Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Atlantic sea nettle jellyfish

On an impromptu trip to the east coast to visit family, we had the chance to see the George Aquarium in Atlanta, one of the world's largest aquariums. I had always heard cool things so I was stoked to check it out. I only had my crappy little camera phone (see pic above). It was amazing. Don't forget your (flash-free) camera!

We checked out the coral reefs first (Tropical Diver). I think we spent 10 minutes at the first tank just staring in awe at the teeming numbers of angelfish, butterflyfish, and anthias swimming actively about the reef in the first tank. We spent a long time gazing at the garden eels, japenese spider crabs, jellyfish and seahorses before nearly having our minds blown by a giant aquarium covering the entire wall and ceiling of a stadium-sized room (aerated by waved action). The next 20 minutes were spent identifying several species of tangs, surgeonfish, groupers, sweetlips, anthias, and several other amazing species of Indo-Pacific reef fish impossible to keep in the average home aquarium (including the largest, fattest mandarinfish I've ever seen). The only reason we finally dragged ourselves from the room was there was lots more to see. In addition, we were all sort of dizzy from sensory overload and needed a breather.

The next exhibit didn't help with the dizziness. In the Ocean Voyager section, we encountered an aquarium the size of several football fields. An octet of scuba divers enjoyed the view from the inside of the tank. We were mezmerized by happy groups of sting rays, skates, and manta rays, somersaulting on the surface. A few hammerheads, razor sharks, and sand sharks swam about with huge, protruding fangs, sending shivers down my back. Four enormous whale sharks the size of two school buses side-by-side peacefully swam in lazy laps. My mouth hung open for so long that my jaw ached. We left with cricks in our necks, eyes glued upwards, as we exited on a moving sidewalk through a long tunnel where we could watch the gi-normous fish swim above.

Finally, we moved onto the Coldwater Quest were we were oohed and aahed by 4 large, yet very adoreable beluga whales from the arctic waters of Russia and Greenland. There smiling faces and social butterfly personalities reminded me of dolphins. I also delighted in the African penguins, frolicking in the water and cuddling and preening in mated pairs. Maybe true love does exist afterall. One woman shook her keys for the penguins, who delightedly swam in frantic zig-zags, chasing the shiny object. She put her keys away, only to have the penguins jump to the water's surface, squack, and flap their wings, splashing water to beg for the keys again. They were hysterically entertaining and unbelievably adoreable.

Be sure to visit if you're in the neighborhood!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Help! Power Failure!

Last night at midnight, as I was typing away at the computer, the entire house suddenly went pitch black. The deafening silence buzzed in my ears. After Travis and I made sure no one was trying to break in, I realized it was a major SDG&E issue (not that anyone in customer service would admit it or even apologize). When I woke up this morning and the power was still not on, I panicked. Help!

After consulting with the local aquarium stores, I was informed that most fish and inverts will be okay as long as the power outage is 24 hours or less. The main problems are: sudden drop in temperature, depletion of oxygen from the water, and build-up of nitrates from waste (not to mention changes in pH as a result from oxygen depletion, the lights being out, nitrate build-up, etc.).

First, the temperature. Even on a hot day, because water is so good at cooling, the temperature will drop. My temp went from 78 degrees to 72 in 12 hours. I wrapped the entire system in blankets and a sleeping bag, paying extra careful attention to the top, where the aquarium loses most of its heat to ambient air.

Second, oxygen. For $11, I purchased a battery-operated air pump, connected it to the tubing and air stone and dropped it into the tank. For my tank, I used 3 (2 would have probably been fine). They also sell rechargeable, back-up air-pumps that only go on if there is a power outage (like if you're out of town). I picked up some of those as well.

Third, nitrates. Don't feed the fish. That helps prevent excess waste.

Finally, this experience has made me consider looking into a back-up generator for future problems. They can be pretty expensive; however, Home Depot rents them out by the day.

Power is back on and aquarium is running smoothly. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!