Behind the Tank

TFK Kid Reporter Veronica Louise Mendoza tours San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences

Apr 21, 2011 | By TFK Kid Reporter Veronica Louise Mendoza

Videography and editing by Jeremiah Ysip.

Most people come to the California Academy of Sciences, in San Francisco, to check out the planetarium or to watch the albino alligator lazily wade in the in-door swamp. Little do they know, more wonders await at the Steinhart Aquarium!

The aquarium holds up to 212,000 gallons of water and showcases more than 2,000 different kinds of fishy sea creatures, and live corals make the animals feel right at home. Some of the many marine animals found in the Steinhart Aquarium include seahorses, sea dragons, frogfish and more. Biologist April Devitt, who cares for and feeds the aquarium’s creatures, gave TFK a behind-the-scenes look.

Penguin Pavillion

The first stop on the tour was a trip to feed the African penguins. The black-and-white birds flailed and fidgeted in the water, hungry for fresh fish. Part of Devitt’s job is to record each penguin’s daily diet and intake. The Academy has public penguin feedings everyday at 10:30 a.m. and at 3:30 p.m.

The small creatures sure have big personalities for their size. Most of the African penguins fought over who gets which fish, making a great show for the audience. “They act like people, which makes the feedings very fun and different each time,” says Brooke Weinstein, the biologist who conducts the live show.

Fish Food

Up next: Feeding time for the seahorses, sea dragons and frogfish. “In the wild the seahorses feed on tiny little shrimp called mysis shrimp, so that’s what we feed them here,” Devitt explained. “We feed them live and frozen mysis shrimp.”

Many people wonder: What’s the difference between a sea dragon and a seahorse? “Sea dragons, seahorses and pike fish are in the same family,” Devitt says. “The differences are that they are in different genera. Also, sea dragons are from Southern and Western coasts of Australia, while a lot of seahorses are from the tropical Indonesia and the Philippines areas. Their body shapes evolved to adjust to the different climates.”

The frogfish feeding took a tiny bit more effort. First, Devitt attached a piece of small fish to a plastic wire and placed it in front of the frogfish. The frogfish realizes that it is food, and then, bam! It eats the fish in one huge gulp!

Tips to Thrive

If you want to own a seahorse or a sea dragon someday, then take some advice from an expert. “I would recommend that you would buy a captive bread seahorse, not a wild-caught one, because they have the tendency to not transfer over to eating frozen food very well and they don’t do well in captivity,” Devitt says. “Make sure you have the right tank set-up: tropical-like, warm salt-water. Also make sure you get the right food for them and give them places to hide and hold on to [with their tails] so they feel secure and safe.”

Click here to return to Environment Mini-Site.