Young Minds Responsible Reefers
The other day I was given a great opportunity to give a lesson to a high school AP Biology class on the importance of responsible reef keeping. By shaping young minds into responsible reefers, we can help ensure a steady and healthy aquaculture of livestock and minimize the need to harvest from, and disturb, reefs in the wild.
We maintain a 300 gallon reef tank in Maspeth High School, and on occasion, I am able to join Mr. Bell’s lesson by adding additional information about marine life. The reef tank is one of four aquariums that we service at the school along with three freshwater environments. I think it is very important to teach young people how to care for these delicate animals so they can have a deeper understanding of their world. By making students more passionate about reefing and the care required to keep the organisms healthy and growing we are raising a new generation of responsible conservationists.
Everything that happens in the reef tank is a small example of what can happen out on coral reefs in the ocean. When we first started up the system there was a very large nutrient surge which caused a bloom of green string algae called “Bryopsis Pennata” which can be seen below:
The students got a first hand look at the devastating effects of excess nutrients mixed with a nuisance algae, and it definitely looked gross. This kind of algae bloom happens out in the ocean all the time near sewage runoff and other areas of high nutrients (waste). Over the next few weeks I was able to remove all of the nuisance algae with a few different methods: (1) I physically picked as much off the rocks as I could. (2) I raised the magnesium levels over 1500 mg/L to poison the algae (luckily this was before I had added any corals to the tank so I could change many levels safely) (3) I starved the algae out by severely limiting the amount of nitrates and phosphates available for it to consume. The picture was taken at the end of October and since November there has been no sign of green hair algae in the aquarium.
The only other major problem that the tank has run into has been recently (May 2015). I have found one or two aiptasia growing on the rocks. Aiptasia can be a very big problem especially in a tank of this size. They are similar to invasive species because in most reef tanks there are very few, if any, natural predators for them and they can spread very quickly.
Problems like these are really great for a high school classroom because the students get to see me experiment with different methods to varying degrees of success. These experiments are set up to solve real world problems that are happening right in front of them. I don’t know what problems we will run into next, but I know we are going to get a great lesson out of it.
May 2015:-Michael Ammirati