The home of the newest fish on the Texas A&M University campus arrived amid curious stares from passing students.
A 300-gallon saltwater aquarium — an Earth Day gift to the Brazos Valley from the Texas Sea Grant College Program at Texas A&M — has been installed on the lower level of the Memorial Student Center (MSC) beneath the Memory Cloud living sculpture.
“The aquarium is part of Texas Sea Grant’s outreach initiative, sponsored by the Texas A&M Provost’s Office, to promote ocean awareness among Brazos Valley residents and improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources,” said Rhonda Patterson, Texas Sea Grant Outreach Specialist.
The aquarium will be wrapped in dark paper for the next couple of weeks while the water quality stabilizes. Light interferes with the stabilization process, Patterson said. The aquarium’s first inhabitant — a maroon and white spotted calico crab that will serve as the aquarium mascot — could take up residence in about a week. Marine invertebrate species like the calico crab can tolerate a greater range of water conditions than can vertebrate species like fish, she said. Additional animals will be added gradually until the aquarium is fully stocked with a variety of species native to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Texas A&M junior psychology major Jessica Walker of Houston. “This aquarium will provide a great opportunity for students to get away from their classes for a little while and de-stress by watching the fish.”
The aquarium and its mascot do not yet have names. Texas Sea Grant is holding “Name the aquarium” and “Name the crab” contests beginning at noon on Saturday, April 20. Winners of each contest will receive a $200 pre-paid Visa card. Information about the contests is available at the aquarium website, http://tamuaquarium.tamu.edu.
Texas Sea Grant will use the aquarium as a teaching tool, allowing visitors to see native marine animal species and learn about them through printed materials at the aquarium site and through the website, which will also feature links to webcams that will stream live images from the aquarium around the clock.
“I think it’s incredible that we can have something so wonderful in the MSC,” said Aaron Ramon, a Texas A&M sophomore biology major from McAllen, while watching the installation. “It’s very eye catching, and with the amount of traffic through here it will get a lot of attention. I’m looking forward to learning more about the ocean from the aquarium.”