NANFA-- IL-IN NANFA trip report - John G. Shedd Aquarium

Sajjad Lateef (
Mon, 21 Apr 2003 11:10:25 -0700 (PDT)

On Saturday April 19, 2003, the IL-IN local chapter
of NANFA met at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

Ryan DePauw, IL-IN NANFA chapter chair, had arranged for this trip
with Kurt Hettinger, fisheries biologist at the Shedd and
NANFA member. It was a pleasant day and we had about 17 people

Kurt takes care of the Illinois Lake and Rivers Gallery at
the Shedd (the native fish) and gave us a behind-the-scenes
tour of the facilities. I will describe the places we visited
in order (as best as I can recall).

First, we stopped by the Hospital/Veterinarian facilities.
There are 3 full-time Vets on staff who take care of
fish illnesses. Recently, they worked on a 150Lb Grouper
which had cancer in its head.

There are four water quality technicians who take about
200 water samples a day in the more than 100 different
water systems. The four main water systems are Temperate
Fresh, Temperate Salt, Tropical Fresh and Tropical Salt
with ways to control temps in each individual display tank.
The water is gravity fed down through enormous mixed-media
filters into large holding tanks two levels underground.
That water is then pumped up, through de-aeration towers and
sent back into the tanks. The tanks also have individual
undergravel filters which provide backup filteration.

We were then given a peek at the latest, greatest exhibit
- Wild Reef - which opened this year. It's floor to ceiling
panaromic views of a coral reef (90,000 Gallons) and a HUGE
shark tank with several shark species, barracudas and other
reef fishes (20 ft high concave viewing wall, 60-80 wide?).
All the walls were decorated with fibreglass corals to give
the experience of being underwater inside a reef. Amazing
exhibit, that. One display wall was approx 5" of acrylic.

Next, we walked past the Quarantine facilities where all
incoming fish are observed and treated for parasites
for a minimum of 45 days. Non-staff weren't allowed inside
and even staff take precautions not to get in contact with
that water and take it to other tanks. All fish are treated
for ecto-parasites. Later, the muck on the bottom of the tank
is settled and extracted and examined for any parasites. When
there are no more parasites in the muck, the fish are released
into the display or rearing tanks.

Several plants - terrestial, marsh and aquatic plants are also
grown for use on the displays. I saw an exceeding cool tank
(6ft long standard aquarium) full of Venus fly traps in a
damp, marshy type environment.

We then visited some of the breeding facilities where amphibians
from South America (Eel/snake-like, aquatic amphibians),
endangered turtles, corals, salt-water shrimp, live foods (guppies,
zebra danios, ghost shrimp) are bred. Apparently, quite a bit
of the corals on display have been captive-propagated. Others
were obtained from other aquariums or are US-Customs confisticated

Then we went over to the Illinois Lakes and Rivers exhibit
behind the displays. We were shown several interesting
fish that were off-display :
- Rainbow trout (hatchery raised)
- Yellow perch
- Bass
- European Sterlet (cousin of Sturgeon) - a Customs confistication
- Northern Pike (Silver)
- Colorado Pike Minnows

One interesting diplay were the year-old sturgeon that were
being raised for release. They had been collected as eggs,
hatched and raised for a few months by a WI-area aquarium.
The Shedd got a few hundred babies that they are rearing
for re-introduction pending approval from State of Illinois.
Every few days, a sample of the baby sturgeon are captured,
measured, tested etc. Apparently, the scales on the baby sturgeon
are razor sharp and Kurt was showing us the cuts on his
fingers from handling the sturgeon which take a really long
time to heal.

We also got a chance to feed the Rainbow trout - and some
who got too close to the tank got splashed well.

Kurt also showed us the F. notatus fry that he is rearing right
now. He also showed us the stream environment he setup for his
Rainbow darters (very similar to the one described by the gentleman
from Michigan in the AC).

We also saw the huge 'fridges housing the frozen food and the
kitchens used to prepare the feed.

Kurt has bred most of the native fish that he has on display -
longear sunfish, darters, etc. He also has raised bowfin from
fry and maintains several kinds of turtles.

All in all, it was an enjoyable way to spend a morning.

All the participants are appreciative of the time and effort
by Kurt Hettinger and the Shedd for giving us this opportunity.
Thanks are also due to Ryan for arranging the event.

If I have inadvertently left out anything, I request any of
the other participants to chime in.

Thank you,
Sajjad Lateef


Sajjad Lateef
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