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Ripley's Aquarium of Canada

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

 

ripleys-aquarium-canada-discovery-dive

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.

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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!

Life in Between the Tide

 

When thinking of extreme environments in the ocean you may picture the dead sea or hydrothermal vents.

It may be hard to imagine, but the shoreline created by tides is actually one of the most challenging places for an animal to live. In this week’s Deep Sea Diary post, we will delve into the amazing area of the ocean known as the intertidal zone, and discuss some of the aquatic animals that call this area home.

The intertidal zone is the area of the shore water reaches during high tides, but during low tide it is left exposed.

Canada is home to the largest tidal flux in the world – the east coast is home to the Bay of Fundy, which experiences tidal cycles with highs of over 16 meters (52 feet), about the height of a five-story building! These tidal cycles create a complex and dynamic environment with large fluctuations in many environmental factors. At high tide, the environmental conditions are relatively stable and constant as animals are covered by seawater. At low tide, however, the area becomes more of a terrestrial habitat and animals experience large fluctuations in temperature, salinity and oxygen level. Plus, during low tide, these species are exposed to predators and the threat of drying conditions!

Let’s explore some of the animals commonly found in the intertidal zone on our Canadian coasts, and how they survive in this extreme environment.

Limpets are small marine snails that inhabit the area known as the spray zone.

This area is mostly terrestrial and only becomes covered with seawater at very high tides. The spray zone, however, is frequently exposed to splashing waves and wind-blown spray. Limpets use a muscular foot to attach themselves to rocks so they don’t get knocked around and they have a strong shell to protect their body from the constant wave shock. They can even raise and lower their shell to help them control the temperature of their body. Limpets use their strong teeth to scrap algae off of rocks. This doesn’t sound very interesting until you learn that limpet teeth are the strongest natural material currently on record, six times stronger than spider silk!

In the high intertidal zone you will find an abundance of crustaceans.

Not the crustaceans you may commonly think of, like lobster and crab. Instead, barnacles (yes, they’re crustaceans too!) inhabit this area.  Larval barnacles get batted around the intertidal zone until they find a suitable place to call home. They glue themselves to that location and stay there forever, constructing a hard shell around their body. The shell not only protects them from predators, it also allows them to keep reserves of water to use during low tide. You may also see barnacles living on other animals such as whales and turtles, don’t be alarmed though, they are harmless and just filter feed on plankton in the water!

Sea urchins and sea stars are also animals common to the intertidal community, often inhabiting the mid intertidal zone.

Urchins and sea stars move using hundreds of small suckers, called tube feet. They have a complex system of water canals inside their body and they control the movement of their feet by squeezing water in and out of them. During low tides urchins, sea stars and sea cucumbers often become trapped in small pools of water and remain there until high tide. This is when they are vulnerable to terrestrial predators and it becomes a fight for survival! Urchins use sharp spines that protrude from their body to wound predators, some species also have venomous stinging spines they can use as an additional weapon. When attacked, sea stars will actually drop off their arm to escape and regrow it later. Sea cucumbers will take that strategy to another level and eviscerate (or “puke up”) their whole gut to distract and confuse predators!

Another resident often seen in these tide pools is the sculpin. These small fish are quite extraordinary! Tide pools often experience times of very low oxygen which would normally make survival quite hard. Sculpins however have adapted to extract oxygen directly from the air, using their skin to breathe! Their body also has no scales and instead they defend themselves using sharp spines on their head and gill covers. Many species of sculpin can also change the shade of their skin to camouflage with their surroundings and avoid predators.

This is just a small taste of some of the amazing inhabitants of the intertidal zone. You can find many more in the Canadian Waters gallery at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. Swim on by to see these animals in action and learn even more about the ocean.

 

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!

Water Quality at the Aquarium

 

It’s finally August! Time to relax on the beach, host a few BBQs, and of course celebrate National Water Quality Month!

Ok, so maybe August isn’t exactly synonymous with water quality for most people. But here at Ripley’s it’s always a top priority. As a member of the aquariums husbandry department and the aquarist in charge of our chemistry lab, I am responsible for testing and monitoring the water quality of our exhibits. Frequent and meticulous testing is critical to ensure that our exhibit water meets the highest of standards. The lives of our animals literally depend on it.

When we take care of aquatic animals, we do so in part by controlling their entire environment!

The water in their exhibit, for all intents and purposes, is their whole world. There is no current to flush waste away, no distant reef to retreat to, but rather a finite, and when compared to the size of lakes and oceans, relatively small volume of water that must be pristine. If left unchecked, waste and other potentially harmful contaminants could accumulate to levels that threaten the well-being of our animals!

But alas, there is no cause for concern. We have a dedicated laboratory for the sole purpose of testing water quality parameters to ensure they are always within the appropriate range that our animals need to thrive.

