You don’t see everything when you visit the Aquarium !
Behind the stunning sights hides a small army of people who go about the business of not only looking after the animals but also ensuring the smooth technical operation of this massive machine !
A whole team of biologists, animal keepers and technicians are busy behind the scenes in order to offer you a wonderful show !
The management of so many living species requires meticulous organization; men and women work in the shadows to ensure that the machine runs smoothly : pumping operations and seawater treatments, stocking, feeding, health care, monitoring, maintenance… the list goes on !
Dinner’s ready !
The animal keepers organise their daily work around meal times. They go down the hidden corridors to get to the tanks in order to feed each species with artemia, mysis, mussels and other small fish.
Each species is fed particular food in order to respect their diet and biological rhythms. The animal feed is basically composed of fresh and frozen food (shelled mussels, shrimp, squid, cuttlefish, fish fillets…). To compensate for any lack in vitamins, a food supplement may also be added.
Feeding the seals
There are seals to feed every day. The keepers ensure that each animal has a sufficient quantity of food and that there is no greedy seal eating more than the others. A seal eats about 4 kg of mackerel every day !
Feeding the sharks
Now it’s the turn for the sharks to be fed. Three times a week, fish fillets are thrown into the giant pool to feed this large family comprising thirty sharks, several rays, 2 giant groupers, barracudas and the numerous fish that accompany them !
The more timid sharks are “hand-fed”… with a pole ! A keeper distributes the food from the top of the tank and another takes up position in front of the large observation window below to supervise the feast ! This keeper takes notes of what and how much each shark eats… the sharks even have a dietician !
Maintenance : time to do the housework !
The technical team maintains all the aquarium tanks. The shark tank, for example, needs cleaning three times a week… meal times can get a bit messy ! Our cleaning wizards whizz round and, in next to no time, everything is spick and span !
Sebastien, one of the cleaning wizards, explains :
“We clean the glazing and the tank suction filters so that they don’t get clogged up with fish remnants. The algae must be removed and all the meal leftovers picked up so that they don’t rot in the pool.”
The divers wave to the visitors ! It’s a pity that they can’t clean the windows at home, isn’t it ?
Coral farm : it’s growing well !
Bastien, a graduate from Montaury University, is in charge of growing coral.
He first breeds species from tropical regions in quarantine tanks before carefully installing them in aquarium tanks where they can be seen during a visit to the Biarritz Aquarium !
Bastien told us that although the mission is a highly complex one, the Biarritz Aquarium has now acquired considerable experience in this field.
About ten years ago, the Aquarium set up a partnership with Honduras in order to colonize its aquarium tanks and to begin a coral monitoring programme to ensure the sustainable development of these species through the implementation of a reproduction programme – all in the aim of conserving these natural treasures of the sea.
Water in the pools and aquarium tanks is drawn from the sea at Biarritz !
The physical-chemical parameters of the water in the aquariums and pools are regularly tested (temperature, salinity…). Filtering the aquarium cleanses the water of toxic substances that are naturally produced by the animals.
The Biarritz Aquarium is in close proximity to the sea and therefore fills its aquariums by direct pumping from the foot of the cliff. The water is piped into decantation tanks before being pumped again into other tanks. Then another pumping phase ensures that the water is distributed to the shark pool and seal pool. The other aquarium tanks are supplied by gravity.
The Aquarium has its very own, carefully monitored wastewater treatment plant that deals with waste produced by the aquarium’s residents.
Living conditions : home from home !
The keepers also ensure that the temperature and light controls reproduce the conditions of the natural environment of each species. This encourages appropriate feeding and reproduction behaviour.
The animals’ wellbeing is checked every day. If health treatments are required, these are either given directly in the aquarium or after the animal is placed in a quarantine tank.
These quarantine tanks are not only used for treatments and convalescence in the event of illness or injury, but also for the acclimatization of the animals before they are transferred to the display tanks. They are even used for reproduction purposes and the development of fish until such time as the specimen is able to cohabit with the other residents.