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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Blue Planet Aquarium’s Freshwater Oddballs

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In the last few Blogs I’ve covered our Main Tank here at Blue Planet quite extensively, but I haven’t really managed to show you some of our other inhabitants. In this blog I want to show you some of the animals we have in our freshwater tanks and seen as half of the Aquarium is freshwater its pretty fair to say that we have quite a few of them.

When Blue Planet Aquarium was built back in 1998 it was built to loosely replicate the water cycle, so our first area is an area that mimics highland streams and rivers, before it moves down through the Jungles and Rainforests, then into the world’s great Lakes and finally the mangrove swamps and brackish swamps… before finally ending up in the ocean.

The first area we’re going to talk about is the first zone at the aquarium and that’s Northern Streams. This area is themed around highland rivers and streams and is mainly British Freshwater species including Carp, Sticklebacks, Sturgeon and Silver Orfe. The exhibit is split into three sections with different species in each section. Each section is split by a wall with a small gap over the top with fast flowing water. This is to imitate the natural currents that the animals would get in the wild and they do have the option to swim over them if they want too.

In this exhibit we have around 250 Silver Orfe and a handful of Golden Orfe or as they’re otherwise globally known as “Ide”. They’re a species that need fast flowing water with lots of oxygen and swim between the three sections all the time. We also have Common and Silver Carp, which are a large relative of the Goldfish. Carp are famous through Course Fishing and are immensely powerful; they’re among peoples favourites due to their quite comical expressions and being one of the largest fish in Northern Streams.

My personal favourites in this area are the two species of Sturgeon: we have both Russian or “Diamond” Sturgeon and Siberian Sturgeon. You may be familiar with these guys as they’re a fish that look incredibly similar to a Shark and have been around for millions of years. We know this as they lack a first Dorsal fin in the same way that Six-gill and Seven-Gill Sharks do; these fish are also one of a few species from which we get Caviar. They are a bottom dwelling fish and feed by using their sensitive noses to forage through the mud for worms and small Crustaceans.

The next area is Lake Malawi (not the real one) but an area of the aquarium that’s themed around the great lake in Africa. Lake Malawi has a surface area of 29,600 km² and is 580km Long with its max depth being 700m. This makes Lake Malawi the ninth largest lake in the world and is the third largest and second deepest in Africa. Lake Malawi houses more fish species than any other lake in the world with the number of Cichlids alone sitting at around 1500sp although at Blue Planet we only a house a mere handful of these.

Cichlids are famous for the way in which they breed, Cichlids are known as mouth brooders as the females store/incubate and rear their young in their mouths. The females do this until the young start to become too large for all the Fry to be stored in the mouth and at this point she will start to kick them out so they can stretch their fins and build up their strength, but if they’re not quick enough to get back in when a predator comes then they are at risk of being eaten. Our Cichlids are housed alongside other animals such as a Giraffe Catfish who naturally would be found in the Nile River but were released into Lake Malawi. Ours is incredibly friendly and will come to the surface and wait, mouth agape, for his food.

The next and final area is of course the Amazon Area. Now if you were to walk through the aquarium you would go through this area first before Lake Malawi, but I wanted to leave the largest of our freshwater fish until last.

In this area we have some of our most charismatic Freshwater species such as our Red-Bellied Piranhas. These fish are surrounded by quite negative media attention which is something that isn’t deserved. The rumours surround that these fish eat people and can strip a human in 10 seconds but that is greatly exaggerated.

Piranhas are more scavengers and due to this are nicknamed the “Hyenas of the Amazon”. They prefer to eat the dead, dying or severely injured, this is due to their small size and the fact that they are not very high up the food chain, meaning that they’re targeted by many predators that live in the Amazon. They usually send up a scout to check the prey or food and once the scout has taken the first bite to show its clear, the rest of the pack follow. A Piranhas’ bite is incredibly powerful and so powerful that in comparison to body size, Red-Bellied Piranhas have a stronger bite than that of T-Rex and Megalodon. The myth that they can strip a human in seconds is mainly science fiction, but they can still strip a small carcass in just a few minutes.

The final Exhibit I’m going to mention is the Flooded Forest tank. This is the one that houses the aquarium’s largest freshwater fish. In this tank we have some of the most charismatic and popular fish in the aquarium,  such as the Black Pacu, which is the world’s largest species of Piranha. When these fish are young they have bright red bellies to mimic the Red-Bellied Piranha and as they get bigger they lose this colour and turn a dark colour.

People buy these fish thinking that they’re getting Piranhas, but owners soon realise there’s something amiss when they swap some meat for some carrots and cabbage. They can also grow up to be around 3 ½ Feet in length and weigh in at a hefty 60 pounds, we have one in the exhibit around this size that has come to be called “Moby”. The tank is home to a number of fish that have been rescued over the years and a lot of the fish in the tank were all either mis-sold or sold under a false name, leading to the tank being nicknamed ‘Tank Busters’. Sharing the tank with the Pacu’s we also have Tiger Shovelnose Catfish who were very intent on looking at their reflection in the dome port of my camera when I got in to take some of the photos used in this blog. Once again these fish are also rescues from owners who could no longer care for them.

We also have a handful of Silver Arowana and of course the Freshwater Stingrays. We have two species at Blue Planet: the Amazonian Stingray which is Brown with orange spots and the Xingu River Ray which is black with white spots. These Stingrays have the slightly annoying habit of trying to sleep under your feet when you’re trying to clean the windows and sand, so we must be extra careful not to step on them.

