old food, microscopic organisms, other jellies – you get the idea. Sea jellies’ health will rapidly deteriorate if they have prolonged contact with anything solid. So, in terms of build, most jellyfish tanks are rounded and have painstakingly balanced water flow to keep jellies suspended off of the walls and floor. Similar to the ceiling moon jelly tank (pictured below) in our Planet Jellies gallery.

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Second, you need to provide a constant, even supply of a variety of foods all day, every day.

Jellies are opportunistic carnivores. In the wild, this means they are continually pulling food out of the water. At the Aquarium, this means that we have to provide a near-constant supply of things for them to catch, a feat managed by our behind-the-scenes “live food” cultures and specially blended “shakes” made up of frozen krill, fish eggs, and other goodies. Delicious!

Each day, one aquarist is responsible for preparing the population of freshly hatched brine shrimp that will be fed out, via a low drip, to all of our tanks. Just as much work goes into keeping up our live foods as it does to care for any of our exhibit tanks; they have to be fed, their tanks have to be cleaned, and their health needs to be closely monitored to ensure our animals are getting the highest quality food possible.

Third, you need… well, jellyfish.

Jellies reproduce by broadcast spawning, which means the males and females release sperm and eggs into the water. These gametes meet up and create a small grain-like “planula” that will find a nice place to settle down into a polyp, which resembles a small sea anemone. These polyps will break off into several flower-like ephyrae, which eventually transform into medusae – the final life stage that most people recognize as “jellyfish”.

Perforated plates or mesh left in tanks containing adult jellies are ideal settling grounds for polyps, so our cultures behind the scenes and on-exhibit are always growing and changing! (When touring the Aquarium, be sure to check out the life cycle display in Planet Jellies.)

Finally, all that’s left is keeping up with the cnidarians.

Day to day maintenance of our jelly tanks is an involved and convoluted dance, since any interaction between cleaning equipment and jelly could result in injury. At the same time, our jellies also need their tanks to be kept clear of algae and other microscopic organisms that could damage them. To help combat this, once every few months each exhibit will have its inhabitants moved out to a holding tank overnight, and a diver will either enter the tank to scrub down all the surfaces, or the tank will be bleached, emptied, and refilled with fresh salt water.

Though it can be a bit disorienting with the ever-changing lights on our jellyfish exhibits, pay attention the next time you swim by and you might be able to see how the water flows around our tanks, spot some speck-sized brine shrimp zooming around, or even see some brand new baby ephyrae!

 

Have a question about the Aquarium, or something you would like to see on Deep Sea Diary? Drop us a line in the comments below for the chance to be featured in our monthly Q&A post!

Back to School

It’s September!  This means that it’s time for everybody’s favourite time of the year – back to school!

Okay, so, maybe not everybody loves back-to-school time.  But for a lot of our fish, their “school” is the happiest and safest part of their lives.

A school of fish is most accurately defined as: a group of fish that swim together in the same direction. Fish that group for social purposes are technically shoaling, and groups of fish often switch back and forth between both.

For something that appears so simple, it’s actually an incredibly complex behaviour. Scientists don’t fully understand the ins and outs of it yet, but the fact that it’s so common means it must be advantageous.  Schooling can increase feeding efficiency, make it easier to find a mate, and let the group as a whole navigate better than an individual.  Some scientists believe that traveling in a school may reduce drag or resistance, similar to a flock of birds.  It’s also quite an effective predator-avoidance technique – safety in numbers, right?  Schooling behaviour can confuse hunters, and lower individual risk of predation.

One of the flashiest exhibits at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is the alewife exhibit, located at the entrance to the Canadian Waters gallery.

In-house, it’s referred to simply as “Schooling”, and it’s easy to see why.  This is a monospecific exhibit, meaning it has only one kind of animal.  Alewives are anadromous, which means that in the wild, they are born in freshwater and live most of their lives in the ocean (sort of like salmon).  They’re close cousins of herring, and there’s some evidence that they communicate with farts!  But the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s a huge group of animals, all swimming together.  How many fish do you think there are in there?  Go on, take a guess.

