Category

General Aquarium

Feeding the Sharks of the Dangerous Lagoon

dangerous-lagoon-sandtiger-shark

“How do you take care of the sharks?” is one of the most common questions we get at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.

Doing your part to take care of sharks in the wild is an easy thing to do – simply avoid things like shark fin soup, products with shark liver oil (also known as squaline) and support sustainable fisheries.

Taking care of sharks in human care however, is another story.

The sharks that call Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada home are ambassadors for the wild populations that are currently facing human threats, leaving many species on the endangered list.

At the Aquarium, we work hard to keep our sharks happy and healthy. One of the biggest tasks is feeding, of course!

Many people are surprised to hear that sharks generally have a slow metabolism and that we only need to offer food 3 times a week (Saturdays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays) to meet their dietary requirements. On average, we aim to deliver about 2% of their body weight per feed. The sharks are fed a variety of restaurant grade seafood such as bonito, herring and squid, along with a specialized shark vitamin.

 

At feeding time, it takes a minimum of nine staff members to ensure that the sharks, and the other inhabitants in the Dangerous Lagoons, are all well fed.

We have two “broadcast” stations at the surface where the fish are fed a variety of chopped seafood that is scattered in the water. The mix of food usually consists of clam, capelin, krill and marine pellets. This broadcast feed helps to keep them away from the area where the sharks are being fed.

To ensure the “shy” bottom feeder fish are also taken care of, a staff member is responsible for filling a tube system (located behind the scenes) that shoots the food under the water.

During this time, the two green sea turtles are brought into the back acclimation pool to not only keep them away from the sharks, but for a training session and enrichment. Training and enrichment for our green sea turtles is a very important job because it allows us to closely monitor their health on a regular basis. A typical lunch for the turtles consists of romaine lettuce, carrots, sweet potato, green peppers, brussel sprouts and capelin, a small fish. We make sure the sea turtles also get their vitamins, usually hidden in a piece of fish.

Back out in the Lagoon, we have 3 feeding “stations” designated for each species of shark (sand tiger, sandbar and nurse), sawfish and rays.

Each animal has been conditioned (or has learned) to feed at those areas with the use of a coloured target that we put in the water to let them know it is feeding time. As they swim by the station, each individual is offered their lunch at the end of a long feeding pole. Feeding staff are trained to recognize the individuals by their unique notches in their fin and spots on their back. One staff member is responsible for keeping track of how much food each individual is consuming. It takes approximately 30 minutes before the sharks are full and stop coming to their feeding station, which is when we know they are happily fed.

If you are interested in seeing all of this in action, feel free to swim by on a feeding day (times can be found here)! We also have a staff member in the heart of the action in the Dangerous Lagoon tunnel to answer any questions and explain how we tackle this big job of feeding the sharks.

We hope that after your experience with these beautiful creatures, you not only gain a higher appreciation for them, but also become more inspired to protect and educate others about their importance in the wild.

 

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!

They Found What in 2017?

A lot happened this past year so we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the most interesting biological discoveries of 2017.

 
The World’s First Glow-In-The-Dark Frog

The frog, Hypsiboas punctatus, is commonly found in South America, is pale green in colour, covered in red spots, and can glow when exposed to UV light!?! A team of scientists went looking for these amphibians in the forests of Argentina and made this luminous discovery by accident. Hoping to research a biochemical reaction in these amphibians, they instead discovered the frogs emitted a bright cyan fluorescence. Fluorescence is a trait commonly seen in fish, turtles, and birds and, for the first time, has been discovered in an amphibian! They propose the fluorescence is used as a means of communicating between individuals. So I guess there’s no need for a night light with these creatures around!

Rock n’ Roll Shrimp

You may need earplugs when hanging around these nifty crustaceans! A newly described pistol shrimp was found in the eastern Pacific Ocean living among rocky crevices. Pistol shrimp are characterized by their mismatched claws, the larger of which is able to produce a loud ‘snap’ when closed. The noise emitted from their claw is so loud, it has been found to stun, and even kill, smaller sized fish. Just to compare, a concert is around 110-140 decibels, whereas the pistol shrimp can create a noise around 210 decibels! The team of scientists who discovered this little noise-maker named the shrimp Synalpheus pinkfloydi. Hmmm…I wonder what their favourite band is??

Zuul – Destroyer of Shins!

A group of scientists in Toronto have identified a new dinosaur with ties to Ghostbusters (1984)! But you won’t see Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd trying to capture this demon, since it lived about 75 million years ago! This newly discovered fossil was uncovered in northern Montana and, because of its uncanny resemblance to the four-legged demon in Ghostbusters, the scientists decided to name it Zuul. Zuul is a type of ankylosaurid, a group of herbivorous dinosaurs characterized by their stocky, armoured appearance. Estimated to be about 20 feet long and with a series of large horns protruding from its head, Zuul is definitely not the prettiest dinosaur. But watch your shins because that clubbed tail can do some damage!

Can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for science!

Image Sources: Frog 1 / Frog 2 / Frog 3 / Pistol Shrimp / Animated Zuul / Zuul Skull / Zuul

 

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!

Deep Sea Diary’s 2017 in Review

Happy New Year! Today on Deep Sea Diary, we review the blog’s “troutstanding” year.

 

June

Deep Sea Diary launched in June, with a celebration of World Ocean’s Day. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada cleaned the shores of Lake Ontario, and discussed the effects of plastic pollution on aquatic ecosytems, specifically their impact on the Great Lakes. Our Senior Aquarist, Kat, also discussed what and how we feed some of the animals that call the Aquarium home. We rounded out the month by introducing our new monthly Q&A feature called Drop Us a Line, where we ask Deep Sea Diary readers to submit their burning Aquarium questions to potentially be featured the last Thursday of each month.

ripley's aquarium shoreline cleanup

 

July

Each June, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada takes part in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, helping clean the Lake Ontario shoreline at the mouth of the Humber River. In this post, we shared the results from our cleanup. How we take care of the sharks is one of the most common questions we receive from guests. So, you asked and we answered! One of our Aquarists, Carmen, explained exactly how we feed the animals in the Dangerous Lagoon, our largest tank in the Aquarium. A lot goes into maintaining the tanks and making sure the fish are happy and healthy here at the Aquarium. Aquarist Kevin discussed a day in the life of an Aquarium scuba diver.

shark-feed-dangerous-lagoon-2

August

August was Water Quality Awareness month, and since we take water quality seriously around here Aquarist Dave shared how we maintain the quality of the water at the Aquarium. Educator Katelyn gave us a peak at life in the harsh environment of the intertidal zone, Photo Port shared their best tips for hooking the perfect photograph at the aquarium and we dove into the Dangerous Lagoon with our Discovery Dive program.

 

September

In September, we went back to school and learned all about the importance and purpose of schooling behaviour and how we care for the jellies that call the Aquarium home. Finally, we dove into what is means to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and why it is such an honour for Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada to be a part of this community.

October

In the fall, we celebrate Coastal Cleanup Day with a shoreline cleanup along Lake Ontario and the Humber Marshes. We then turned our attention to the water, where we celebrated the endangered sawfish on International Sawfish Day.

 

November

In November, we celebrated World Jellyfish Day with an interview with Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada’s very own “Jelly Man”, Aquarist Eric. We discussed how you can do your part to keep our oceans happy and healthy and how we play our part maintaining the water in the Aquarium. For Share Your Unique Talent Day at the end of the month, we hosted “Ripley’s Got Talent” where a handful of our animals competed for the coveted title of “Ripley’s Most Talented Animal”.

 

December

We rounded out the year with an alien invasion, talking about the beautiful, but invasive, lionfish. To get in the holiday spirit, we shared Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada’s Gift Guide and how you can do your part to help the environment by going green during the holiday season.

 

What would you like to see on Deep Sea Diary in 2018? Comment below, we’d love to hear!

