Reef HQ Aquarium has 4 million litres of water across all our tanks at any one time. Where do we get our water and what do we do with it?

Since 2002, Reef HQ Aquarium has been sourcing water from Ross Creek. This creek water, otherwise known as estuarine water, makes its way from creek to aquarium through a series of collection, testing and use stages.

Water Assessment and Collection

The Ross Creek is busy with boats and other activity that can affect the water, making it harmful to the marine life in our tanks. To ensure we are collecting the best water for our corals and animals, we review the tide movement and look at weather patterns, such as rainfall, to assess if the water would be suitable for collection. (For example, in the 2019 Townsville Rainfall event, the inundation of 1,134 mm of rain dropped the salinity of the river to 0 parts per thousand, instead of up to 35 parts per thousand. This impacted our water collection for a number of weeks).

We also visually assess the water in Ross Creek for signs of oil on the waters surface. Once passing the visual test, water is pumped and processed through a sand filter, to remove large particles, before making its way into a 750,000 litre holding tank (this is the same size as our Predator Tank).

Water Testing, Rejection or Incorporation

The water collected in the holding tank then undergoes a series of tests to assess if the water is fit for use, or if the water should be rejected.

A sample of the collected water is tested in a small test tank, our canary tank (pictured below). The canary tank is used to assess how the water affects the coral and marine life that lives there and is key to identifying high levels of copper, iron or zinc traces in the water.

This is a crucial stage in the testing process and lets us know if the water is safe to introduce to our larger tanks. If it is deemed safe, the water is pumped from the holding tank into the Coral Reef Exhibit, our largest tank at 2.5 million litres and the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium.

Water Use

The water introduced into the Coral Reef Exhibit doesn’t stay there for long.

Water is constantly moving and being filtered through over 20 protein skimmers and 9 sand filters, and it is also moved around the aquarium. Water from the Coral Reef Exhibit makes its way into the predator tank, our second largest tank in the public space at 750,000 litres, where it is filtered again with sand filters and protein skimmers.

Every stage of collection, testing and use of the Ross Creek water is key to the health of our coral and marine life. This is one of the many ways Reef HQ works to keep our impact on the environment to a minimum.