An attempt was made in Europe to build saltwater aquariums, but the first real trend-setter was Marineland, near Saint Augustine, Florida, in 1938. Seaquarium, Miami, is a similar marine life exhibit with a huge tank of 1,000,000 gallons.
Saltwater aquariums, or oceanariums or seaquariums as they’re often referred to, represent a new dimension in reality-viewing as they allow spectators to actually observe, often large, deep-sea fish like shark, dolphins, and whales almost in their natural habitat. In addition, their authenticity is enhanced by having little or no separation between the different species as in the ocean proper. The Sea World aquariums in San Diego, for example, are home to over 15,000 specimens of fish, including one of the world's largest collections of sharks, while Sea World in San Antonio has the world’s largest marine zoological park.
The oceanariums are often actually built in the sea, ocean, or rivers, and clear,
acrylic window-partitions allow virtual interaction between the public, and sea creatures. Their value for entertainment, education, and scientific research is unsurpassed. This especially so when attempts are made to replicate the natural environment using fiberglass and other materials.
The symbiosis of fish and plants is still practicable in large tanks. Plants generate carbon dioxide, and consume dissolved oxygen. In photosynthesis, triggered by bright light, plants also consume carbon dioxide, and generate oxygen. In addition, plants consume the waste products of the fishes.
The logistics of rearing, and maintaining fish in huge marine exhibits is inevitably complex. The prime concern is maintaining water purity, and the optimum chemical balance. Accordingly, the filtration, oxygenation, temperature control, lighting, and plumbing is highly sophisticated and, the consideration of toxicity is paramount.
The water supply must be pollution-free, with no sewage, chemicals, or industrial wastes. There must adequate oxygen and nitrogen super-saturation must be avoided at all costs. In recirculating systems, water treatment must not only ensure water clarity, but also the purification of metabolic wastes to prevent over-acidity.
Natural seawater is obviously easier to supply, but, inevitably, marine organisms such as barnacles, and mussels intrude into the system, necessitating alternative plumbing systems to flush them out. A viable alternative is artificial seawater, which excludes pollutants, and alien organisms, including those which cause disease.
It is of course possible to have domestic scaled-down versions of the marine aquariums for those whose penchant is for saltwater fish and animals. One advantage is that a balance between the fish and plants is far more viable than it would be in the huge aquaria. Here the necessity for expensive filtration can be avoided because of the symbiosis between the plants and the fish. The water can be artificial, in which case salinity is a vital consideration. Alternatively, especially if one lives close to the sea, it’s possible to acquire salt water, but beware of introducing toxic substances, or alien organisms.
Filtration, water circulation, and oxygenation are not radically different to freshwater aquaria, but it’s advisable to seek professional advice to ensure one gets the chemical balance and other idiosyncratic saltwater considerations right.
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