Some fish, like alewives, are what we call obligate shoalers. This means that they spend their entire lives in a group.  With obligate shoalers, being alone or in a too-small group can cause a measurable stress response.  That’s part of the reason why we have such a large school here at the Aquarium – they won’t be happy or healthy otherwise.  If you’re looking at the alewife exhibit, watch out for any that get separated from the main group.  They zoom back in in quite a hurry!  You’ll be able to see the school swimming together against the current in the exhibit, and moving up and down in the water.  If you’re lucky, you might get to see a feeding, when they’ll all rocket to the surface together.  These fish usually have a very fast response time during feeds.  Many eyes mean someone is likely to spot the food as soon as it goes in.

While the alewives are certainly an obvious example, make sure to look for schooling and shoaling behaviour in the other exhibits as well!

Our Swarm: Nature by Numbers exhibit has more information about group behaviours in animals, and lots of other examples of animals that swarm, shoal, and school together. Make sure to check it out!

Oh, and to answer the question above? We have almost 7000 individuals in our alewife school!

 

Have a question about the Aquarium, or something you would like to see on Deep Sea Diary? Drop us a line in the comments below for the chance to be featured in our monthly Q&A post!

Drop Us a Line – August Q&A

 

Deep Sea Diary Q & A

You ask, we answer! Welcome to Deep Sea Diary’s monthly Q&A – a great way to connect with Aquarium experts as you fish for more information about all things Ripley’s.

 

Paige asked…

Q. What is the most invasive species at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada?

A. The lionfish, a popular fish in tropical home aquariums, is a flourishing invasive species in the US Southeast and Caribbean coastal waters.  Native to the Indo-Pacific, it is believed that they were likely released into the Atlantic Ocean and/or Gulf of Mexico on purpose when people no longer wanted them in their home aquariums.

This invasive venomous species has the potential to harm reef ecosystems because it is a top predator that competes for food and space.  In the US, the lionfish population is continuing to grow and increase its range. Juveniles have been collected in waters as far north as Long Island, New York. This expansion in range is largely due to the fact that lionfish have no known predators and reproduce all year long. A mature female releases roughly two million eggs a year!

Be sure to check out the lionfish that call Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada home, located in the Gallery!

Jackie asked…

Q. How do jellyfish eat? Do they have a mouth?

A. Jellyfish eat by catching prey with their oral arms (the ones that hang down from the center of the body) or their tentacles (found along the margins of the body). These oral arms and tentacles  are covered in specialized stinging cells, called nematocysts. These nematocysts function like a spring-loaded venomous harpoons, piercing pierce anything that brush up against them.

Prey caught in the central oral arms will be moved up canals in the arm to the mouth (which is an opening into the body at the point where all the arms meet in the middle) and then into the inner gastric pouch, where it is digested. If the prey is caught by the marginal tentacles, it is moved to canals in the body that then transport it to the center.

Jellyfish are passive hunters, which means they collect food as they move through the water. They feed on a steady diet of plankton and even other jellyfish.

Stay “tuna-d” for an upcoming Deep Sea Diary post on how we take care of the jellyfish at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada!

Christy asked…

Q. How large can an octopus grow at the Aquarium?

A. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is home to a giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini). This species of octopus is the largest of 300+ known octopus species. There is a huge variation in size that depends on the individual, but the average for this species is considered around 15-18kg (33-40lb), with an arm span around 4m(12-14ft) when stretched out. Of course, we can’t talk about size without mentioning the world record – OVER 130kg (300lb) and 9m (30ft) wide! There has also been the occasional “fisherman’s tale” of even larger individuals, but the proof isn’t quite there yet.

The giant Pacific octopus can live to be about four years old, with both males and females dying soon after breeding. Females live long enough to tend to their eggs, but they do not eat during this months-long brooding period, and usually die soon afterwards.

