Toledo Zoo Aquarium Renovation – Update 6: Pacific Reef Crest and Lagoon

pacific-lagoon-tridacnaAs regular Saltwater Smarts visitors are aware, The Toledo Zoo’s Aquarium closed October 1, 2012 for a $25.5 million renovation and the new Aquarium is scheduled to open in 2015. Since the renovation began, one of the common questions visitors ask is, “What exhibits and animals will the new Aquarium have?”

To help answer that question, I’m examining the new exhibits through a series of posts. My last installment covered the design and livestock of the Pacific Rainbow Reef exhibit. This time around, I’d like to shine the spotlight on the Pacific Reef Crest and Lagoon exhibits.

Please bear in mind that the planning process is fluid; things can and will change before the Aquarium’s grand opening. Additionally, the names for the exhibits are only placeholders—the final names may reflect helpful donors or be more descriptive of the exhibit itself.

The Toledo Zoo Aquarium’s previous 1000-gallon mixed reef exhibit after 12 years of operation. Corals were moved to our off-site holding facility for use in the new exhibits.

The Toledo Zoo Aquarium’s previous 1000-gallon mixed reef exhibit after 12 years of operation. Corals were moved to our off-site holding facility for use in the new exhibits.

As marine aquarists know, live corals require different life-support equipment and a narrower range of water-quality parameters than do fish and even some other invertebrates. Even then, not all corals are created equal, and one important consideration is that of the potential for “allelopathy,” or chemical warfare, between species. Direct attacks between corals using sweeper tentacles is one way corals fight each other for space, but they can also inhibit the growth of other corals by releasing toxins into the water.

In our previous reef exhibit at the Toledo Zoo, we found that some species of soft coral would cause growth problems in small-polyp stony (SPS) corals. In addition, the SPS corals tend to have more stringent water-quality requirements than many soft corals do. The solution for us was to develop two live coral exhibits: a Reef Crest dominated by SPS corals and a Lagoon exhibit designed to house soft corals and our giant Tridacna clam.

Top-down view of the side by side exhibits. The grid structure represents fiberglass grates that serve as an open-yet-sturdy support for the live rock and corals.

Top-down view of the side by side exhibits. The grid structure represents fiberglass grates that serve as an open-yet-sturdy support for the live rock and corals.

Exhibit: Tropical Pacific Reef Crest
Water type: Tropical marine
Tank volume: 2,000 gallons

Lighting will be from six 400-watt, 10,000k metal halide pendant fixtures as well as a Solatube light pipe. Water motion will be from various pumps, including some new smaller-sized Hydrowizards. The exhibit will have a remote sump with two large skimmers and a calcium reactor. Water temperature will be maintained by a heat exchanger connected to the building’s new geothermal system.

We continue to propagate hundreds of SPS corals in our holding facility—getting ready for the new Aquarium’s opening in 2015!

We continue to propagate hundreds of SPS corals in our holding facility—getting ready for the new Aquarium’s opening in 2015!

Exhibit: Tropical Pacific Lagoon
Water type: Tropical marine
Tank volume: 2,000 gallons

The life-support system will be identical to that of the Tropical Pacific Reef Crest, except the metal halide bulbs may be a lower color temperature and only one protein skimmer will be employed.

This giant Tridacna clam was too large to display in the old Aquarium, but it will become a showpiece for the new lagoon exhibit.

This giant Tridacna clam was too large to display in the old Aquarium, but it will become a showpiece for the new lagoon exhibit.

The fish in both exhibits will be secondary to the live corals. Selection of the fish will depend on their ability to cohabitate peacefully with the corals. Some fish will also be chosen for their ability to serve a function for the living reef; surgeonfish will eat unwanted algae, while we use copperband butterflyfish to reduce the number of the pest anemone Aiptasia.

Check out the Toledo Zoo Aquarium renovation page for all updates.

Photo Credit: Toledo Zoo

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About Jay Hemdal

Jay Hemdal is the Curator of Fishes and Invertebrates for the Toledo Zoo. He has written over 150 articles and six books on aquariums since 1981.

Comments

  1. Matt Bowers (Muttley000) says:

    The exhibit plans look great Jay. Really appreciate you taking the time to talk about the plans. The construction pictures are of particular interest to me. Is there more in depth information available anywhere?

    • Hi Matt,

      The renovation information is spread out among a variety of resources; The Saltwater Smarts web site has the most comprehensive information right now, Zoo members also get updates, and we are planning some public presentations at the Zoo. After “Wild Walkabout” we plan to keep the monitor above the Great Barrier Reef exhibit in the museum updated with recent construction photos. The entire project is also being photo-documented by a construction firm — for an internal “as built” reference.

      Jay

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