World's largest aquarium opens
The world's largest public aquarium is due to open in Atlanta, Georgia, today.
The Georgia Aquarium, which has cost over $200 million (127 million) to develop, will hold around 8 million gallons of water and house over 100,000 fish of over 500 different species.
The aquarium was funded by multi-millionaire businessman Bernie Marcus, who owns the Home Depot retail chain, as a gift to the city of Atlanta where he built his business empire.
There are over 500 different species of fish in the exhibit.
The aquarium is part of a revival of downtown Atlanta and is hoped to bring in lots of tourists and income to the area.
Two of the main exhibits at the new Aquarium are a pair of Whale sharks - the world's largest species of fish - which were imported from Taiwan some time ago.
The sharks, which are called Ralph and Norton, travelled by UPS on a Boeing 747 cargo plane which had been specially equipped to make the journey safe and comfortable for the fish. The two fish are the only Whale sharks in captivity outside of the massive aquaria of Asia.
"When Ralph and Norton came to the Georgia Aquarium, Ralph was 16 feet long and Norton was 14 feet long weighing 2200 lbs together. Both animals now reside in a 6 million US gallon habitat specially designed for Whale sharks."
Captive raised trevallySome of the fish at the Aquarium have come from an aquaculture project designed to help stock the aquarium. More than 100,000 were produced on a fish farm in Taiwan and imported by plane earlier this year.
"Many of those fish were Golden trevally," says the Aquarium. "For their protection, the trevally were held in a sea pen in the main exhibit when they arrived at the Georgia Aquarium in order to protect them until they grew large enough to swim among the giant group, sawfish and hammerhead to name a few.
"Three trevally escaped and swam in front of Ralph, a filter feeding Whale shark, for months. When another hundred were released they swam in front of Ralph and Norton for a few hours, but then swarmed around the giant grouper. The original three escapee trevally continued to swim in front of Ralph."
Massive filtersThe centralised filtration, or "life support system" as it is generally called in the public aquarium world, is on a scale that dwarfs that seen in most other aquaria.
The water is cleansed by 141 pressurised sand filters, 70 protein skimmers and 65 tower reactors, all of which are similar to those used in many aquatic stores in the UK, but on a much bigger scale.
The aquarium is powered by 218 pumps providing 4160 horse power and shift an amazing 59.3 million litres per hour - enough to fill a 2.5 million litre Olympic swimming pool in under three minutes! "The pumps provide enough water to fill an Olympic swimming pool in under three minutes..."The water is pumped through a staggering 98,170 metres (61 miles) of pipework, which is enough to stretch from London to Brighton (and go ten miles out to sea.)
Says the Aquarium: "The Aquarium's life support system is controlled by a high tech system that can make 150 million decisions per second through 11 computers.
"This system regulates the filtration in the exhibits. Additionally, Aquarium staff test the water quality twice daily. The HVAC system has 3600 tons of cooling capacity, enough to cool 1200 average sized homes. The heating and cooling capabilities of the building are desigend to maintain tight water temperature parameters in the exhibitis."
Getting thereThe Georgia Aquarium is located in downtown Atlanta across from Centennial Olympic Park: Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker St, Atlanta, GA 30313, (404) 581-4000.