Now let us be clear, this is not like testing the pH and alkalinity of your pool or using a testing kit for your aquarium at home. Our lab is equipped with high-end scientific equipment to make certain we get accurate and precise results. Routine testing involves the use of multi parameter meters, pH/conductivity/luminescent dissolved oxygen probes, incubators, burettes, and the pièce de résistance, a UV/Vis spectrophotometer with an added on flow thru apparatus.

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With this equipment we are able to measure, and thus closely monitor, the pH, salinity, alkalinity, oxygen saturation and oxygen content, levels of nitrogenous waste products, potential heavy metal contaminants, chlorine content, phosphate levels, and bacterial growth in our exhibits. Among other important parameters. We test our water constantly as early detection enables us to correct potential issues within our exhibits before they progress to the point were they pose a threat to the well-being and health of our animals.

Alright, I have delayed long enough. It’s time to talk about poop!

As you may have heard everyone poops, and this includes all of the animals here at the aquarium. So, where does that poop go exactly and does it affect our water quality? Some of it is removed as part of the mechanical filtration included in the life support systems for our tanks, more is removed by chemical filtration, and yet more during routine cleaning by siphoning and gravel vacuuming etc. But that doesn’t get rid of all the waste produced by fish, namely I’d like to focus on the nitrogen waste product – ammonia. Specifically, how we prevent it’s build up and how we test for it.

Ammonia accumulation is toxic to all vertebrates primarily due to its neurotoxic effects. In the open ocean, the concentration of ammonia never has the opportunity to suddenly spike because of just how massive oceans are. But in closed recirculating systems like our exhibits, ammonia levels have the potential to climb and to climb rapidly. To prevent this we use biological filtration which involves the help of nitrifying bacteria that actually use the ammonia as an energy source. These bacteria “eat” the ammonia which prevents it from building up to harmful levels.

But in order to ensure this beneficial bacteria is doing its job we have to do ours too.

This involves testing exhibit water for ammonia. For some tanks this means daily testing and for others a couple times a week. We test for ammonia and other nitrogenous waste compounds using colorimetric assays. As part of these assays, a dye or colour change is produced following a chemical reaction between our laboratory reagents and the waste compound we want to measure. The intensity of this colour being proportional to the amount of ammonia (in this example) present in the water sample. In the absence of ammonia, no colour change will occur. This colour change is measured using a spectrophotometer and offers precision home testing kits cannot replicate.

We are very conservative in our cut off for what constitutes safe levels of ammonia and other contaminants. We will perform water changes, replacing tank water with new water free of contaminants, whenever these limits are exceeded. Again, if ammonia would not accumulate in the oceans why should we tolerate ammonia accumulation in our tanks!

This abundance of caution helps to ensure our tanks don’t only look appealing to our guests, but the animals in them are happy and healthy too.   

P.S. Happy Water Quality Month!

 

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

Drop Us a Line – July Q&A

Deep Sea Diary Q & A

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

 

Trevor asked...

Q: Do you feed any of the animals live food?

A: In order to keep our animals’ diets as balance, nutritious and varied as possible, we do keep a few different live food sources on hand. They are packed with protein and vitamins, and are also a great way to provide enrichment for our animals!

Artmeia, also know an brine shrimp, are the same exact “Sea Monkeys” you may have had as a kid. We use both their adult and larval forms, called Nauplii. Adult Artemia are enjoyed by many of the smaller fish and anemones, and Nauplii are fed to the jellies.

Another shrimp-like crustacean, adult Mysids are fed to the cuttlefish, seahorses and reef fish. This zooplankton is found in just about every environment (marine and freshwater), and is often used as a bioindicator because they are so sensitive to pollution.

Learn more about what and how the animals are fed, here.

Roy asked…

Q: How and why does the electric eel generate a current?

A: Electric eels inhabit the Orinoco and Amazon river basins in South America, and are commonly found in areas where the bottom is mussy and the water is stagnant. They are obligatory air breathers and do not need high amounts of oxygen in the water.

The electric eel is not a true eel, but a member of the Knifefish order and more closely related to catfish than eels. Knifefishes use electric organs to generate currents that help them locate prey in murky waters. The electric eel uses three different organs to generate its shock (and can even control the intensity). The Sach’s organ emits low-voltage discharges (great for electrolocation) and the main and Hunter’s organs emit high-voltage discharges during predatory attacks and defense. These electric organs take up nearly 3/5 of the animal’s body!

The electric eel that calls Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada home can be found in The Gallery.

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Natalie asked...

Q: Where are the turtles?

A: Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada has two resident green sea turtles that live in the Dangerous Lagoon. They have free reign of this nearly 2.5 million litre tank, and may not always be easy to spot.

