Shark Central Reopens after State of the Art Transformation

Shark Central, the 4,500-gallon immersive touch tank, that has captivated guests since 2006, just reopened to the public after a state of the art transformation over the summer. In August of 2017, the exhibit temporarily closed for an upgrade. This meant sending the nearly two-dozen sharks that call Shark Central home to the offsite animal health facility until the completion of the project.

What makes Shark Central  unique is the opportunity to see and touch sharks from around the world. Some of the sharks in Shark Central are from the West Coast, like the leopard sharks, shovelnose guitarfish, and California horn sharks. Others are native to South Africa, such as the striped catsharks (also called pyjama catshark), and the leopard catshark. There is even a shark that can only be found in Australia – the Port Jackson horn shark.

Shark Central

Guests can touch six different species in the Shark Central touch tank.

The biggest upgrade to Shark Central is behind the scenes, but vitally important – a new state of the art life support system. This new system was the major hype with all of the biologists working on it. Aquatic Biologist Scott Brehob shares his enthusiasm about the new design and more efficient system.

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Aquatic Biologist Scott Brehob eagerly shows off the new energy efficient life support system behind the scenes.

“I’m incredibly excited to have a brand new and more efficient life support system that gives these sharks great water,” Brehob said. Brehob takes care of the sharks in Shark Central. He has seen the evolution of the exhibit since it first opened in 2004, and shared his passion for taking care of the sharks in his Takeover Tuesday post.

The system is a technological upgrade; it’s less bulk and more bang, just like the ever evolving cell phones we use. We won’t get into the entire scientific nitty gritty; but the new pumps are VFD (variable flow drive) and they include their own computer systems. This allows for the biologists to manually type in what they need from the pump that feeds the tank and the bio towers. If they need more flow to the tank and less pull from it, they can simply type that in. Also with the upgrade, if one of the pumps goes down, the other one can do the work for it, ensuring optimal safety and efficiency.

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Other changes include resurfacing the tank walls, a new paint coat on the exhibit, new decking, and a new concrete ledge. When asked about his favorite part of the project, Assistant Curator Dan Hagley stated he “enjoyed the plumbing aspect and getting to use new things I’ve never played with before that will make it a lot easier for the biologists to maintain the tank.”

Teamwork played a big role in completing this project, and it would not have been possible without the help of the volunteers and interns who assisted our animal husbandry team, and engineers. Volunteers helped drain the tank and cleared out all of the gravel and river rocks so a crew could then come in and resurface the tank walls.

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A ton of work went into this transformation, some of which we could easily overlook like cleaning the new gravel before filling it in the tank! The new filtration systems could easily do that work over time; however, the gravel is very dusty and makes the tank cloudy if it isn’t cleaned beforehand. To save time and get the exhibit looking as nice as possible, several staff members and volunteers took on the task of cleaning the new gravel before shoveling it into the exhibit.

After filling the tank with freshly washed gravel, our biologists filled the tank with water. They made sure the temperature is 60 degrees – these sharks are accustomed to that cold temperature in their native environments,  Brrrr! Biologists also made sure the water has accurate flow rates, balance, and chemical levels before bringing the animals back in. The animals are brought back within a number of moves to ensure that all is well in the environment.Shark Central

“I love being able to educate people about these fascinating animals from around the world. Many people don’t even have the opportunity to see sharks up close, but our guests get to interact with them,” said General Curator, Mark Dvornak.

Dvornak shared his passion about the transformation and how the new water system will give the sharks the optimal healthy environment that a unique touch tank needs. His last big project was the new Stingray Hideaway. It is a larger scale touch tank project that is also open for visitors to experience along with our better than ever Shark Central!

Be sure to stop by and visit Shark Central to see the energy-efficient improvements on your next visit. There are sharks from all over the world awaiting your arrival right here, at Newport Aquarium.

 

Shark Week: Meet our Sharks

Since 1988, Shark Week has become almost a national holiday, popularized by Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, these amazing creatures have been a source of our own curiosity for decades. Newport Aquarium, Shark Capital of the Midwest, is home to nearly 50 sharks of all sizes! Make your way down to the aquarium this Shark Week to discover the wonder of sharks!

Shark Central

Guests can touch five species of sharks in the Shark Central touch tank.

Shark Central

Shark Central is home to more than a dozen smaller kelp forest sharks that guests can touch. With the proper two-finger touch technique, guests can have a personal encounter with these amazing creatures. Here are some of the different types of sharks guest can meet in Shark Central:

Horn Shark

The California Horn Shark hails from the waters of Southern California, Baja California,

Port Jackson, California Horn Shark

A Port Jackson shark (left) rests at the bottom of the tank next to the smaller California horn shark.

Galapagos Islands, and off the coast of Ecuador and Peru. Growing up to 48 inches in length, these little guys prefer kelp forests, sea caves, rocky reefs, and sand flats as their home. The horn shark’s diet consists of mainly urchins, crabs, abalones and other small invertebrates.

 

Leopard Catshark

This shark, reaching only about 34 inches in length prefers to hide safely in the bottoms of rocky reefs in small crevices.

napping sharks

A leopard catshark rests on top a pile of pyjama sharks. These sharks often take a nap in a pile.

These sharks are found mainly around southern and western South Africa. At night, the leopard cat shark leaves its hiding place to hunt for small fish, octopuses, worms, and crustaceans.

Leopard Shark

Not to be confused with the leopard catshark, these sharks might be small now but one day they could reach lengths of up to 7 feet.

leopard sharks

Leopard sharks can reach up to 7-feet long.