So, there you have it, our Freshwater Oddballs here at Blue Planet Aquarium. It’s amazing to have several different species over many different environments and I’m glad that I have been able to introduce you to some of the aquarium’s different inhabitants. Check out the next blog to meet our Jellyfish Breeder and to see how we breed our Moon Jellyfish.

For more information about the Blue Planet Aquarium please visit their website by clicking here.

Donovan is a Divemaster who currently works as a Shark Diver at Blue Planet Aquarium based in Ellesmere Port. Donovan’s passion lies with Elasmobranch’s (Sharks & Rays) and this passion has led him to work in South Africa with White Sharks for a short period. He also believes that education through exposure is the best way to re-educate people about Sharks. Follow Donovan at www.instagram.com/donovans_reefs

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The Ocean Cleanup to Complete 100th Extraction Live from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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the ocean cleanup
  • The Ocean Cleanup marks 100th extraction of plastic pollution from the Pacific Ocean by livestreaming entire cleaning operation from start to finish.
  • Occasion brings together supporters, partners, donors and followers as the project readies its cleanup technology for scale-up.
  • Founder and CEO Boyan Slat to provide insight on the plans ahead.

The Ocean Cleanup is set to reach a milestone of 100 plastic extractions from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Extraction #100, scheduled for 28 or 29 May 2024, will be the first ever to be livestreamed direct from the Pacific Ocean, allowing supporters and partners around the world to see up close how the organization has removed over 385,000 kilograms (nearly 850,000 lbs) of plastic from the GPGP so far – more than double the bare weight of the Statue of Liberty.

the ocean cleanup

The mission of The Ocean Cleanup is to rid the oceans of plastic. To do this, the non-profit project employs a dual strategy: cleaning up legacy floating plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (the world’s largest accumulation of floating plastic), while stopping the flow of plastic from the world’s most polluting rivers.

The Ocean Cleanup captured its first plastic (the first ‘extraction’) in the GPGP in 2019 with System 001, following years of trials and testing with a variety of concepts. Through System 002 and now the larger and more efficient System 03, the organization has consistently improved and optimized operations, and is now preparing to extract plastic trash from the GPGP for the 100th time.

the ocean cleanup

Extraction #100 will be an interactive broadcast showing the entire extraction procedure live and in detail, with insight provided by representatives from across The Ocean Cleanup and partners contributing to the operations.

This is an important milestone in a key year for The Ocean Cleanup.’ said Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. ‘We’ve come a long way since our first extraction in 2019. During the 2024 season, with System 03, we aim to demonstrate that we are ready to scale up, and with it, confine the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the history books.

the ocean cleanup

The livestream will be hosted on The Ocean Cleanup’s YouTube channel and via X. Monitor @theoceancleanup for confirmed timings.

www.theoceancleanup.com

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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Book Review: Plankton

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Plankton: A Worldwide Guide by Tom Jackson and Jennifer Parker

This is a book that jumps off the shelf at you. The striking front cover demands that you pick it up and delve further, even if you may not have known you wanted to learn more about the most diminutive life in our ocean, plankton!

Small it might be. Much of the imagery in the book has been taken under huge magnification. Revealing stunning beauty and diversity in each scoop of “soup”. There is lots to learn. Initial chapters include interesting facts about the different vertical zones they inhabit, from sunlight to midnight (the darkest and deepest areas). I loved finding out more about the stunning show that divers oft encounter on night dives – bioluminescence.

The black water images are wonderful. So this is a book you can have as a coffee table book to dip in and our of. But, these tiny organisms are also vital to our very survival and that of all the marine life we love. They provide half the oxygen produced on our planet. They are also responsible for regulating the planets climate. And for a shark lover like me – they are food for charismatic sharks and rays like the Basking Shark and Manta Ray, along with a huge number of other species. This book contains great insight into their biology, life cycles, migration, and how the changes in currents and sea temperatures affects them.

This is a book that is both beautiful and packed with information about possibly the most important group of organisms on our planet. Anyone interested in the ocean should have it one their shelves.

What the publisher says:

Plankton are the unsung heroes of planet Earth. Passive drifters through the world’s seas, oceans, and freshwater environments, most are invisible or very small, but some are longer than a whale. They are the global ocean’s foundation food, supporting almost all oceanic life, and they are also vitally important for land-based plants, animals, and other organisms. Plankton provides an incomparable look at these remarkable creatures, opening a window on the elegance and grace of microscopic marine life.

This engaging book reveals the amazing diversity of plankton, how they belong to a wide range of living groups, and how their ecology, lifestyles, and adaptations have evolved to suit an enormous range of conditions. It looks at plankton life cycles, the different ways plankton feed and grow, and the vast range of strategies they use for reproduction. It tracks where, how, and why plankton drift through the water; shares perspectives on migrations and population explosions or “blooms” and why they happen; and discusses the life-sustaining role of plankton in numerous intertwined food webs throughout the world.

Beautifully illustrated, Plankton sheds critical light on how global warming, pollution, diminishing resources, and overexploitation will adversely impact planktonic life, and how these effects will reverberate to every corner of our planet.

About the Authors:

Tom Jackson is a science writer whose many popular books include Strange Animals and Genetics in MinutesJennifer Parker is a zoology and conservation writer and the author of several books. Andrew Hirst is a leading expert on plankton whose research has taken him around the world, from the Antarctic to Greenland and the Great Barrier Reef.

Book Details

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Hardcover

Price: £25

ISBN: 9780691255996

Published: 9th April, 2024

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