Drop Us a Line – December 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.

 

Sarah asked…

Q. With the holiday season upon us, I assume it is pretty busy at the Aquarium. What is the best time to visit?

A. The Aquarium is open daily from 9:00am to 11:00pm. Our holiday peak hours are 11:00am to 4:00pm. We recommend purchasing your tickets online in advance to avoid any lineups.

When you swim by, be sure to check out one of our daily Dive Shows – running 11:15am, 1:15pm, 3:15pm and 5:15pm at Ray Bay and 7:15pm at Rainbow Reef!

Jon asked…

Q: What interactive shows or talks are available for guests over the holidays? Are these included in the ticket price?

A: Beside the above mentioned daily dive shows, the Aquarium also has daily scheduled Aquarist talks. Animals and times vary by day (and are subject to change), so be sure to check out our Discovery Center digital screen when you visit to see where and when they are being held.

The Dangerous Lagoon shark feed takes place on Tuesdays and Thurdays at 1pm and can be viewed from above water at the Dangerous Lagoon overlook or below water in the Dangerou Lagoon tunnel. Tip: Best viewing area is near the entrance to the tunnel. To learn more about what takes place during the shark feed, check out this post.

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!

Green Your Holidays

While many people wish for a white Christmas, here at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, we encourage you to keep it GREEN!

 
Between the wrapping, the decorating, the traveling and the eating, the holiday season can take quite a toll on the environment.
 

Here are 10 tips for keeping Mother Nature in mind this holiday season:

  1. Look for locally made gifts.
  2. Serve locally sourced food.
  3. Use LED Christmas lights.
  4. Set lights on a timer to go off during the day.
  5. Choose a live, fresh cut or potted tree.
  6. Make natural decorations.
  7. Reuse gift wrap.
  8. Carpool to family gatherings.
  9. Use reusable serving ware, dishware and cutlery.
  10. Recycle your real Christmas tree after the holidays.

Swimming by the Aquarium this holiday season? Be sure to check out our Recycled Tree – decorated with ornaments made from recycled Aquarium tickets, maps and brochures!

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!

Alien Invasion: Lionfish

Lionfish. These red and white striped beauties are dazzling with their bright colours and “lion’s mane”.

But while their appearance may lure you in, make sure you don’t come too close! These fish have 18 long, venomous spines that are used for defence against predators. In fact, they have been known to cause extreme pain for humans, leading to headaches, vomiting and paralysis. Ouch!

Lionfish originate from the Indo-Pacific Ocean, where their predators include many species of large fish and sharks. In the 1980’s, this popular aquarium fish was introduced to the Western Atlantic and Caribbean, where they have quickly become an extremely destructive invasive species.

With no natural predators in these parts of the world, their population has rapidly expanded, destroying marine sanctuaries as it grows. As an invasive species, prey do not recognize lionfish as predators, making it easy for these predators to consume any fish or invertebrate in their path. They easily feast on many vital members of the food chain, causing entire underwater ecosystems to collapse!

And if you think one lionfish sounds dangerous, a single female can lay 50,000 eggs, every 3 days, for up to 30 years!

So what is Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada doing to combat this alien invasion?

For the last few years, the Aquarium has volunteered in the Lionfish Invitational at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary located in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas. The Invitational sends dive teams down into the marine sanctuary to remove as many invasive lionfish as possible using a spear fishing technique. While spear fishing is regularly illegal in the sanctuary, special permits are issued for the research team to capture lionfish.

The lionfish caught are tallied, measured, bagged and tagged with labels noting location and time before heading to the lab. The results are then analyzed to determine gut contents, genetics and age.

The work completed at the Lionfish Invitational helps to combat this incredibly successful invasive species while furthering a scientific understanding of the effects on native fish communities and habitats.

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!

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada Holiday Gift Guide

Looking for the perfect holiday gift? Swim by Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and give them an underwater adventure they’ll never forget!