Check out our giant pacific octopus, located in the Canadian Waters gallery!

Is there something you’ve always wanted to know about Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada? Drop us a line in the comments below for the chance to be featured in our monthly Q&A !

 

Diving with Sharks at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada

 

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to scuba dive with sharks?

How about doing it without hopping on a plane, or leaving the comfort of Toronto?

Now you can, thanks to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada’s Discovery Dive program!

Like many avid scuba divers, diving with sharks was always on the top of my bucket list. For over three years, I watched my Ripley’s Aquarium colleagues dive in Dangerous Lagoon to perform routine maintenance and cleaning, and had always wondered what it felt like to come face-to-face with the ocean’s top predator.

So, when Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada launched the Discovery Dive program in Fall 2016, I dove at the opportunity to find out for myself.

Led by experienced Education and Husbandry/Animal Care staff, this two-hour experience begins with a behind the scenes tour of the Aquarium. If you’ve ever wondered how an Aquarium maintains the tanks, tests water quality, where the food is prepped and even how they move large animals to and fro, this behind the scenes tour will answer all of your questions and more.

After the tour, you’ll don your wetsuit, do a safety briefing and equipment check, and then, it’s dive time!

The 30-minute guided dive takes place in the Dangerous Lagoon, a 2.9 million litre tank that gives you the chance to see the Aquarium’s green sea turtles, green sawfish, stingrays, moray eels and numerous of species of tropical fish. And you can’t forget about the stars of the show, the sharks. The Dangerous Lagoon is home to over a dozen sharks, representing three species – sand tiger, sand bar and nurse. Some even measure up to 13 feet long! Talk about feeling like a small fish.

Some people may call me crazy, but there’s no need to worry about the sharks on this dive (or even in the wild for that matter), they’re just looking to go about their own business. The trained Divers that are guiding you through the water work with these animals every day. They know exactly what behaviours to look for, how to tell the sharks to move along and are very good at communicating with the guests about when to stop, when to keep your eyes open and most importantly, when to relax and enjoy the scenery.

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So what exactly did it feel like to come face-to-face with the ocean’s top predator?

Just like I had always imagined, absolutely exhilarating. Being under the water, surrounded by fish, is such a calming experience. That’s right, calming. And despite the busy summer crowds staring at me from the other side of the tank, this underwater adventure was something I will be talking about for a long time.

Learn more about the Discovery Dive requirements, availability, cost and more on our website.

And if diving with the sharks isn’t for you, or you’d just like to keep your head above water, check out the Stingray Experience – your chance to get up close and personal with the cownose and southern stingrays in another feature tank, Ray Bay.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is proud to donate 10% of proceeds from the Discovery Dive program to the Shark Research Institute to support their work in shark conservation. Visit their website to learn more about their work.

 

Have a question about the Aquarium, or something you would like to see on Deep Sea Diary? Drop us a line in the comments below before August 31, 2017 for the chance to be featured in our monthly Q&A post and win 2 tickets to the Aquarium!

Hook the Perfect Shot: Aquarium Photography Tips

 

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Photography at an Aquarium is not an easy feat. However, with a few simple tips, even the beginner can hook the perfect shot!

Aquariums are beautiful, mesmerizing places, full of colour and unique animals. How can you not want to photograph it all?

Whether you have a DSLR or a smart phone, aquariums also present many obstacles to photographers, including low light, reflections, fast moving subjects, crowds of people and restrictions on the use of flash and tripod.

But have no fear, there are ways around all of these challenges! Today, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada’s Photo Port staff member, Andrew, helps navigate the challenges to hooking the perfect shot at the Aquarium.

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Challenge: Low light

Solution: The biggest issue when shooting underwater is lighting, as light does not travel well in water.  In addition, the water acts like a blue filter and absorbs the reds and greens.

