Since closing on February 1st, 2021 the curatorial team, who care for the animals and maintain their life support systems, have been destocking tanks and decommissioning exhibits that are being redesigned and refreshed. This includes a number of our ancillary exhibits, such as those in the biodiversity tunnel and our entry exhibits. Animals have been relocated to exhibits that will remain active throughout the closure. Some of the animals may be permanently rehomed in other aquariums, and some animals will be housed off site and returned to Reef HQ once the works are complete.
Read on to discover where your Reef HQ favourite has been relocated or rehomed.
Animals that remain onsite at Reef HQ Aquarium
Many reef fish from the biodiversity tunnel exhibits, our seagrass tank, fisheries tank, and the foyer exhibits were relocated to our colours tank near the cafe, to refugia's on the roof or into the coral reef exhibit, the world's largest living coral reef aquarium. While there are works associated with this exhibit, such as the replacement of the flat pane acrylics, this tank will remain active during the closure.
The first animal that delighted guests when they visited, was this magnificent anemone and the clownfish that called it home. The anemone has been "replanted" into our coral reef exhibit, and the clownfish remained with their home. Anemones have a muscular foot, also known as a pedal disc, that keeps them in place and also helps them move around the reef. So, while we've "planted" this anemone, we may find it walking around with it's muscular foot to explore its new home.
Kit Kat, our leopard shark who greeted you upon entry, has moved back into discovery lagoon where she was homed prior to her move downstairs. Kit Kat was born at Reef HQ Aquarium in 2015 and is the offspring of Lolly. Kit Kat was produced through the process known as parthenogenesis, whereby no male DNA was used in her creation, as Lolly has never mated with a male.
The barramundi who demanded your attention in our mangroves exhibit has been moved around the corner to the wetlands exhibit. Barramundi are catadromous fish, meaning that they are born in the ocean and live in freshwater - basically the opposite lifestyle of the salmon. However, they also are able to live purely in saltwater.
The strawberry hermit crabs who would wander between mangrove roots and climb the acrylic, have been moved to the first floor in the exhibit, which housed the mud crab. Hermit crabs, while terrestrial, need to fill their shell with water to keep their gills moist, as they need water to breathe. By filling their shell with water they can wander around on land, bury themselves in the mud and climb nearby trees and branches.
The epaulette sharks, which would walk and wander amongst the other tanks have been moved to the roof in our refugia. Epaulette sharks are endemic to the Great Barrier Reef and spend their time in reef flats walking between tidal pools at low tide to feed. These tidal pools can experience low oxygen levels due to the exhalation of the isolated reef creatures the epaulette is hunting. Due to this, they have adapted to withstand low oxygen levels, sometimes surviving up to an hour without any oxygen.
The three moray eels will continue to hide and weave within pots, as they and their pots have been moved to a temporary tank on the observation deck of Reef HQ Aquarium. A new tank with systems were set up to accommodate the moray eels. This tank has had a cover placed on top to limit excessive light, providing shade and decreasing algae build up, and is plumbed into our existing water system with the coral reef exhibit. In the above image, the moray eels are being acclimated to the new system water, prior to being released.
Animals that have been rehomed
Due to the operational requirements when caring for animals, it was identified that during refurbishments, it was in the animals best interest to be rehomed offsite. Aquarists worked with local stakeholders to rehome some iconic Reef HQ favourites.
Our green tree python, Binda, meaning "green place" in a local Indigenous language was moved to Berserker Pythons. We were happy to hear that her transition from Reef HQ went smoothly, as she has been eating well and even shed her scales. Green tree pythons are native to New Guinea and along the north-eastern coastline of Australia, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef in Cape York.
Our Ornate Crayfish have been rehomed with Ornatas where they will become dads as part of the breeding program at the Toomulla hatchery. Fun Fact: did you know a female lobster is called a hen and a male lobster is called a cock?
Jellyfish were rehomed at James Cook University, and shrimp were provided to the Australian Institute of Marine Science to assist in cleaning their tank mates.
Our reptiles have been relocated to Billabong Sanctuary who will care for our saltwater croc, freshwater croc and freshwater turtle. Visitors to Billabong Sanctuary will be able to say "hello" to these familiar individuals within their new home and exhibits.
Now that we have decommissioned almost all of our ancillary tanks, including the moray eel exhibit, we’ve been working on preparations to relocate animals in our predator tank. This includes installing additional tanks and creating an experimental sea cage.
You can learn more about the status of decommissioning our ancillary exhibits, and our preparations to destock and relocate animals from the predator tank, in the third update on the refurbishments.