Everything You Need to Know about Aquariums

If you want to work at one of Canada's many aquariums, you likely have a lively interest in marine life. However, beyond your love of sea creatures, do you know much about aquariums in Canada? Where can you work after completing your trade school education? How do aquariums contribute to wildlife preservation? And, most importantly, will your work at an aquarium really help ocean animals, large and small?

Read below for answers to these questions and more that can help you decide if an aquarium job is right for you.

What Skills Do I Need to Work at An Aquarium?

Aquarium jobs come with great rewards—for instance, the knowledge that you're keeping animals healthy while helping people enjoy and learn about the creatures you love. However, aquarium jobs also require a good deal of training, physical strength, and endurance.

Before you become an aquarium worker, make sure you have the dedication to take care of animals in captivity day in and day out in all types of conditions. You will likely have to do a lot of physical labour, including scrubbing tanks, keeping animals clean, and cleaning up after visitors. Animals need proper care come rain or shine, every day of the week, which requires an intense dedication on your part.

You should also have a strong commitment to studying hard. You'll need to pass classes like marine biology, animal behaviour, wildlife management, and many more with flying colours. You might also choose to complete a practicum for hands-on experience before you enter the job market.

Common aquarium positions include:

  • Animal curators, who oversee one portion of an aquarium's collection.
  • Animal care assistants, who help animal curators care for different animals.
  • Conservation biologists/zoologists, who help manage the collection and run conservation projects.
  • Aquarists, who take care of an aquarium's animals, which can include managing diets, cleaning living areas, maintaining exhibits, and keeping records.
  • Veterinarians, who manage animal health programs and keep detailed records.
  • Veterinary technicians, who assist veterinarians in their health care and record keeping duties.

Different positions often require different education, experience, and commitment levels. Some positions require more advanced degrees, such as a degree in veterinary science or biology.

How Do Aquariums Help Marine Animals?

Aquariums offer more than just a chance for visitors to learn more about animals. They also help conserve endangered or threatened species that might otherwise be extinct. For instance, 29 of the 34 animals the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists as Extinct in the Wild live in zoos and aquariums.

Many aquariums also contribute to conservation projects in their area. The Vancouver Aquarium asks people who spot sea turtles on the BC coast to call their hotline, which helps them gather crucial information about endangered turtle species. This information helps Fisheries and Oceans Canada strengthen their leatherback turtle recovery plan.

The Vancouver Aquarium also re-establishes black rockfish populations in West Vancouver. This important species is reappearing in the area after overfishing destroyed the Vancouver population in the 1960s. As part of their conservation effort, the aquarium educates visitors on how to prevent rockfish poaching and avoid rockfish at restaurants. They also invite SCUBA divers to participate in their annual Rockfish Abundance Survey.

CAZA/AZAC accredited zoos and aquariums like the Vancouver Aquarium contribute to 800 conservation programs and 20 field projects, most of which help endangered or threatened species. Learn more about the importance of accredited aquariums in Canada below.

What Do I Need to Know about CAZA/AZAC?

Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums is a not-for-profit organization that regulates Canadian zoos and aquariums. They fight to preserve endangered species, educate Canadians about wildlife conservation, and ensure the health and welfare of each of the 100,000 animals in Canada's accredited zoos and aquariums.

Zoos and aquariums become CAZA/AZAC accredited by meeting a high standard of conduct for human and animal contact, animal transport, and animal care. Teams inspect accredited members every five years to ensure that each zoo and aquarium has the right number of staff members, clean facilities, and thorough emergency preparedness plans.

Finally, each accredited member must pledge to follow a Code of Ethics. The Code asserts that all members must "Promote the interests of wildlife conservation, biodiversity and animal welfare to colleagues and to society at large," among other things.

CAZA/AZAC works hard to educate future aquarium and zoo workers, particularly through its Zoo Animal Technology Program at Alberta Business and Educational Services. If you currently work at an accredited aquarium, your workplace might recommend that you take this competency-based program to boost your animal care aptitude. Chances are, your marine studies will eventually lead to a job at a CAZA/AZAC accredited aquarium.

What Should I Do Next?

Now that you know what an aquarium job entails, you're better prepared to decide if the aquarium life is right for you. If you still want to protect animals' welfare, conserve endangered species, and teach visitors about sea creatures after reading this blog, take the next step and sign up for a Zoo and Aquarium Technology Program today.

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