Bringing the ocean to South Dakota

March 25, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by TSP.

A big part of aquarium curator Zach Huisken’s job at the Butterfly House & Aquarium is analyzing and perfecting the ratio of purified water to salt in the three 500-gallon tanks that play different roles in manufacturing saltwater. It’s a bit like a microbrewery’s various steps. The end product is pumped through miles of plumbing that carry seawater to every tank in the building.

“We have 10,000 gallons of seawater in our exhibits, so we need to have saltwater on hand and ready to replace or rebalance at all times,” Huisken said. “Each week, we have to strategically plan our water changes based on water quality of each exhibit.”

Now, pumps, sumps and many other necessary infrastructure items are crammed underneath the tanks. The current marine cove occupies space originally used as the gift shop. Building systems and materials simply weren’t meant to accommodate aquarium functions or withstand the high-humidity environment created by the constant presence of so much water. Staff members climb ladders to check water quality or to enter tanks for regular maintenance and cleaning.

The expanded aquarium is designed with ample room in offstage areas. Plumbing will run adjacent to tanks, allowing staff to diagnose and resolve developing issues more quickly and efficiently. A catwalk system overhead means they’ll be able to drop into tanks from a safer, more structurally sound platform. The acrylic and fiberglass tanks will connect to sophisticated oxygenation, wave-making and other life-support systems needed to sustain so many marine species.

To return to the main article about the Butterfly House & Aquarium, click here. 

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Bringing the ocean to South Dakota

Learn what it takes to bring the ocean to South Dakota — from manufacturing seawater to providing life-sustaining operating systems. 

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