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Aquarist Duties and Responsibilities

While an aquarist's day-to-day duties and responsibilities are determined by where they work, there are many core tasks associated with this role. Based on our analysis of job listings, these include:

Maintain Exhibits Aquarists maintain tanks and exhibits. They clean windows, vacuum sand, scrub tanks, and remove decorations for cleanings. They also redecorate as appropriate. Aquarists ensure that exhibits and tanks are presentable and well-maintained for specimens.

Prepare and Dispense Food Ensuring that specimens and marine animals receive their necessary nutrients, aquarists maintain food diets. They thaw and handle food and follow all necessary guidelines for preparing and dispensing meals.

Observe Animal Health Aquarists ensure that fish and marine specimens are healthy and that they are humanely supported. They watch for any changes in health and take note of symptoms that warrant medical attention. They also administer medication for animals and follow quarantine procedures as needed.

Participate in Field Collections As needed, aquarists take part in field collection trips. They use appropriate equipment to aid their collections, such as scuba gear, nets, and seines.

Maintain Pumps and Filters In addition to managing water quality and making changes as necessary, aquarists perform procedures such as hydro-cleaning and backwashing to maintain pumps and filters. They follow the schedule for pump, filter, and water maintenance.


Aquarist Skills and Qualifications

Aquarists should have an interest in marine life and animals. Required education for this position varies from employer to employer, but most companies typically look for those with a bachelor's degree in biology or a related field of study. Many employers also look for those with previous experience working in an aquarium or with aquatic systems. Candidates should possess the following skills and qualifications:
  • Organization skills - aquarists manage calendars and organize cleanings and feedings for marine specimens and exhibitions. They have strong organization skills to handle schedules and maintain priorities
  • Physical stamina - physical stamina is necessary for this role, as aquarists are expected to crouch, stoop, lift, carry, and stretch or reach to perform the duties of this position
  • Life support systems - operating life support systems, aquarists are comfortable using equipment such as sand filters, UV sterilizers, protein skimmers, canister filters, and ozone generators
  • Animal care - aquarists have strong knowledge of ecosystems and animal care. They have an understanding of specimen anatomy, behavior, and environmental needs. Aquarists also recognize health concerns and know how to act appropriately to ensure the needs of animals and specimens are met
  • Communication skills - working with a variety of different departments and workers, aquarists have strong communication skills to guarantee that the needs of their company are being met. They attend meetings and also assist in recruiting and training staff, interns, and volunteers

Aquarist Education and Training

Most employers look for aquarists who have a bachelor's degree in biology, marine science, or a related field of study. In addition, many employers look for those who have CPR and SCUBA certifications. Aquarists also typically have previous experience working with aquatic life or marine animals. On-the-job training is usually provided to help familiarize aquarists with the processes and procedures of their work site.

Aquarist Salary and Outlook

The median annual salary for aquarists, categorized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as animal care workers, is $23,000. The lowest ten percent in this field earn about $19,000; meanwhile, the highest ten percent in this field earn about $56,000. Full-time aquarists typically earn benefits such as vacations, sick days, and health insurance. Industry employment for aquarists is projected to grow about 22 percent in the next ten years. This is faster than the average for all professions.

Helpful Resources

Are you interested in entering a career as an aquarist? We've gathered some outstanding resources to help get you started.

The Avant-Garde Marine Aquarist - written by Paul Baldassano, who has kept aquariums for over six decades, this book shares many insightful tips and advice on managing aquariums. Topics covered in the book include managing algae and pests, setting up tanks, and maintaining healthy water.

Reefs - dedicated to coral reef farming and aquariums, this blog offers a variety of helpful articles for interested aquarists. It includes interesting content on topics such as animal behavior, aquarium nutrition, parasites, and filtration. The website also includes up-to-date industry news.

The Conscientious Marine Aquarist - this book, written by Robert M. Fenner, offers scientific research on marine life. It touches on a variety of different topics such as ecology, conservation, and ecosystems, and appeals to anyone who is considering fostering marine animals in a saltwater tank.

Saltwater Aquariums for Dummies - filled with valuable information on raising fish in saltwater tanks, this book, written by Gregory Skomal, offers comprehensive and easy-to-follow directions on caring for marine life. Advice covered in this book include choosing fish, maintaining water conditions, ensuring animal health, and avoiding tank dangers.

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