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What does an Aquarist do?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated: Mar 02, 2024

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.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By irontoenail — On Sep 09, 2011

@Mor - You could probably call yourself an amateur aquarist even if you only kept guppies. I know it would be nice to have a decent saltwater tank, but it's good that you know your limitations.

There are too many people who think they can skip corners and end up harming the animals they put in their tanks.

And that's what I think being an aquarist is all about really. Trying to keep the animals and plants in your care as healthy and happy as possible.

This is true of a marine aquarist who works with big or rare animals, but I think it's just as true of a hobbyist who works with little fishes and snails and things. You owe it to them to keep them safe.

By Mor — On Sep 09, 2011

I would love to be an amateur aquarist and have some aquariums at my house. It's possible to keep live corals, or beds of water plants, and lots of amazing fish.

Unfortunately, it's really expensive to set up a good tank. I know people who have spent thousands on getting it right. You can't just throw it together, as if it isn't balanced all kinds of things can go wrong.

And the electricity is expensive as well, especially for a coral tank.

I'm always in awe of the aquarists who work at big saltwater aquariums. They must have to be extremely careful not to upset the ecosystems in their tanks.

I also never think too much about the purchase price of a ticket to an aquarium. If a home aquarium costs that much to run, imagine how much the huge ones they have cost!

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