Great Lakes Aquarium Open for Business - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Great Lakes Aquarium Open for Business

From the Summer 2001 Waterline, the quarterly newsletter of the Minnesota Department of Health Public Water Supply Unit, Waterline, Minnesota Department of Health

Open less than a year, the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth has already hosted more than a quarter-million visitors. The major exhibits include an Isle Royale display, consisting of three separate aquariums—one that contains only native fish from 150 years ago, another that contains fish that currently inhabit Lake Superior, and a third that has lake herring, a major source of food for predatory fish from the present and from years past. There is also an exhibit of the fast-flowing Baptism River, with its brook trout, and the slower St. Louis River.

Some of the facility’s smaller aquariums have their own support systems, but the major exhibits are operated by a central system. Chuck Amborn, the Great Lakes Aquarium Facility Administrator, says of the major displays, “We want them to look as natural as possible. When you go to the Baptism River, you don’t see a lot of pipes.” That’s because the pipes, along with other infrastructure components, are tucked away in the basement in the Aquarium’s Life Support Mechanical Room.

Hidden in this area, away from the eyes of visitors, is a multitude of equipment, including flow meters, sensors and monitoring systems, and high pressure sand filters. Freon water chillers and a heat exchanger keep the displays at the proper temperature. “We’re usually cooling the water rather than heating it,” says Amborn. “The ambient air temperature and the equipment operation keep the water warm enough, but it may have to be cooled for many of the displays.” He adds that the coolest display is Isle Royale, where the water is 55 degrees.

Chuck Amborn and Jeanette Boothe
Sand Filter
Facility Administrator Chuck Amborn explains the workings of the Aquarium’s Life Support Mechanical Room to Jeanette Boothe of the Minnesota Department of Health.
Sand filters are among the equipment in the Mechanical Room, hidden from the view of the more than quarter-million visitors who came to the Great Lakes Aquarium in its first year.
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Ozone is generated to disinfect the water and improve its clarity.
It is then pumped into a contact tank and mixed with water.

The Aquarium uses water from the city of Duluth, not from the bay outside the facility. Charcoal filters remove the chlorine, and they can also add sodium thiosulfate for that purpose. The most extensive equipment consists of the 10 ozone contact tanks, one for every major exhibit in the Aquarium. Generators produce the ozone, which is sent to the contact tanks and mixed with water before going to the fish tanks upstairs. In addition to disinfecting the water and ridding it of germs that could harm the fish, the ozone also removes dissolved solids to improve the clarity in the water.

Outside the Life Support Mechanical Room is a water quality laboratory as well as quarantine and autopsy rooms.

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Updated Tuesday, March 22, 2016 at 02:54PM