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Organizing a public aquarium: objectives, design, operation and missions. A review

  • Authors (legacy)
    Karydis M.

Many Public Aquaria have been designed and constructed all over the world during the last three
decades. The serial arrangement of relatively small, rectangular, concrete tanks has been replaced
by fewer large, irregularly shaped tanks, replicating habitats. The “taxonomic concept” of displaying
specimens in the old aquaria has now been succeeded by the more ecological, “community concept”
type of display. At the same time most of the “old aquaria” have been renovated. Aquarium missions
have also been broadened nowadays including research, conservation and education. Aquaria are
ideal places for research on husbandry, life cycles, reproduction, behavior, autoecology and fish
pathology. Collaboration with Universities and Research Centers increases the research potential in
scientific disciplines such as ecology, genetics, physiology and biochemistry. Collaboration also
provides mutual benefits in both infrastructure and personnel: The research background in aquaria
also forms a sound platform to materialize conservation projects, focusing either on the ex-situ
conservation of animals in the aquaria or on environmental protection of surrounding areas and reintroduction
of endangered species. In addition to formal educational opportunities, non formal
education to visitors, schools and undergraduates seems to become a major mission of aquaria.
Aquarium tank displays, preserved biological material, film projections, seminars / lectures and book
magazine publications enhance environmental awareness, encouraging people to adopt
Environmentally Responsible Behavior. All these missions are feasible because most public aquaria
are making a good profit mainly due to their high popularity. There are also benefits for the
community in the area; aquaria have enlivened declining water front areas and increased the income
of tourist resorts mainly by “stretching out” the tourist season. In the present work the objectives of a
public aquarium are reviewed and the main infrastructure subsystems and operational procedures
are described; Know how on aquarium systems can also be applied in research laboratories of
academic institutions if live organisms have to be kept for experimentation. Aquarium missions on
research, conservation and education are discussed.

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