Of the seven species of sea turtles, green sea turtles are one of the largest, with adults averaging 400-500lbs! Young green sea turtles are omnivorous, eating crustaceans and small fish. As they mature, they become primarily herbivorous, and they will adjust to their surroundings. Our residents enjoy a daily balance diet of protein, leafy greens and veggies.

Green sea turtles are an endangered species, historically taken for their meat and shell. Their threats nowadays are many, including habitat alteration, boat strikes, disease, nest disturbance and predation and fisheries impact, especially as bycatch from large trawlers.

Learn more about the animals in the Dangerous Lagoon, and how they are fed, here.

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On the last Thursday of each month, we feature commonly asked questions from our Aquarium guests and Deep Sea Diary readers.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to know about Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada? Email us at deepseadiary@ripleys.com for your chance to be featured!

A Day in the Life of an Aquarium SCUBA Diver

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Whether you’re planning on swimming off a dock in cottage country, hitting the beach on the coast or “borrowing” your child’s kiddie pool, there’s a good chance you’ll take to the water this summer to enjoy the warm weather.

Of course, at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada the swimming never stops. In addition to the tens of thousands of animals that call the Aquarium home, visitors may sometimes notice SCUBA divers at work. While we’re most aquatically active in the morning hours, we typically conduct at least five dives every single day, all year long. That’s a lot of time underwater! But with over two dozen certified SCUBA divers on staff – from full and part-time divers to our aquarium biologists – we are able to share the load.  

It takes a lot of work to dive as much as we do, requiring scheduling, equipment servicing, filling tanks, keeping records and supervision for each dive. In fact, we maintain records of every dive we’ve made since there was first water in our exhibits.

These dives can take a lot of forms, but many of them revolve around cleaning.

With 5.7 million litres of water at the Aquarium, it’s no surprise that some exhibits are going to be too big to tidy up without getting wet. In fact, over 15 of our exhibits are dove regularly for cleaning, with many more requiring snorkeling. These cleaning dives can involve wiping the acrylic (the material used for our viewing windows) to give guests the best possible look, scrubbing the rocks and décor, and even doing some underwater vacuuming to make sure the sand stays clean for the health of the fish.

Aside from keeping things looking great, divers are needed to make sure everything runs smoothly behind the scenes. The subtle things like water flow, lighting, or how the rocks and sand are arranged take a back seat to the animals in our exhibits – and that’s the idea. Divers make sure that conditions remain ideal for our animals and our guests by making any adjustments and repairs that are required.

If you ask any of our team, they’re likely to tell you their favourite part of the day is interacting with the animals directly.

As for our animals… their favourite part of the day is likely feeding time. Most species aren’t particularly picky eaters and receive a broadcast feed, meaning food is put into the exhibit from above. Other species need more controlled diets and require targeted feeding, meaning they are fed individually.

Some of the freshwater fish of our Great Lakes Basin, the cold water denizens of our Pacific Kelp exhibit and even each individual anemone from our Pacific Anemone wall are fed directly by divers. It requires patience, a steady hand, and more often than not an extended post dive shower to warm back up. But, it’s worth it to see these animals in action close up.

While feeding dives usually take place during business hours and in view of the public, seeing them can involve a bit of luck – and often an early morning visit!

That’s why we do regularly scheduled show dives for our guests, usually five times each day. Our dive team performs daily feedings in our Ray Bay and Rainbow Reef exhibits to demonstrate how the animals get their food. With the help of educators on the dry side, we get a chance to answer questions and talk a bit about what makes the animals and our oceans so awesome.

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While these are the most common dives, they’re just the beginning of work we do underwater here at the Aquarium. Whether we’re going in to give a checkup to one of our fine finned friends, directing shark traffic in our Dangerous Lagoon, or picking up puzzles and toys dropped by our Giant Pacific Octopus, we’re always finding new reasons to get underwater.

So enjoy your time in the water this summer and if you have a chance, come check us out too. Just leave the swimming to the professionals!

Interested to see what its like to work as an aquarist at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada? Check out our Aquarist for a Day program.

 

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!

Cleaning Lake Ontario’s Shoreline

ripley's aquarium shoreline cleanup

With water levels in Lake Ontario reaching a record high this spring, a large amount of debris has been washed onto our shoreline, polluting Toronto’s beautiful beaches and harming the wildlife that calls this city home.

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.

But, we can help! Aside from limiting our single-use plastics and disposing of waste properly, participating in a cleanup is the perfect way to make our shorelines beautiful once again.

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.

Over the course of the two-hour cleanup, 62 Aquarium staff and community volunteers collected over 86 kg (190 lbs.) of waste and recycling, including several large pieces of wood and a tire (rim included).

The worst offenders? Small pieces of foam and plastic, called micro-plastic.

Because of their tiny size, micro-plastics avoid filtration from city water systems and end up being flushed directly into our natural waterways.

