Wednesday, October 19, 2005
FIVE sharks swim a little quicker in their new home. A languid giant garoupa, shy moray eels and large, exotic-looking batfish, do the same - excited to see three divers, carrying pails of fish and two poles, approach them slowly. It’s lunchtime at Aquaria KLCC’s The Living Oceans, a gigantic aquarium with an underwater tunnel.
The Living Oceans’ concept is not new to most Malaysians, especially those who have been abroad. But, what makes it special is its long tunnel - made out of 90m of fibreglass. “It’s the largest in South-East Asia,” said Aquaria KLCC’s managing director and CEO Terry O’Boyle. ”The longest in the world is in the United States and that measures 120m.”
The Aquaria will house over 3,000 marine creatures of various shapes and sizes in a simulated natural habitat. The tunnel is 1.8m high, and visitors can step on a moving walkway and stop off at different spots anytime to view animals gliding and swimming.
The 55mm-thick tunnel is curved, made to withstand an enormous amount of pressure from the 2.7 million litres of water that fills The Living Oceans’ aquarium. “The glass is custom-made in Germany. It was then shipped to New Zealand and shaped to curve the correct way, then shipped to Malaysia where it was then assembled,” O’Boyle said. The tunnel had to be fitted very carefully, around Aquaria’s high columns, which serve as support structures. Because of this, the moving walkway that was originally planned had to be redesigned.
Designing and installing Aquaria’s infrastructure cost in excess of RM60mil. Fishes are still being imported to stock the different aquariums there. Maintenance involves a quarantine section, filtration plants and more. To upkeep The Living Oceans, 700 litres are pumped out, cleaned and pumped back at any given time. To get the seawater’s chemistry right, a vital part of maintaining the sealife, about 80,000kg of marine salt has to be mixed into it.
As for the underwater support systems, all corals are fake, as is the reproduction of the Royal Nanhai shipwreck.
Part of that is head curator Paul Hamilton’s job. He is in charge of stocking and maintaining Aquaria’s fishes. He explained how it all started for The Living Oceans.
First, came the testing stocks - moon wrasse. “These were fish to test on.'’
The species selected for the aquarium are not endemic to a place. Hamilton said, with the exception of the sharks, the rest were from around South-East Asian waters.
The five sand tiger sharks were brought in from South Africa, and are reportedly not only coping well, but thriving, too. The largest one, a female, measuring over two metres, has even put on weight.
So far, animal handlers and divers have successfully trained the larger fishes, like the five sharks and a single, large garoupa, which has found its home on the other side of the aquarium, to being fed by divers. Once in a while, though, their predatory habits resurface and they chomp on the smaller fish.
Keeping the balance of life there is an important task and a concise science.
“We’ll be aiming for 2kg of fish per cubic metre,” said Hamilton “As for feeding the fishes, about 60kg of food (including other fish like mackerel) is used each day.'’
Hamilton looks after the animal husbandry, diving crew, filters, lights and support systems.
So far, The Living Oceans is habitat to 40% of the total sealife that will live in the giant aquarium. More are coming in, thrice a week, and slowly being adapted to conditions in the aquarium.
Now, the fishes that have been stocked are larger in size.
Later, the colourful species will be introduced, along with different schools of fish, more moray eels and zebra and nurse sharks.
Aquaria KLCC will house more than 5,000 freshwater and marine animal exhibits.
It also has facilities for the disabled. There are computer screens and multimedia presentations throughout the area to help educate visitors about sea life, as well. Exhibits will also place emphasis on Malaysia’s sea life, including unique species found in East Malaysian waters.
Aquaria KLCC will open for public at 3rd week of August
RM38 for adult
RM26 for children
Age 3 and below is free
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