Life Support Systems: backbone of the aquarium

An aquarium may have the finest veterinary and curatorial teams taking care of the animals, but without Life Support Systems (LSS) experts, all that effort comes to naught. Water is the life of the aquarium, and water is what this team specialises in.

Life Support Systems LSS
More than 100,000 marine inhabitants in 60 million litres of water at S.E.A. Aquarium are dependent on 40 million litres of seawater processed by these life support systems every hour.

The water specialists

The LSS team at S.E.A. Aquarium is made up of 40 engineers, technicians, electricians and biologists. They work in three shifts round the clock to ensure the water in all the habitats are within optimal parameters.

The water used in the aquarium comes from our doorstep, Keppel Harbour. But before it can be used, it has to be treated.

Keppel Harbour
S.E.A. Aquarium is surrounded by Keppel Harbour, its source of seawater.

According to Steve Orpin, Director of LSS,

Every hour, about 40 million litres of seawater flows through our 300 water pumps. This water passes through various filtration and sterilisation processes, including 200 sand filters and 160 foam fractionators.

In the process of cleaning the water, the systems also reduce the temperature, from the ambient 30 degrees Celsius out in Keppel Harbour to the 26 – 28 degrees needed in most of the aquarium habitats.

sand filter
Sand filters
foam fractionator
One of the 3m tall foam fractionators. They use air bubbles to absorb and entrap organic waste such as feces, decomposing fish feed, fish slime and other by-products.
Life Support Systems LSS
Besides purchasing from manufacturers, the LSS team also fabricates equipment, such as the new Quarantine & Holding system now located in B2.

Checks and balances

“While it is crucial to filter and sterilise the seawater, we can overdo it. Some naturally occurring bacteria and microbes are essential for the well-being of marine life. Checking water quality becomes critical,” adds Richard Gravil, Assistant Director of LSS.

Life Support Systems LSS
These tubes bring water from the different stages in the treatment process to sample pots for testing purposes. Our LSS team can immediately collect a water sample to check if the water chemistry and parameters fall within the target range. This also yields more accurate results than collecting a water sample from a specific spot in the habitat, such as the water surface, as it may not be indicative of the big picture.
Life Support Systems LSS
At the main LSS control room. Richard is able to check on water conditions of all habitats in the aquarium via this panel, and troubleshoot efficiently should the need arise.

Biggest commodity and nemesis

The LSS team’s biggest commodity is also its greatest enemy: seawater.

Richard: “Seawater is very corrosive and Singapore’s extreme humidity makes battling rust even more challenging. Equipment that last a couple of years in less humid countries do not usually last beyond a year here. To maintain our equipment, we regularly wash them with freshwater to rinse off the salt, and grease them to minimise oxidation.”

The LSS team may be hidden from the front line of S.E.A. Aquarium but their work determines the survival of over 100,000 marine animals, and makes possible an awe-inspiring view like this.

Life Support Systems LSS
The S.E.A. Aquarium Life Support Systems team.
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