Aquarium will display deep sea life for the first time

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Visitors to the Oceanopolis aquarium in Brest, France will be able to get up close and personal with deep-sea organisms for the first time, thanks to an aquarium that holds only 16 l/3.5 gal. of water.

Public aquariums find it almost impossible to display live deep-sea animals, because they are adapted to living in the extreme water pressure encountered at such great depths and the vast difference in pressure between the deep sea and the surface ensures that none of them would survive the journey upwards.

Enter the Abyss Box, an aquarium designed to simulate the enormous pressure at ocean depths. Despite the miniscule capacity of the tank, it is capable of maintaining its contents at 18 megapascals, which is equivalent to water pressure 1800m below the surface (surface pressure is a mere 0.1 megapascals by comparison).

Because of its small size, the aquarium has a viewing window only 15cm/6" wide. With 10cm/4" thick walls to withstand the pressure, the aquarium weighs an astounding 600kg once all the equipment used to maintain the pressure is factored in.

The size of the tank means that it is only possible to display small invertebrates (crabs and shrimps) for now, although scientists are hoping that the design can be eventually scaled up to house larger organisms such as fish.

The box is expected to go on display in April.

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