How to set up a cold saltwater Pacific NW tank for my school?
January 21, 2007 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Since it sounds like we have some aquarists in our midst, can anyone make any suggestions about a cold marine tank I'm interested in setting up for my class??

I live in the Pacific NW, and dive there when I can't get anywhere warmer (brr! not for the faint-hearted). The specimens I see there are pretty fantastic, not as colorful but just as interesting as their tropical brethren.

There is one heck of a lot of information on the net about people setting up tropical saltwater tanks, and not so much about people interested in setting up coldwater tanks, though everyone seems to agree that I'm crazy to consider it.

I'm interested in a tank that would contain tidepool specimens (collecting only legal ones, of course), that is, animals that do well in the more moderate temperatures and have survived exposure to sun, etc. I'm hoping that might mean I could omit a chiller, which is more than this teacher can afford. Any thoughts on that?

Would the various inverts do ok with that- hermit crabs, starfish, anenomes? (I know the stars might go after the hermits, but I'm hoping that feeding them well will make them lazy enough to leave them alone)

Any recommendations on how to stock the tank? The pet store keeps trying to sell me live sand and rock, sourced from the tropics. Won't sticking that in a coolish tank kill it? Any reason to use live rock/sand regardless?

I'm on a real budget here, at least until I can show the school how beneficial this will be. Any recommendations on what I need, what I can do without, etc? Thanks in advance!
posted by arnicae to Pets & Animals (5 answers total)
I've got some professional experience with setting up aquariums but I've never heard of anyone doing this. Could you possibly reach out to a biology department of a local university in the area? If you're doing this for educational purposes they might be willing to give you some advice pro bono. If you go to the websites of major universities it will usually provide a staff list. Search for a local Marine Biology professor.
posted by Octoparrot at 2:38 PM on January 21, 2007

I am not an aquarist, but I am a grad student studying marine invertebrates. I suspect temperature will be your biggest problem- these critters are indeed adapted to daily exposure, but also to daily cold water inundation. Room temperature water will stress them out, and I don't think they will live very long.

(Note: I am basing this on the fact that we use tepid-warm water to stress out molluscs and echinoderms so they'll spawn. It's kind of a get-rid-of-my-gametes-now-before-I-perish reflex.)
posted by ilyanassa at 3:52 PM on January 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I worked in an Aplysia lab in Missouri we had a cold aquarium out in the hall that we took care of and stocked with stuff from my boss' trips to Northern California and Oregon. Over some time we had hermit crabs, sponges, a few fish from a local shop that liked the cold, and small aplysia ( A. californica of course. You might see those when you're out on the NW coast.

The temperature was critical to everybody's happiness and survival. I think a lot of NW inter-tidal things will like the temperature to be 10-15C or so range.
posted by sevenless at 12:41 AM on January 22, 2007

Response by poster: Any suggestions on books that deal with pacific aquariums? Thanks!
posted by arnicae at 6:34 PM on January 22, 2007

I would suggest Donors Choose as a funding resource. The grant is easy to write and you can request whatever you want. Several teachers at my school have gotten money for resources. One teacher actually received money for a community tank for the kindergarten room.
posted by aetg at 8:01 PM on January 23, 2007

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