Salt Life! – in the new Coral Reef TankPosted by Chandler Wiegand
The coral reef tank installation, located in the upper school science lab, is finally complete. This was a months-long process that began in August 2021. Once the basic equipment was set up, the whole system needed to sit idle for over a month in order to allow for temperature, salinity and beneficial bacteria to cycle and stabilize. The beneficial bacteria is necessary as it is responsible for feeding on the ammonia (waste) produced by the tank inhabitants. In the tank, we currently have a pair of Ocellaris ClownFish, or Nemo’s as the students call them, a variety of coral species, a sea anemone, and an invertebrate clean up crew. These reef inhabitants not only live together, but demonstrate to our students the importance of many different symbiotic relationships. For example, our sea anemone (which stings) offers our resident clownfish protection from predators that they may come in contact with. The clownfish are covered in a mucus that protects them from the anemones’ powerful sting. And in return, the clownfish ‘attract’ other reef animals towards the anemone which they then sting and consume.
We also watch our invertebrate (snail, hermit crabs, anemone crab) clean up the tank on a daily basis, offering the fish and corals a healthy environment to live in. These clean up crews eat algae and help sift the sand to stir up decaying matter that can be then filtered through our system and cleaned.
The ability to explore the 5 main symbiotic relationships of mutualism, commensalism, parasitism, predation and competition first hand in the classroom helps to reinforce course materials with real life examples that the students can monitor throughout the year. We look forward to incorporating new organisms as the tank becomes more established throughout the year.
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