BUT micro-plastics are not the only trash that end up on our shores. In 2016, these were the most collected items across Canada:

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is a national conservation initiative that provides Canadians the opportunity to take action in their communities wherever water meets land, one bit of trash at a time. Since inception in 1994, there have been 19,400 cleanups that have collected more than 1.2 million kg (2.64 million lbs.) of trash across Canada’s shorelines. Today, the Shoreline Cleanup is recognized as one of the largest direct action conservation programs in Canada.

A BIG ‘tank’ you to everyone that participated! Stay tuned for our next cleanup in the fall.

 

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 – June Q&A

Deep Sea Diary Q & A

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

 

James asked…

Q: How much food do you feed the animals at the Aquarium every week?

A: Each week, approximately 800 lbs. of restaurant-quality seafood is prepared and fed to the animals that call Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada home. About 60% of that is just for the sharks, rays and other fish in Dangerous Lagoon!

 

Geoff asked…

Q: How much water is at the Aquarium?

A: The total volume of water at the aquarium is about 5.2 million litres. That’s more than 25,000 bathtubs! Dangerous Lagoon is our largest exhibit and contains 2.9 million litres of water.

 

Rose asked…

Q: How often is the water at the Aquarium cleaned?

A: Collectively, we have 10 pumps that deliver water to all of our larger exhibits. In total, they pump over 68,000 litres of water per minute. This is approximately 98 million litres of water every day! The 2.9 million litres of water in Dangerous Lagoon, our largest exhibit, turns over in just 75 minutes.

On the last Thursday of each month, we feature commonly asked questions from our Aquarium guests and Deep Sea Diary readers.

Is there something you’ve always wanted to know about Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada? Email us at deepseadiary@ripleys.com for your chance to be featured!

Plastic Pollution: The Silent Killer

plastic-pollution-green-sea-turtle

Water is a key ingredient in our survival, however, we are currently creating a recipe for disaster.

Did you know Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada sits right on the shores of the 14th largest lake in the world and one of the five Great Lakes? Lake Ontario is home to 1 in 4 Canadians and provides drinking water to over 9 million people. But, did you also know that the amount of plastic pollution entering Lake Ontario last year equates to enough plastic bottles to fill 28 Olympic-sized swimming pools(1)?!

Most of the pollution that enters our waterways is a result of domestic use – specifically single use disposables, such as straws, cups, lids, take-out containers and plastic cutlery. From all sources, a whopping 22 million pounds of plastic pollution enters our Great Lakes every year(1).

The real kicker is that plastic does not ever biodegrade in our environment. Instead, it continues to slowly break down into smaller pieces called microplastics, (any piece of plastic smaller than 5 millimetres). Microplastics essentially consist of all forms of plastic – synthetic fibers, fragments of plastic, foam bits and microbeads.

small-plastic-pieces-on-penny

Because of their tiny size, microplastics avoid filtration from city water systems and end up being flushed directly into our natural waterways.

This is where wildlife is exposed to the pollution which results in accidental ingestion – commonly mistaken as prey.

Making ingestion worse, plastic is comprised of crude oil and carbon-containing compounds referred to as polymers and monomers. The chemical makeup allows it to absorb chemicals found in the natural environment. Then, after it is unknowingly consumed by wildlife, the chemicals leach into the tissue of animals.

plastic-pollution-bird

While plastic itself is classified as non-hazardous, the transfer of chemicals from plastic to animal tissue and then up the food chain can have disastrous effects.

And don’t think humans are exempt from the issue! With the consumption of seafood, we are at risk of ingesting those toxic chemicals as well.

Realizing the prevalence of microbeads and the detrimental effects of microplastics on the environment, the Government of Ontario has recently taken legislative action! Following common phase-out timelines, the use of microbeads in the production of personal care products such as toothpaste, face scrubs and cosmetics will be banned by December 2017(2).

But, while these are excellent steps in the right direction, they are not the entire solution. There are many other things you can do to ‘kelp’ us protect our waterways and the animals that swim in it. For example,

  • Buy a reusable water bottle
  • #BanTheBead and say no to microbeads before legislation
  • Say NO to single use plastics
  • The 3Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle

Together, we can all make a difference and help keep Lake Ontario, and the many other waterways on this planet we call home, clean!

 

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!

 

Sources:
  1. Hoffman, M.J. and E. Hittinger. (2017). Inventory and transport of plastic debris in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Marine Pollution Bulletin 115(1-2):273-281. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezpxy.fanshawec.ca/science/article/pii/S0025326X1630981X
  2. Ontario. (2016). Microplastics and microbeads. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/page/microplastics-and-microbeads
  3. Penny photo – http://oceans.mit.edu/news/featured-stories/269000-tons-plastic-ocean-now-dr-marcus-eriksen
  4. Bird photo – http://www.plasticgarbageproject.org/en/plastic-garbage/problems/effects-on-the-animal-world/