If you are shooting in automatic, on most occasions, the camera can accurately decide what is best for the given situation. However, it will sometimes struggle in low light situations. If this is the case, manual mode may be best.

When shooting in manual mode on your DSLR, remember the higher the ISO, the more sensitive to light your camera is, and the grainier your photo is. You want to keep as low an ISO as your lens will allow for. Aim for an ISO of 100 to 400.

If you use an editing software, colour, brightness and contrast can also be adjusted post-visit.

Andrew’s tip: If shooting in manual mode on your DSLR, set your white balance to the “shade” setting. This will warm up your photos slightly and get rid of the bluish tinge associated with shooting underwater.

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Challenge: Reflections and distortion

Solution: One of the biggest challenges to aquarium photography is dealing with the external reflections. The aquarium is lit so that you can view the fish and find your way around, which can cause issues because the light reflects off of everything, including walls, signs, yourself and other visitors. First step would be to block the reflection by wearing darker clothing the day of and position yourself (or timing a visitor) in front of the reflection.

If that does not work, try using a rubber lens hood and keep the front of it in direct contact with the glass. (Make sure the lens hood is made of rubber, so it does not scratch the tank.)

Due to the sizes and shapes of the exhibits, distortion is also an issue. Don’t aim your camera in a downward direction. For best results try to take the photograph at an angle that is perpendicular to the glass and the subject.

Andrew’s tip: Try a different perspective by taking up close, macro photos of the fish! For example, if you want to take a nice macro photo of a clown fish, use the AP (aperture priority) setting on your DSLR camera to give yourself a wide aperture so that only the fish is in focus while everything else is out of focus.

Challenge: Fast moving subjects

Solution: Despite how much you try, there is no telling a fish what to do. So instead, use their movements to your advantage.

First off, don’t chase the fish. To achieve your desired shot, first, stand back and observe the fish’s behavior patterns in order to predict where they may move throughout the tank. Set up and be ready for them when they swim into the frame.  Be patient, you will have to spend some time and take many shots to insure success, but it can be done.

When shooting a fast moving subject, a fast lens comes in handy. The speed is indicated by the f stop number. Andrew recommends a simple f/1.8 50mm lens. This lens is good for getting those highly detailed close ups of all of your favorite sea creatures, and can take some exciting family photos too! A 50mm lens does not allow for zoom. Instead, allow your feet to be the zoom.

Andrew’s tip: When photographing a fast moving subject, such as the stingrays in Ray Bay, switch your camera to the TV (shutter priority) setting on your DSLR camera to give yourself a high enough setting so you can capture the moment without blurring it!

 

Challenge: Crowds of people

Solution: Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada posts peak visit times on the website. To avoid crowds and capture the best shot, visit outside of these times.

Challenge: Restrictions on the use of flash and tripod

Solution: Policies such as these restrictions are put in place for a reason. A lot of animals are sensitive to light. At Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, specific tanks are marked with a “no flash photography” sign. For example, the giant pacific octopus. When touring the Aquarium, be sure you are aware of this signage.

As a general rule of thumb, turn off your flash for all photos. If taking a photo in front of a tank with flash, the light will typically bounce off the tank and create a reflecting in the photo.

Tripods are not allowed for the safety of Aquarium guests.

Please note, for the safety of the animals, the Aquarium does not allow underwater cameras.

aquarium-photography-tips

One of the great things about digital photography is that there is much room for error. You can take as many photos as you would like, or as your storage card allows. And if you don’t like a photo, you simply delete.

And don’t forget to photograph more than just fish! All those people that are in the way blocking your view of the tank, can make for excellent subjects themselves. Don’t overlook the architecture of the aquarium itself, most of these are works of art in themselves.

Interested in learning more about photographing the fish at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada? Check out our Photography Classes here.

 

Have a question about the Aquarium, or something you would like to see on Deep Sea Diary? Drop us a line in the comments below before August 31, 2017 for the chance to be featured in our monthly Q&A post and win 2 tickets to the Aquarium!