Seahorses are pretty amazing animals to observe. They have bulging, independently moving eyes, armor-plated bodies and monkey-like tails. Their rather bizarre appearances match the unusual measures taken to care for seahorses, sea dragons and pipefish. “The seahorses are actually one of our most labor intensive exhibits,” says Aquarist Sigourney Bain. “They are very delicate animals and their tanks require vigilant cleaning and vacuuming since seahorses are so sensitive to changes in their environment.”
A seahorse keeper’s day is filled with multiple feedings, tank maintenance like scrubbing and changing out water and moving any new babies to a back-up nursery area.
Across the Aquarium plaza in the Ocean Journey building, two coconut crabs are members of the largest land living invertebrate species in the world. They can grow up to three feet in leg span and can weigh up to 40 pounds!
Aquarist Pete Larson is in charge of working with them and admits that caring for these crabs is more about maintaining the right habitat than constant care.
“You have to make sure that their environment stays moist and that they have access to both fresh and salt water,” said Mr. Larson. “The fresh water provides hydration and they actually like to bathe in the salt water. They are also fed twice a week using a diet of fruits and vegetables with occasional proteins such as shrimp, trout chow or clams.”
Both seahorses and coconut crabs star in this year’s Keeper Kids schedule developed by Aquarium educators and husbandry staff. During spring break families will have special opportunities to explore “keepers only” areas while meeting rare turtles, baby sharks, birds and more.
A daily menu of 16 programs will be offered free with Aquarium admission. Kids, ages six and up, may choose two of the activities which are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Each experience lasts approximately 15 minutes.
Aside from getting an up close, behind-the-scenes look at some of the Aquarium’s most interesting creatures, they will also meet SCUBA divers, help feed some aquarium animals and even chat with the Aquarium’s veterinarian during special presentations each Wednesday. Keeper Kids is a great opportunity to learn more about how Aquarium staff cares for more than 10,000 animals such as penguins, lizards, giant catfish and one chubby woodchuck.
Keeper Kids Schedule March 17 - April 20, 2014
10:30 a.m. Butterflies, Birds and Blooms
10:45 a.m. Sharks & SCUBA divers
10:45 a.m. Turtle Treats & Songbird Eats
11:15 a.m. Behind the Scenes Penguin Peek
11:30 a.m. Jelly Babies & Other New Arrivals
11:45 a.m. Seahorse Babies & Mysterious Mysis
12 noon Mystery Creature Feature
1:15 p.m. Behind the Scenes Penguin Peek
1:30 p.m. Rivers of the World Feeding Frenzy
1:30 p.m. Meet the Aquarium’s Dr. Dolittle (Wed. only)
1:45 p.m. Surf and Turf
2 p.m. Turtles & Toads, OH MY!
2:30 p.m. Behind the Scenes Penguin Peek
3 p.m. Secret Reef Feeding Frenzy
3 p.m. Turtle Treats & Songbird Eats
3:30 p.m. Shark Babies & Very Big Fish
4 p.m. Butterflies, Birds and Blooms
Meanwhile on the Tennessee River, the Williams Island Family Adventure Cruise will take passengers to "the Gateway to the Gorge." During each 90-minute adventure, the young and young at heart will discover Native American and Civil War history, and gain insights into the wildlife that call this wooded island home. Time will be spent on each trip observing an osprey nest and heron rookery. Your naturalist guide helps locate other animals and leads an on-board scavenger hunt. These cruises will depart daily March 22 to April 17 from the Chattanooga Pier. Special Spring Break pricing will be offered for these cruises: $20/per person (age three and up), $18/per person under age three.