The State of New
Jersey has few attractions to boast about that feature the marine world that
intrigues so many of us. The oceans are one of the most intricate and
attractive ecosystems in the world and a great many people want to dive below
its surface (many more prefer to do this without getting wet!) So, where
can a New Jersey resident or visitor experience this awesome world?
The newly renovated
and designed Adventure Aquarium (formerly the NJ State Aquarium) is one of the
best places to start. Adventure Aquarium is now open with a new building,
new exhibits, and a new state of mind.
I have to admit,
being a frequent visitor of many aquariums, I am not easily impressed.
However, the exhibits here will surprise. They are diverse, well
planned, and beautifully implemented and combine useful (and scientific!)
information with visual stimuli.
The first exhibit
that draws the attention is Irazu Falls – an Amazon rainforest exhibit.
A two story waterfall gives way to over 400 gallons of Amazon River habitat.
Look closely to see many freshwater Catfishes and even a Stingray or two.
Caribbean Currents – a tropical underwater paradise. A winding hallway
of bright colors, scientific tidbits, and wonderful specimens. Here you’ll
find Tangs, Angelfish, Pipefish, and even an eerie Barracuda tank (they just
Of course there is
the Ocean Realm where you experience 760,000 gallons of saltwater (can I
have this at home? Please?) through two wall-sized windows. See Sea
Turtles, BlueFin Tuna and Herring swim.... and be in awe.
experience Seal Shores and Penguin Island where you can watch
African Penguins swim and play, and even catch a seal feeding show!
Back inside, the
tour takes you to my personal favorite exhibit in the Aquarium: The
Creature Lab. This exhibit is Adventure Aquariums equivalent to a reef
and bizarre creature exhibit. Here you’ll experience everything you have
in your home reef (and everything you wish you could have!) You’ll meet
electric eels, flashlight fish, batfish, and see a fairly large anemone and
Clownfish tank, plus many reef tanks brimming with gorgeous corals that make a
lot of us drool.
For the little ones
or us adults that wish to get their hands wet, go on over to the
Touch-a-Shark area or the Meet a Creature
exhibit. Here you’ll be able to touch Dogfish Sharks and Stingrays and
hold a Sea Star or Urchin.
impressive exhibits, I learned that there is much more to this aquarium than
meets the eye. Anyone participating in the adventure of having your own
marine aquarium knows that there is much preparation for the ultimate well being
of the critters you keep. Even though Adventure Aquarium is large-scale, it is
no exception. I had the pleasure of being put in contact, through the
Public Relations manager Mr. Bill Larson, with the Curator of Fish and
Invertebrates Mr. Marc Kind.
Even though he
states that reef keeping is a small portion of what they do at the aquarium,
ultimate care is still taken in the feeding of many reef animals. Quality
flake food, Cyclop-eze, small krill, Mysid Shrimp (both live and frozen), minced
mussel/clam, and Artemia nauplii (in small quantities because excess can
cause unwanted aptasia) are used in feeding. Target feeding is rarely used
because of the size of the exhibits, but when needed (as in anemone tanks)
mussel/clam or slurry of raw seafood and supplements are used. Their bony
fish diet is just as meticulous and consists of grade A restaurant quality
Smelt, Herring, Mackerel, Capelin, mussel, squid, large and small krill, and
mysid shrimp. The security officer that I met said that the fish and
vegetables that are delivered for the animals here look better than what she
buys for her family!
In keeping with an
education theme, you can even view where some of the smaller foods are prepared
for the livestock. Here, view large containers brimming with phytoplankton
cultures and Artemia hatchlings. They also culture
Nannochloropsis algae, rotifers, and mysid shrimp. Very neat to view
in its own right.
As we all know,
water quality is one of the biggest concerns and most important topics in
keeping a marine system. They use RO/DI water mixed with Tropic Marin
saltwater mix and perform water changes every three weeks to a month depending
on the protein skimmer and bioload (image that large of a water change!)
pH, Salinity, Nitrate, Calcium, Alkalinity, Phosphate, Silica, Iodine, Magnesium
and Strontium and are tested for. Mostly Kent products are used and are
dosed weekly, including Essential Elements, Coral Excel, Coral Vite, Super
Buffer, Turbo Calcium, Turbo Strontium, Kalkwasser (with a dosing pump giving
3-5 gallons per night). In addition they make their own Lugol's solution.
One thing that was
reiterated, and is something all marine hobbyists learn very quickly is that
good quality life support systems are a must and that it doesn’t pay to skimp
here (filtration, UV sterilization, protein skimmer, chiller, lighting… all
biological systems.) Marc Kind also states that good husbandry
procedures are also very important including observation, housekeeping,
prevention, diet/feeding/appetite, and disease management. He says
“Captivity can be very stressful for animals and often most disease, injury, or
ailment can be the result of accumulation of stressors. We do everything
we can to decrease, if not eliminate, any and all stress no matter how subtle.”
He also states that
quarantine is an area where some beginners (and even experienced hobbyists) just
don’t practice. Though it adds to the overall expense and also takes more
time and space, it’s the best way to cut down disease and subsequent mortalities
(therefore costing less money in the long run.) “It is this type of
mistake that beginner hobbyists make that frustrates because of catastrophic
loss due to disease, and ultimately many move on to a different hobby!”
It’s very humbling
to know that we, as marine hobbyists, do all the maintenance, feeding, dosing
and so on that a professional aquarium does. It shows us that we are
indeed on the right path to providing our critters with the utmost of care that
they need to live and flourish. We each do a little part to bring this
amazing world into our homes and ultimately save a small piece from destruction.
Overall, a visit to
Adventure Aquarium is well worth it – either to see the maintenance that we all
do at home at a very large scale or to just sit back and observe the various
exhibits (some you won’t want to leave!) It’s a day hobbyists and their
families will absolutely enjoy!
information visit Adventure Aquarium’s website: