We use local seawater pumped up through a pipeline on the harbour wall. Although this is a river estuary (The Ellen) towards full tide the fresh water is displaced upwards as it is less dense and we can pump in full strength seawater.
Initially we need to reduce the sediment load which is naturally high anyway in the Solway . This is done by pressure sand filtration. The clear water is then introduced to the displays on a demand basis having passed through an ultra violet irradiation plant.
From about the end of May to the end of September we have to cool the water ( maximum 16 degrees C ) by passing the circulating water through a heat exchanger.
We keep things simple and relatively low-tech for reasons of low running costs and reliability. Simple air lifted filter beds in virtually all displays look after total ammonia levels ( we have never had anything other than normal readouts). All displays have a constant through flow of re-circulated water so water quality conditions are constant throughout. Several small pressure sand filters on the larger displays keep water clarity very acceptable. Use of protein skimmers and ozonation would doubtless achieve clearer water but at the cost of the many pretty invertebrates which have colonised the tanks which would starve to death!.
A reasonable turnover of water is achieved by regular topping up of the system to replace the water lost when the sand filters are back-flushed. We estimate the whole system is turned over every 3-4 months.
Every display has one or more airlifts that ensure water movement, full aeration, and also drive under gravel filter grids. The combination of water through-flow and aeration means there are two life support systems acting as back-ups for each other.
Our Aquarium begins with fresh water displays where you can see all of the native sea life of local streams, ponds & rivers. We display many fascinating species such as different breeds of Trout & Carp as well as some lesser known species like the Porcupine Pufferfish.
Your attention will firstly be drawn to our Trout Cascade which has a continuous flow of water crashing off the rocks to provide a waterfall like habitat for the fish, making them feel more 'at home'. Tumbling streams starting high in the Lake District fells feed the Cumbrian lakes and rivers. Watch the trout frolic in our cascading pool.
In the Summer of 2015 we were proud to open our newest expansion to the aquarium, The Sealab! The Sealab is home to our Lobster programme where we successfully breed Lobsters before releasing them back into the Solway once they are fully formed & healthy. This combats the low survival rate of Lobster larvae in the wild. The Sealab is also home to other juvenile species such as Rays & Cat Sharks. Inside the Sealab is our Microeye HD microscope. This tool allows members of the public to look at microscopic species in HD and gain a deeper insight into the details of other items such as molts from crustaceans. You can even see an Anemone eating it's microscopic food! It is an educating, stimulating and exciting experience for all ages.
The Crashing Wave display is one no one will forget. Intermittently, a wave crashes down onto the rocks of the display. This provides an ideal home for species such as SeaBass who love to be amongst the choppy waves. These waves also pull oxygen into the water allowing the fish to keep happy & healthy. This display is also home to Turbet who subtly blend into the bed of the tank and large lobsters that burrow away in corners and between rocks!
The Shark & Ray Pool is a great display of native shark & skate species as well as Wrasse, Turbot, Plaice & even a couple of Conger Eels hiding within the rocks! The Rays are very sociable and will often come up to the surface to get some attention from visitors.
Sunken ships make a optimal home for many species. Inside the Ship Wreck you'll see species that prefer to live at a greater depth of the ocean, hidden away in the rocks & camouflaging into their surroundings.
The Wild Solway Centre features lots of information about native sea life with books and signs available for all to read. Displays consist of fascinating shark jaws & interesting stories of local ship wrecks & what lives inside them! There's also a cinema which hosts showings of various different documentaries for all ages.