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WAMAS Tank of the Month


Tank Of The Month

December 2006

Dave Lin & the Floris Tanks(davelin315)

A oppotunity to bring the reef into the class room

About the Tanks

How many tanks are in the school?

There are 8 aquariums in the school.

Tank 1 is in a 1st Grade classroom and is a 15g. It's the original tank that I modified and put into the school 3 years ago as the first reef to hit Floris. It's been through a lot but has a new home and is on its way back.

Tank 2 is a 26g bowfront donated through a teacher in Michigan negotiated through Marine Aquarium Conference of North America (MACNA). This aquarium is the most well put together as far as not being thrown together from scrap pieces. This was a complete system donated with the cleanest live rock. No Aiptasia so far!

Tank 3 is a 33g hex. donated by Dave Beasley. This tank had a good summer as a result of the keeper having another aquarium in the house. The rock comes from multiple sources and some of it had a very bad Aiptasia problem. This tank is kept in a 5th grade class.

Tank 4 is a 20g Acrylic donated from traveller7 (WAMAS) and is kept in a 5th grade class. It currently houses an eel and is possibly going to be moved to another classroom.

Tank 5 is the most popular tank in the school. This tank has a snow flake eel. This is also the home of the favorite Clown whose name is Mad Albert. This is a 29g glass tank. There is also a pair of three striped damsels who like to torment the eel. This tank has been set up for about a year and a half and is in a 5th grade class and has hosted over 300 guests for feeding time!

Tank 6 is a 10g in a 4th grade class and houses two “Nemos", aka Ocellaris clowns.

Tank 7 is a 37g in sixth grade class. This tank was donated by Erik Sundstrom This tank is unique because it has survived 3 pump failures and a ballast failure as well as other assorted electrical problems. This tank has a SCWD and has been set up for 1.5 years.

Tank 8 is a 2.5g mini-bow that is kept in the front office with our school business officer.

There are still 2 tanks at student's homes that have not been returned to the school from summer housing. They are a 20g and a 6g.

How long have you been at the school?

This is my third year at Floris. I set the first tank up my first year and took the very slow approach with it. It took months to get filled and then it cycled for a long time before we added the first livestock (donated, of course!).

Students Answer: What's Your Favorite thing about the fish tanks?
My favorite thing about the fish tank is that it gives the class a chance to learn about fish and other under water wonders. It also gives us a reason to be good, being good = you get to feed the eel.
- G.G., 5th Grade

The eel, the yellow and purple fish, and the Brittle Star.
- B.P., 5th Grade

I like the eel the best. I think it's cool the way he digs in small spaces. I can't wait to see him again!!!!! EEL'S RULE!!!!!!!!!!
- M.C., 5th Grade

My favorite thing in the 33 gallon fish tank is Dr.Phil and Oprah [the Cinammon and Australian Clowns]. My favorite thing in the other tank is the eel.
- R.M., 5th Grade

I like the fish because it's like a miniature aquarium. I like the eel then the starfish then the fish. I like how we test the water and the ammonia and everything.
- L.T., 5th Grade

My favorite thing in the bigger tank is the star brittle. My favorite thing in the smaller tank is the eel.
- J.C., 5th Grade

Are you required to do this as part of your job?

No, it is fun for the kids and gets them motivated. As I teach I try and incorporate it into the curriculum as much as possible. This happens the most with science, but it has happened with many other academic areas as well. Since I put the first tank in, part of our annual school improvement plan has been to outfit classrooms with fish tanks thanks to our upper school science lead teacher. The push to turn Floris into a “marine" school has been great and the WAMAS community has really helped.

How are these tanks supported?

For the most part the equipment and the livestock are donated from WAMAS members. We also received $1000 from the PTA to help fund the aquariums last year and, of course, there's always a lot of out of pocket expenses that I incur. Like any other enthusiast, when I see something that I've just gotta have, I go ahead and get it, whether for home, or, more often than not, for school!

Do you feed the corals anything?

Nope. Fish poop. And the occasional supplementation with trace elements.

What are the challenges of keeping the tanks in the school?

Every week we effectively have a vacation. The tanks are left unattended every week for 2 days over the weekend. Over the summer students volunteer to take the tanks home. When they return to the school they always go through another cycle as a result of being moved. The major reason for the lack of feeding as mentioned above is that with the inability to monitor these tanks on a daily basis the best policy is to feed sparingly to maintain the water quality. In order to keep the interest of students, it's impossible to go without a fish in the tank, so I try and keep a careful eye on each fish that we add to ensure that it can survive on a lower feeding regimen

What do the students seem to enjoy most about the tanks?

Staring at it. The students get lost in the tank. We often pull items from the tank and pass them around the class for inspection. One of the brittle stars has been handled by over 250 kids (at no more than 5 minutes at a time). This particular star has eaten 4 chocolate chip stars. The students also like to watch the eels feed on thawed shrimp. They also love the clown fish. Amazingly enough, some of the students have even gone so far as to name each and every snail, hermit, and bristle worm they have seen. When the 33 first went into my class last year they were even amazed at the Aiptasia!

