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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for the chance for your question to be featured in our monthly Q&A post!