 

Express Anytime Tickets

Our premium general admission tickets are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase and allow guests to swim by anytime – no reservations required! Buy now.

Annual Pass Memberships

Give the gift of unlimited trips to the tropics for an entire year! Members also enjoy other great benefits such as saving onsite and saving at other attractions! Learn more here.

Gift Cards

Purchase a gift card for friends and family! Load this card with sand dollars that can be redeemed on admission tickets, food from our Café, photos from our Photo Port and keepsakes from our Cargo Hold Gift Shop!  Buy now.

Sea the Sky Combo Tickets

From the depths of the ocean to the heights of cloud nine, Sea the Sky with this Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and CN Tower combo ticket!  Buy now. (*Online only.)

Stingray Experience

Trade in your snowsuit for a wetsuit and get up close and personal with stingrays this winter! This one of a kind experience now offers an optional snorkel add-on, making it a truly ray-markable and unexpected gift! Cost starts at $99+HST per person. Learn more here. 

Aquarist for a Day

Fishing for the perfect gift for the marine biologist in your life? Work alongside our Husbandry team to prepare food, monitor water quality and even feed the sharks in this half-day behind the scenes adventure! Cost is $175 + HST per person.  Learn more here. 

Sleep with the Sharks

Spend the evening under the sea with hands-on activities, a behind the scenes tour and more! After a bedtime snack, crawl into bed in our Dangerous Lagoon shark tunnel and sleep with the sharks! Cost is $99 + HST per person.  Learn more here. 

Yoga

Our six week yoga sessions are perfect for the fishy fitness fan in your life! Find your zen under the sea as you transport yourself to the tropical islands with our next session starting January 9. Cost is $120 + HST per 6 week session.  Learn more here. 

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 – November 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.

 

Katie asked…

Q: Am I able to SCUBA dive with the sharks at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada?

A: Yes, you are! Our Discovery Dive program allows guests to get up close to the sawfish, sharks, turtles and fish on this 30 minute guided dive in Dangerous Lagoon. This program runs Wednesdays at 3:00pm and Sundays at 1:00pm, and can accommodate a maximum of two people per session. Participants must be at least 16 years of age and SCUBA certified. Cost is $250 per person plus tax, and reservations must be made in advance. Learn more about this experience, including how to book, here.

Our Assistant Manager of Education and Conservation, Marla, shares her experience diving with the sharks in the Dangerous Lagoon, here.

Diane asked…

Q: How do you test the water at the Aquarium?

A: Our water quality 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.

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.

Learn more about our water quality lab, here.

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!

Ripley’s Got Talent!

 

November 24 is Share Your Unique Talent Day!

Humans have a lot of talents. Some of us can sing, some of us can juggle and some of us can even play piano. But, did you know amazing talents go beyond the human-world and also occur in other parts of the animal kingdom, such as the underwater world.

To celebrate this unique day, we are sharing just a few of the unique talents of the animals that call Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada home.

Cuttlefish

Related to squid and octopus, the cuttlefish is considered by many to be the ultimate master of disguise. Thanks to special pigments cells found on its skin, called chromatophores, it possesses the ability to alter its appearance and adapt to its surroundings very easily. It can easily imitate the appearance, and even the texture of anything that it sees such as rocks, creating the perfect camouflage to evade both predators and prey.

To see this amazing talent in action, check out this video, taken by one of the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada Aquarists, Carmen.

Archerfish

The archerfish is small tropical fish that feasts mainly on insects. It gets its name from the astonishing way it catches its prey. The fish, which are typically no more than 4 inches long, has the ability to shoot a jet of water (sometimes up to 6 feet) and hit insects hanging on vegetation near the water. They’re able to accurately hit their small targets with enough force to knock them into the water, where they can then gobble them up.

 

Sharks

One unique feature of a sharks is their sixth sense. Sharks have a network of special cells in their heads that can detect electricity. These special cells are called electroreceptors, and are used for hunting and navigation. This sense is so developed that sharks can find fish hiding under sand by honing in on the weak electrical signals emitted by their twitching muscles.

