An aquarist is relied upon to provide comprehensive care to fish and aquatic animals, usually in a public aquarium or the aquatic section of a zoo. He is in charge of all tasks and duties that provide the fish and animals with food and a safe, nurturing environment. He also observes the creatures’ physical conditions, and when he detects injuries or signs of sickness, he reports the conditions to appropriate staff personnel for resolution.
As the caretaker in charge, an aquarist’s responsibilities to the zoo curator, fish and aquatic animals are extensive. Not only does he feed the fish and animals, he also prepares the food, adheres to individualized schedules, makes dietary adjustments as needed and monitors behavior to detect any physical or behavioral changes that may be diet-related. He may also suggest dietary changes based on his knowledge of a species and the behavior he observes. Accurate recordkeeping of all food and feeding rituals is required.
He may assist in transporting aquatic animals and fish to locations inside or outside the aquarium. If an expedition crew travels to remote locations to gather new aquatic life forms, the aquarist may be included as a team member based on his expertise and job performance. In some cases, he works closely with the curator to build or redesign exhibits.
The environment of the aquarium, including the tanks and exhibits, is also the responsibility of someone in this postiion. He scrutinizes the water quality, checks acidity levels and adds chemicals as needed. He regularly checks temperatures in tanks and makes adjustments. He also keeps the tanks clean and free of algae and maintains the integrity of the displays and decorations.
In some circumstances, an aquarist will be asked to assist with special projects that involve keeping an eye on the behavior or physical characteristics of a certain species or type of fish or aquatic animal. This information may be used for internal purposes or be part of a larger survey that could affect aquatic life on a much larger scale. Involvement in these research activities increases his knowledge and can help further his career.
The educational requirements for a career in aquarism include a bachelor’s degree, preferably in veterinary science, science, environmental engineering or biology. Although a bachelor’s degree is required to get hired, experience becomes more important for career advancement. In-house training, training with senior aquarists and taking related science or biology courses while employed are very useful for advancing in aquarism.