What is the maintenance schedule?

We do limited water changes and they are typically large. We can not do consistent testing because of the schedule. We usually test on Monday mornings.

How do you replenish water in the tanks?

We purchased a RO/DI unit that did not work so well because we have low water pressure in the school. Stank (WAMAS) donated a booster pump to solve the pressure problem. We have now filtered about 100g of water.

Who feeds the fish?

The kids feed the fish but not very often. We rely on the live rock to do our filtering and so we try and keep the feedings to a minimum.

Do you spend more time on the tanks at home or here at school?

I spend far more time on the tanks at school. But all of them could use more attention.

Experience in the Hobby

How long have you been doing this?

15 years

Who got you into the hobby?

Sail Fin Pet shop in Champaign , IL That is where the addiction began.

Who in the hobby most influences you?

Not one person in particular.

Tank setup and equipment?

At my house I have a 15g in my daughter's room, a 10g in the garage that will get donated to a student, and a 58g in my other daughter's room. I have a 75g in the basement full of live rock curing that is actually going to make its way into the school if I can ever figure out the best way of adding it to our collection there. I also have a 300g not set up at the moment. It's on the revolving 2 year plan - every couple of months I repeat that I'll have it set up within 2 years. I have more of an ability to get fancy with equipment at home than I do at school since I can monitor it more closely so part of the plans for the 300 are an Ocean Motions 8 Way, an ASM G-6, a kalk reactor, and a Geo Calcium Reactor as well.

Maintenance schedule and task?

Since I spend so much more time on my tanks at school I have planned on eventually consolidating at home so my maintenance schedule has kind of slowed down and I have suffered from some nuisance algae attacks at home.

Livestock? Fish:

Since my tanks are more or less for kids, both at home and at school, I obviously have lots of clown fish. Besides that, there are a couple of eels, some random damsels, a couple of Royal Grammas, and a few blennies and wrasses. It's hard at times to remember what is where and how long it's been there for.

Livestock? Corals:

Our stock list is pretty much what you see regularly traded on WAMAS. I would say that we have zero unique corals in the respect that they are all either purchased or donated through WAMAS. What we have is what everyone else has (or has had!).

Livestock? Inverts:

Lots of hermit crabs, a couple of starfish, a few worms and cucumbers here and there, and of course, snails. The favorites are the large nassarious snails from Blue Ribbon Koi. They have been passed around the class on numerous times as well and are always a hit with the slime trails they leave behind on kids' hands!

What are your future plans for improvement/upgrade of the tank?

A touch tank for kindergarten. This tank has been in the works for 2 years now and the plan has changed at least 10 times. At one point the 75 donated from Tim Stone was in one of the classrooms but it was too large to move back and forth and was a bit too high and fragile for kindergarteners to use as a touch tank. The current plan involves a closed loop on a Rubbermaid sump that will be built into a table. I'm getting a lot of pressure to get this one in, especially because my daughter is now in the class that it is planned for and she wants her green brittle star back!

What makes your setup special or unique?

They are all put together for the kids. Although some of them are in rough condition, they still are a focal point for the classes they are in. Kids love all of it and really jump at the opportunity to do the most mundane things for the tank like water testing or topping off because it's a unique opportunity for them. It really helps in my appreciation for marine aquaria because I get to see it through their eyes all over again.


What are your other hobbies?

Sleep. I never knew how exhausting being a teacher can be. I used to be a government prosecutor in Chicago and compared to being a teacher, that job was a cake walk with no pressure so now, when I can sleep, I do it (and it's not so easy with three daughters all 5 and under!). Once in a while I also like to strap on the skates and go play a little hockey, but my joints are not as pliable as they used to be and I tend to feel the pain for a lot longer afterwards.

What kind of music are you into right now?

Lots of kiddie songs…

Who would you most like to meet past present or future?

Hmmm… that's a tough one. Probably Gary Watterson as I have always enjoyed Calvin and Hobbes and I can think of a few kids that he might have modeled Calvin after in my classes!

If you could go one place on earth where would it be?

The Great Barrier Reef. What an amazing place to go! If it were permanent, though, it would be to Maui.

Why did you choose the screen name you did?

It's my name and birthday combined. Easy enough.

What is the last book you read?

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. It's always the first read aloud I do with my class. My oldest daughter and I are also in the process of reading the second book in the Series of Unfortunate Events collection.

Football or basketball?

Both. I've now taught three years worth of kids the Chicago Bears' fight song (we sing it every time the Bears win a game and I've even got a parent who has promised to come in and sing it in class if they win the Super Bowl) and we all live and die with the Fighting Illini basketball team.

Milk or apple juice?

Apple juice. Milk doesn't do this body good…