Sea Stars

Starfish are not in fact fish, but invertebrates call echinoderms. This is the reason why they are more often referred to as sea stars. Beyond their distinctive shape, sea stars are famous for their ability to regenerate limbs. This talent is useful if the sea star is threatened by a predator. It can drop an arm, get away, and grow a new arm. They accomplish this by housing most or all of their vital organs in their arms. This means that some species can even regenerate an entirely new sea star from just one arm and a portion of the star’s central disc.

 

Clownfish

Clownfish are scientifically known as “sequential hermaphrodites” – they are initially born as male but are able to swap gender. As adults, clownfish develop complex hierarchies, led by a dominant female. Should this female die, one male with then transforming himself into the next alpha-female.

 

Make sure to swim by Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada to see these amazing talents in action!

 

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!

Go With The Flow

Water. We have A LOT of it here. In total, the tanks at the Aquarium contain just over 5.2 million litres! Most of which is salt water.

So, with all of that water, how do we keep it clean?

The answer? A dedicated Life Support System team and lots of pumps, skimmer, sumps and filters.

The Life Support System at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is so efficient, collectively, we are able to pump 90,000 litres of water per minute. That’s about 132 million litres of water per day!

Just how exactly is this done? Let’s take a quick look…

Water is removed from both the top and bottom of the tanks using skimmers and sumps.

This is called parallel flow and it ensures all manner of delightful waste is removed. This water is then diverted to the fractionators and the sand filters.

The big yellow and blue vertical cylinders (pictured below, on upper level) are called foam fractionators and are used to sterilize the water and remove dissolved waste. If you look up to the transparent cylinder on top, you can see this removal in action. This frothing and foaming is waste being bubbled out of the water.

What is shown here is the filtration systems for only TWO tanks at the Aquarium – the Dangerous Lagoon and Ray Bay. We have 3 levels below this one that house all the other filtration units for every other tank at the Aquarium.

Another important thing to note is that we keep the larger exhibits on entirely separate systems, (but some of the smaller ones do share).

Water from, say, the Lagoon never mixes with water from, say, Ray Bay. Not in the tanks, not in transit, during filtration or recovery or storage, never. This ensures that if something goes wrong, biologically, mechanically, or chemically, there is no risk of cross contamination.

As water enters the foam fractionators, it is mixed with air bubbles and ozone gas. The ozone gas will kill viruses and bacteria while the air bubbles trap the dissolved waste using surface tension. If you visit the Aquarium, you may see the foam, just like sea foam, coming off the top of these units. Fresh water will then move the foam and waste to a recovery system.

Sand filters (colorful, horizontal filters on lower level, pictured below) are another important part of the filtration process.

Water that is skimmed from the tanks is diverted to either here or to the fractionators. In the sand filters, we’re able to filter out much of the larger, solid waste that builds up within the tanks: fish waste, leftover food… the really fun stuff. These large sand filters function much like backyard pool filters, but on a monstrous scale. Each has about a 3000 litre capacity! The water is strained as it flows through the different sand grain sizes located in these filters.

Water flow is horizontal which helps with efficiency.

Different sized grains of sand are found inside (from coarse to fine) and as water is pumped through it is strained. Unlike the fractionators which shed waste material, the sand filters will get clogged with debris by their very nature and so must be cleaned. When they drop in flow capacity by about 25% (usually every week) they’ll go on “back flow”. The filter is automatically shut off from the system and water is pumped in the reverse direction to free up that waste. This is then collected and piped to the lower levels where it is combined with the foam wash from the fractionators. That water will cycle from the recovery basin through a smaller version of this system, which is how we’re able to recover over 99% of the water we filter.

One fact that always surprises guests is that, in total, we are able to recycle about 99% of the water we filter.

We’ll actually lose more water each day from human sources (i.e. washrooms and the cafe) than we will from the actual tanks.

This is just a small taste of how we maintain the tanks at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. Make sure to swim on by to learn more!

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!