MLP Aquarium Curatorial team goes fish-ing

To many in Singapore, the action of buying fish (for aquariums, not to eat!) involves going to a pet shop at the corner to pick from the selection available.

So we thought when the Marine Life Park (MLP) Curatorial team sources for aquatic life forms for the upcoming MLP aquarium it was the same, only on a bigger scale. Well, not quite.

Construction in progress – the open ocean tank where some of the fishes will be housed

To begin, filling up the MLP’s world’s largest aquarium with more than 100,000 fishes from at least 500 species will require more than one shopping trip. From rays to eels, and a whole slew of fish species in between, just sourcing for potential vendors is taking a lot of time and effort.

Craig Sowden, Director of the MLP and overseer of the Aquarium Curatorial team explained: “We are looking at fish farms from around the region – Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore – to places like Taiwan and Australia for the kinds of marine life we would like to showcase.”

Craig Sowden checking out a species of ray on one of the reconnoiter trips

Some of the things the team looks for in suppliers are those that takes good care of their animals, uses proper husbandry techniques and maintains cleanliness of their facilities. “There are some very nice and well maintained farms in Singapore and we’re likely to be getting quite a lot of animals from these Singapore-based farms.”

Flasher Wrasse
A school of Sweetlips - some of the species seen during their trips. Both images from National Geoprahic website.

But more than just buying, transporting the 100,000 fishes required for the aquarium will pose quite a challenge. With Singapore being quite warm, Craig added that it will be a delicate balance to ensure the marine creatures are kept within safe temperature ranges when they are moved.

A species of Nautilus

The different sizes and types of animals also require special handling. “Smallish species like Chambered Nautilus needs to be handled delicately,” Craig said. “While the species of rays that we hope to bring in may require relatively larger transports due to their size. Each poses a challenge of their own.”

But once the fishes are in, keeping the myriad animals healthy and thriving in one location will be an ongoing effort. “We have to provide everything to the animals for their survival. We have delicate animals that require cold water, other animals that require large spaces; we have to provide the habitat, from the amount of the oxygen in the water to the quality of the water,” Craig said. “It is an amazing challenge but we have an incredible life support system being put in place in the MLP.”

A quick glance into one of the MLP support systems rooms


Craig and some of the MLP Aquarium Curatorial team

Looks like a tough task, but one that the multinational Aquarium Curatorial team is already tackling. With a core group from Singapore, coupled with experienced marine specialists and consultants from Spain, Mexico, Australia and USA, this team – still growing – has been making sure the right pieces are in place in the aquarium as it is being constructed at the moment.

Challenges aside, what makes Singapore’s location so unique for marine life? Craig explains why in the video.


The Curator team is currently going around looking at fish farms. “We’re always open to see what people have and how they are maintaining their animals,” Craig said.

Drop us a note in the Comments section below if you know a fish farm with something unique to offer.

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