Meet the Aquarist Team at The Bear Grylls Adventure
We want to immerse our guests into the ultimate unexplored environment and inspire them to do all they can to protect it.
By taking people from ‘observation’ to ‘experience’ we want to create a stronger awareness of incredible animals and their environment.
The most important part of our work at the Bear Grylls Adventure is ensuring that our animals are healthy and are living a good life. The Bear Grylls Adventure is a unique setting. A large number of people dive in our tropical tank to experience the fantastic underwater world. This is very different from what our animals would experience in the wild or even in another aquarium that does not allow visitors to dive. For this reason, we have to observe our animals closely to be sure they are happy with us being in their environment. We want our guests to experience this adventure without interfering with the natural behaviour of our animals.
To achieve this, we are completing a welfare assessment of our animals every day. The sharks, rays and bigger fish, in particular, are observed closely, with every change being noted down and analysed. Luckily, we have a big network within the Merlin family as well as veterinarians who know us and our animals. All of these people can offer support in case of any welfare questions, making sure our animals get the best possible care.
In addition to observing behaviour and body condition, we also ensure that our animals receive the best nutrition. We are a team of highly skilled and trained aquarists who are working closely with veterinarians to support nutritional choices and changes.
Our animals receive a regular medical check from the aquarist team, which can include ultrasound, blood samples as well as measuring the animals.
It takes a great deal of trust towards us from the animal to let us handle them, and it shows how close the aquarist team is to these animals.
How often do you feed the sharks?
We feed our Black Tip Reef Sharks three times a week with a variety of different foods, such as mackerel, saury, squid and haddock. The curatorial team monitors our shark nutrition by tracking how much and what food each individual shark is consuming. We are able to do this as all our sharks are identified by their black markings on their dorsal fin, and so all of them have names. Our Black Tip Reef sharks eat over 10kg between the twelve of them every week and are fed from the surface in their feeding spot at the back of the tank. To feed them we use our shark stick, which we attach the fish or squid to, and the sharks know to come and grab their food. We also have two Nurse Sharks, Matilda and Monty; they get fed four times a week with approximately 2.5kg of fish and squid between them. As well as providing a range of food to get a balanced nutritional diet, we also give them vitamins in all of our sharks’ fish to ensure optimum health.
What do rays eat?
Our seven Cownose rays eat over a whopping 18kg of food in a week as they have a high metabolism and are constantly gliding around our tank. They eat a variety of foods, such as mackerel, saury, sardines, sprat, haddock and squid. Our rays vary in size, from our largest “Dougie” to our smallest “Little Blue”, so when we are feeding we need to make sure we have bite size pieces for all of them. We hand feed our rays in the water, making sure that everyone gets their fair share of the food, this also allows us to target each ray to make sure they get their vitamins.
How do you contribute to conservation?
Conservation is one of the most important aspects of our work. Our Shark Dive Experience aims to create a stronger awareness of the incredible underwater world and the importance of protecting it. For this reason, we have partnered with The Shark Trust.
In every briefing, the divers and snorkelers at the Bear Grylls Adventure hear about conservation, its importance and what each individual can do to help. It is especially important to protect the apex predators, such as sharks, because they keep the balance on the reefs healthy. Every year, millions of sharks get killed not only for their fins but also for fun. We want to use our dive experience to show people how incredible these animals are and that they are worth protecting.
Our Green Team at the Bear Grylls Adventure ensures that we keep improving on our ecological sustainability, for example, through the use of wooden cutlery instead of plastic. The Green Team also organises lake clean-ups at the NEC with staff – and everyone else who would like to get involved. As part of this, we even send out divers or snorkelers into the lake to clean parts we would not be able to reach otherwise. During the latest lake clean-up, we collected 88 pounds of trash that were then disposed of in the correct way, recycling as much as possible.
We also recently started a new partnership with the Wildlife Trust to support local conservation projects and raise awareness for local projects and how to support them. Local conservation and clean-ups of rivers, for example, has a major effect on the health of the oceans as well. That is why it is essential to support both local and international conservation efforts.
How do you support the Shark Trust?
In addition to the training that all divers and snorkelers receive during their briefing, we also include the importance of shark protection and the work and projects of the Shark Trust into the debrief. This allows us to communicate ways of protecting sharks in a face to face situation and answer any questions guests might have about the Shark Trust and their work. We use shark-themed education displays for our visitors and also make a donation directly to the Shark Trust for every dive and snorkel experience booked to support their work and research.
How do you test the water quality in the dive tank?
Water quality is one of the most important aspects of keeping fish, whether you have a fish tank at home or a large aquarium like The Bear Grylls Adventure. Poor water quality can cause stress in fish and can even cause death. Here at Bear Grylls we test our water quality two times a week to ensure that the water is safe for our fish to live in, so we’re not risking the health of our animals or causing them discomfort. To test our water, we use a machine called a spectrophotomer which passes light through a sample of water from the tank and shows how much of a certain substance is found in the water. We can test for a variety of different things including ammonia, nitrite and nitrate which are all part of the nitrogen cycle, and substances such as phosphate and chlorine which can be found in water.
The nitrogen cycle is really simple. Fish produce ammonia as a waste product; however it is toxic for fish to be swimming around in. A beneficial bacteria, called nitrifying bacteria turns this ammonia into nitrite which is still toxic to the fish, the bacteria then turns nitrite into nitrate which is a lot safer for the fish to be in. Then finally denitrifying bacteria turns nitrate into nitrogen gas which leaves the water at the surface. In the ocean this process is done naturally, however here, we need to replicate this with our filtration system. The tank holds around 900,000 litres of water and it takes about 45 minutes for all of that water to pass through the filtration system.
Choose your underwater challenge
Save 20% - book online
- FREE Assault Course entry
- Snorkel in our tropical tank in a snorkel cage
- Get up close to Blacktip Reef Sharks & Rays
- Suitable for guests aged 8+
- Guests aged 8 or 9 must be accompanied on the activity by a participating adult
Save 20% - book online
- FREE Assault Course entry
- Dive in our tropical tank with over 800 sea creatures including sharks & rays
- Get your PADI beginners certificate
- Each dive generates a donation to the Shark Trust
- Suitable for guests aged 10+
From £ 180
Assault Course included
- Dive in our tropical tank
- Feed our tropical fish
- Find out more about our tropical creatures from our dedicated experts
- Get your PADI beginners certificate with us
- Get up close to Black Tip Reef Sharks + Cownose Rays