Advanced Aquarium Technologies
Part zoo, part art installation, and all science and research center, the contemporary aquarium is nothing short of a masterpiece of technological innovation. They have to take in a number of considerations in order to succeed: not least of all the quality of the visitor’s experience, and the comfort and wellness of aquarium inhabitants.
No doubt there have been many mistakes made and cases of trial-and-error to get contemporary aquatic vivariums to where they are today, and the technologies which are being implemented are at the very cutting edge of scientific achievement. From the construction of tanks to VR visitor experiences, aquariums are a living demonstration of some of the world’s most advanced applied tech.
A Brief History of the Commercial Aquarium
The very first aquariums emerged close to 3,500 BCE. Wealthy members of society kept fish and other aquatic life in “tanks” made of marble, or in outdoor ponds. There was no filtration or other life support system in place, and enclosures were sustained by the sun, and cleaned by hand. These tanks typically existed in private galleries and homes.
Modern aquariums featuring transparent tanks were initially developed in the 1850s. A man named Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward created the “Wardian Case,” in essence four panes of glass which had been connected to form a box. Crude life support systems in the form of slow rate sand filters and natural sea water developed simultaneously. Before the advent of oxygenating filtration systems, aquarium maintenance practices mandated the use of plants as a way to introduce oxygen into the water, making the tank liveable for its inhabitants. These early designs also generally had metal bottoms, which allowed the water in tropical exhibits to be gently heated via an open flame below the tank. With these inventions, aquaria including the New York Aquarium, the London Zoo Fish House, and the Detroit Aquarium made their debut.
In the early 20th century, the very first mechanical air pump was created. Unlike contemporary pumps it was powered by running water, and not air. This enabled both commercial and personal aquaria to house a larger population of fish, as new oxygen sources could be introduced to the environment at a greater rate than was provided by underwater vegetation. Aquariums now use a delicate combination of mechanical and natural life-support solutions.
In the early days of aquaria, it was not yet known the impact human intervention was having on aquatic life. Originally purposed solely as a spectacle, for visitors to observe and be entertained by marine and freshwater animals, most commercial aquaria are now dedicated to conservation and research. Their missions prioritize education of the public, and they incorporate numerous learning technologies to help visitors of all ages learn about our water-dwelling neighbors.
Advanced Aquarium Technologies
Advanced technologies are implemented at every step in the life of an aquarium: from initial construction, to capture and introduction of its inhabitants, to ticketing and visitor experience. And we expect them to keep updating and improving as aquatic science advances.
Advanced Construction Technology in Aquariums
- The tanks at aquaria must first be able to hold water. Most modern aquariums are either made exclusively using a transparent material such as acrylic, or a reinforced concrete enclosure with transparent viewing ports. Smaller tanks, such as free-standing single-species enclosures may use acrylic walls held together with waterproof industrial adhesive, and other reinforcement infrastructure. Porous concrete is made water-tight with rubberized sheeting, which mitigates the potential for leakage.
- On the topic of water, aquaria construction specialists Advanced Aquarium Technologies recommend a gravity-centered approach to building filtration and other water-moving components. Water needs to be flowing 24/7 in order to keep aquarium inhabitants healthy and comfortable, and overworked electric pumps can rack up an enormous expense. Locating life-support systems above and near the tanks will maximize the use of gravity when moving water.
Life Support Aquarium Technology
- Water quality — measured through factors such as pH, alkalinity, and temperature — is essential to the ongoing life and wellbeing of aquarium inhabitants. Automated chemical tracking systems help to mitigate the risk of human error when attending to daily tasks which might affect water quality, including filtration maintenance.
- Some coastal aquariums, including the marine institution at Monterey Bay, California, pump and filter seawater into the tanks to maintain a realistic appearance and natural ecosystem. The initial introduction of seawater before it is filtered through sand-based systems allows animals to grow inside the pipes, which must then be cleaned out with hydro-blasting cleaning mechanisms called “pigs.”
- Everybody poops! And the enclosed ecosystem of an aquarium can become unlivable if the waste of its inhabitants is not removed. Devices called “foam fractionators” are implemented to this effect, using “nothing but bubbles” to remove organic compounds from the water.
Advanced Aquarium Technology Used to Transport Wildlife
- Getting the animal from one location to another is no easy feat — not only does the animal need to be packed up and loaded onto whatever transportation system it’s taking, but so does the water it lives in! AAT designs and creates species specific transport tanks which are equipped with life-support systems which keep temperature and water-quality consistent during travel, as well as skylights and feeding hatches. AAT tanks are constructed from welded steel, cell foam infill panels, and fiberglass.
Aquarium Tech for the Visitor Experience
- Some contemporary aquariums offer enhanced digital experiences to their audiences, including video productions, click-through experiences, and virtual reality simulators. The Georgia Aquarium allows visitors to swim with turtles, sharks, and even prehistoric marine animals in their “virtual voyager” exhibit. In light of recent world events, many aquaria are also using underwater live-cams to continue providing audiences with distanced access to their exhibits.
- Advanced ticketing and membership technology can additionally help you understand how best to serve your audience, and keep them returning. ACME ticketing allows aquaria to track back-office, ticket sales, and POS operations, allowing you to conserve time and energy and give your visitors a winning experience. Sign up for a demo today.