The story goes that an unspecified aquarium somewhere in the United States was losing fish from an exhibit at a astounding pace.
For days, staff wondered why the fish were vanishing. The fish were not the kind that would eat each other, and no one was breaking in with a pole and tackle box. Finally trainers decided to film the tank at night to see if they could catch the culprit.
Which is why the back of the tank holding the Giant Pacific Octopus at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is now covered with AstroTurf. The octopus can't get their suckers to stick to the material and pull themselves out of the tank, after which they could crawl across the floor, pop into another tank and treat themselves to an unauthorized midnight snack.
Instead, to keep them busy, food is often placed in round containers resembling hamster balls. Retrieving the food is like a puzzle for the octopus, keeping its brain exercised and otherwise occupied from formulating escape plans.
That's just one of the informational tidbits offered up on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Behind-the-Scenes Tour, where patrons get to see places normally off limits to the public. From hearing stories about sneaky octopuses to strolling through the receiving area where live animals arrive, the tour is a fascinating look at what makes the iconic aquarium tick.
Our spunky guide Joan suited up in her designated volunteer red coat and promptly started the tour at 12:30pm. Joan has been a volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for several years and her vast knowledge about the various exhibits certainly showed it.
Joan began with an overview of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's 30 year history. Did you know that the aquarium was the last working sardine cannery on Cannery Row? After the cannery's closure marine scientists, with the help of David and Lucile Packard, opened the Monterey Bay Aquarium in October 1984 and the rest is history!
Out next stop was the stainless steel kitchen where fish meals are prepared (no microwaves or fancy counters here). Joan explained the various tubes and other mechanical looking devices lining the hallways' walls and ceilings; the most interesting of which are the seawater pumps, which bring in unfiltered water from the bay at night to give the fish access to krill and other nutrients. During the day the water is filtered to keep the tanks looking clean for guests. Interesting fact: The aquarium spends over $500k per year on sustainable food including their popular krill shakes!
We headed upstairs to get a rare glimpse of the tanks from the other side of the window; you could literally see the general public just outside of the glass!
Joan saved the best part for last as we headed up to see the top of the Kelp Forest. Did you know that kelp can grow up to a foot a day? I had no idea that the entire 28 foot tall exhibit was exposed to the outside elements but the sun is a necessity to keep this living and growing habitat alive and thriving.
The one hour tours seemed to breeze by and we ended inside at the bottom of the Kelp Forest which I know have a totally different appreciation for.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers other tours including a Sea Otter Tour, Jellies Tour, Sharks Tour and a Feed the Fish Tour.