In September of 2002 a 180-gallon saltwater aquarium was installed in the Library's IDEA FACTORY. For the first few weeks it appeared that not much was happening -- it was just a tank full of water with two piles of gray rock. But that rock was "live rock" from Fiji, pieces that had broken from a natural reef in the Pacific, full of microscopic algae, bacteria, and other organisms. During those initial few weeks, bacteria necessary for a successful ecosystem were multiplying. These bacteria would transform highly toxic ammonia from fish waste into nitrites (still very toxic) and finally into nitrates (much less toxic.) Nitrates would then be kept from reaching high levels by changing part of the water every two weeks.
18 days after the water was first put in the tank, some hardy fish, corals, shrimp, and snails were introduced. Some casualties occurred, in part due to an insufficient bacterial population, but most of the new residents did quite well in their new home.
In November of 2002 yellow tangs, our most popular fish, were introduced, and they have thrived and grown, as have clown fish, damsels, and a sailfin tang. As in nature, some organisms failed to adapt when introduced to our unique environment, and a foxface fish, some varieties of snails, and two anemones did not survive.
In the summer of 2003 we encountered some heat problems due to the high heat given off by the lighting plus the occasional warmer temperatures of the library building. The water temperature reached 86 degrees, while it should be kept under 80, and some of our corals began to fade and their health became poor. Our two cleaner shrimp also died during this period. Temporary venting helped, and in July cooling fans were installed.
Currently the tank is in good health, with plants, corals, fish, and invertebrates doing well. Keep watching the tank as new fish and corals are introduced and the current population grows and matures. This ecosystem will be ever-changing.