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A journey through the amazing marine world.

Sharjah Aquarium targets students in its awareness drive on marine life, especially local fish species

Not many know that clown fish hide in sea anemones to protect themselves from danger. Fewer still know about the fact that it is the male sea horse and not the female that gives birth.

These are among the several amazing facts the Sharjah Aquarium is showcasing as part of its awareness campaign targeted at school students. The aquarium is taking in as many as 600 students daily to teach them about the existence of local fish species in the UAE and how to protect and save marine life.

In a tour around Sharjah Museums on Tuesday, Rashed Juma Al Shamsi, curator of Sharjah Aquarium and head of museum operations, told reporters that between 80 and 100 species of fish are housed in the Sharjah Aquarium, with some of them, like the clown fish and sea horses, being bred there.

He said the initiative is aimed at school children, who form the next generation. But others, especially residents of Sharjah, are equally welcome to know more about the need to protect and save marine life and its environment.

"We want to show the media what a normal visitor cannot see so that they can, in turn, inform the public about what goes behind the scenes at the aquarium."

Marwa Abdelrahman Al Mahmoud, an aquarist at Sharjah Aquarium, said fish groupers are the most endangered species in this region, as they are a hot-selling gourmet item.

Talking about sea horses, Al Mahmoud said: "When male sea horses give birth, they cling on to the top of the tank. We then separate them for three months in the quarantine tank until they grow, after which we release them into a different tank to grow further."

Sharjah Aquarium has its own laboratory to keep check on the health of the various fish species.

"If they get sick, we quarantine them, treat them and feed them 'artemia' or newly hatched shrimps. We mix this food with garlic and antibiotic until they are well," Al Mahmoud explained.

She said newly hatched sea horses, clown fish and groupers are kept for three months in an incubation tank, during which they are fed with artemia and vitamins until they are mature enough to be shifted to a normal tank.

Here is an amazing fact about sharks. Sharjah Aquarium has bred three kinds of sharks -- black-tip shark, the gray shark and the white-tip shark.

But, only the white-tip shark can breathe even when it is stationary. The black tip and gray sharks have to keep on swimming and moving in order to breathe.

More amazing is the case of the clown fish, which is always put in the same tank with the sea anemone because when it senses danger, it swims to hide itself in sea anemones, which is the only place where it can hide to protect itself.

Other types of fish cannot hide or come near a sea anemone because their mouths are shielded with millions of cells that are filled with toxins and sting.

"Only the clown fish, which has a mucous covering that protects it from the dangerous stinging tentacles of anemones that can even paralyse, can hide in the prickly, stinging sea anemones," said AlMahmoud.

Other varieties of fish at the aquarium are terapon fish, parrot fish, box fish, jelly fish, goatfish, domino fish, angel fish, sting rays, three kinds of eels, bat fish, sea breams, and the dangerous lion fish aside from other colourful fish, endangered groupers, star fish, sea cucumbers and sea urchins.

All the fish species in the Sharjah Aquarium are brought by its own divers from the Arabian Gulf.

The same divers train the bigger fish species to stay with small fish by feeding them once a day.

"If they are not fed, the big fish will attack the small fish and eat them. We use tuna to feed the sharks, and a mixture of garlic and artemia with vitamins are fed to the other fish. They all co-exist now and are trained to live with others in their fish world that defines the Sharjah Aquarium," Al Mahmoud added.

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Jan 8, 2014
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