They prefer shallow, muddy, rocky and sandy areas like kelp forests. Their diet consists of mainly rays, bony fish, shrimp, octopuses, crabs, clams and worms. You can find these sharks in the eastern Pacific, from Oregon all the way down to Baja, California.

Port Jackson Shark

At full size, Port Jackson sharks can reach lengths of about 5.5 feet. These sharks love the waters of Southern Australia where they feed on mollusks, crustaceans, urchins and fish.

Port Jackson

The Port Jackson shark has a unique color pattern with dark, harness-like markings that cover the eyes, back and sides.

You can find them roaming through sandy, muddy and rocky environments as well as sea grass beds. There are two Port Jackson sharks in Shark Central. Their names are Sheila and PJ.

Striped Catshark     

Also commonly known as the pyjama shy shark, these sharks grow up to 40 inches long.

Pyjama shark

The striped catshark is also known as the Pyjama shark or shy shark.

They prefer rocky reefs, seas caves and crevices during the day and leave at night to hunt for crustaceans, fish, sharks, rays, worms, and cephalopods. The striped catsharks is mainly found around southern South Africa and southwestern Indian Ocean.

Surrounded by Sharks

This exhibit provides a truly unique experience for all those fascinated by sharks. Walk through the tunnels under a 385,000-gallon tank and watch as these fierce-looking and beautiful creatures swim right over your head. On your way out make your way to Shark Bridge and see if you have what it takes to DARE TO CROSS. Surrounded by Sharks is home to sand tiger sharks, zebra sharks, blacktip reef sharks, a nurse shark and shark rays.

Zebra Shark

Reaching up to 8 feet long, these sharks live in coral and rocky reefs as well as sea grass beds.

zebra shark

Zebra sharks are born with strips, which change into small dark spots as they mature.

They are mainly found in the Indo-Pacific from South Africa to the Red Sea in the West. Our zebra shark is named Roo!

Shark Rays

Shark Rays, also known as bowmouth guitarfish, live in tropical coastal waters of the western Indo-Pacific at depths of around 300 feet.

SharkRay_Group

Newport Aquarium is home to four shark rays: Sweet Pea, Scooter, Sunshine and Spike.

Usually found close the sea floor, the shark ray likes sandy or muddy areas where they can feed on bony fishes, crustaceans and mollusks. Newport Aquarium is home to four sharks rays: Sweet Pea, Scooter, Sunshine, and Spike.

Nurse Shark

Nurse sharks rest during the day. They have the lowest metabolic rate of any other assessed shark species.

Nurse Shark

Ziggy the nurse shark, rests alongside one of the tunnels in Surrounded by Sharks.

Nurse sharks live in shallow mangrove forests, sand flats, reefs, seagrass beds, and man-made objects. Reaching lengths of 14 feet, this shark hails from the eastern Atlantic, western Atlantic, and the eastern Pacific oceans. They feed on mainly mollusks, tunicates, crustaceans, octopuses, fish, sea snakes and rays. Look for Ziggy the nurse shark the next time you enter the tunnels of Surrounded by Sharks.

Sand Tiger Sharks

Sand tiger sharks reach lengths of up to 10.5 feet long. They are found in many temperate and tropical waters including shallow bays, inlets, coral and rocky reefs, shipwrecks and shelf drops.

Sand Tiger shark

All those teeth might make them look ferocious, but sand tiger sharks are a relatively docile, non-aggressive species.

These sharks are found almost everywhere except portions of the eastern Pacific. There are three sand tiger sharks at Newport Aquarium: Cal, Al, and Dan.

Blacktip Reef Sharks

Typically between 4 to 5 feet in length, the black-tip reef shark lives in and near coral reefs.

black tip reef shark

Here’s a rare view (not available to the public) of a black tip reef shark from the top of the feeding platform over Surrounded by Sharks.

They prefer to feed on fish, squid, octopuses, and shrimp that are old, injured or already dead. They are found in many spots including western Pacific, northern Australia, southeastern China and the western Indian Ocean. There are 8 blacktip reef sharks here at Newport Aquarium.

 

Epaulette Shark

Found in two locations in Newport Aquarium: Dangerous and Deadly exhibit and Stingray Hideaway. These sharks have a unique characteristic! The spot on their back acts as a defense mechanism because it looks like the eye of a much larger animal.

Epaulette shark

Epaulette sharks, Rocky, Clubber & Apollo were part of the first traveling Shark Cart outreach program with Wave Foundation. Guests can now see them in the Dangerous and Deadly exhibit.

Most predators will fear the large eye looking shape and back off. These sharks grow to about three feet long. They live around coral reefs and tidal pools around New Guinea and Australia. They usually feed on crustaceans, worms, and small bony fish.

Epaulette shark

One of the epaulette sharks guests can touch in Stingray Hideaway.

 

Coral Catshark
The coral catshark is a small, slender shark with a narrow head and elongated, cat-like eyes.

CoralCatShark

Two guests visiting Stingray Hideaway interacting with one of the coral catsharks.

They are found along shallow coral reefs across the Indo-West Pacific, from Pakistan and India to Malaysia and Japan. Guests can see and touch a coral catshark in the Stingray Hideaway touchpool, along with epaulette sharks.

Swell Shark

Swell sharks are found in rocky kelp beds from central California to central Chile. At Newport Aquarium, guests can spot a few in the Pacific Coast tunnel leading into Seahorses: Unbridled Fun. A swell shark can expand by filling its stomach with air or water when it feels threatened.

Swell Shark

The next time you pass through the Pacific Coast Tunnel, going into Seahorses: Unbridled Fun, see if you can spot a swell shark resting at the bottom.

To learn more about the sharks in Shark Central, and the Aquatic Biologist who takes care of the sharks, check out our Takeover Tuesday with Scott Brehob.