MarinePure at the Aquarium of Niagara, Plus A New Humboldt Penguin Exhibit

For those unfamiliar with the historic Aquarium of Niagara, keep reading! The Aquarium of Niagara is located in Niagara Falls, New York, less than 1 mile from the world-famous natural wonder.

The aquarium, opened in 1965, has the distinction of being the first inland oceanarium to exclusively use synthetic sea water to maintain marine life. Prior to that, public aquariums had to be either near the ocean to pump in salt water or have the water trucked in from costal locations. Based in its original footprint, the aquarium has been undergoing some major improvements to bring it to modern standards. They have completed these updates utilizing sound financial planning, grant money, donations, and a lot of hard work to allow it to beautifully come together.


Currently, everyone is focused on the Humboldt penguin exhibit opening next year. The new exhibit is estimated to be completed in time for the 24th Annual Aquatic Animal Life Support Operators (AALSO) Symposium and Workshops, which will be held in Niagara Falls, NY, and Toronto, ON, Canada, in March, 2018. The exhibit will include a colony of Humboldt penguins, a species threatened in their native habitats along the sea coasts of Peru and Chile. They will live in the new 1,600-square-foot exhibit designed to look like their native habitat. The aquarium will apply for accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Accreditation will allow the Aquarium of Niagara to bring in new penguins and become an active participant in the Species Survival Plan breeding program.

In addition to the new penguin exhibit, CerMedia would like to let you know about two popular aquarium displays that have recently been renovated. We are proud to have our MarinePure™ bio-filter media as a key component for the bio-filtration for these systems. The two exhibits, both 10,000 gallons, are the Shark Exhibit in the Seven Seas Gallery and the Lake Ontario Exhibit in the Great Lakes Gallery. The Aquarium of Niagara has been using MarinePure bio-filter media for over 10 years, and we are proud they continue to plan systems using MarinePure. They feel MarinePure bio-filter media has been instrumental to the success of these two tanks. We thought you would be interested in how these systems were designed.

Shark Exhibit in the Seven Seas Gallery

MarinePure bio-filter media is used in the recently renovated Shark Exhibit which was completed in August, 2016. The system contains 10,000 gallons of salt water derived from Instant Ocean salt. The tank, part of the original building construction, is formed from concrete. It recently had concrete repairs, a new rubber paint coating, new glass, and all new filtration added. Most critically, the entire structure also had new steel support work added in the basement.

Current occupants are blacktip reef sharks, bluestrip snappers, whitespotted bamboo sharks, teselatta moray eel, lookdowns, and a miniata grouper. Approximately 1.5 to 2 pounds of food are fed to them daily. This means the system’s bio-filtration needs are significant. Sharks eat a lot! The temperature of the tank is maintained at 78 ˚F.

The system contains three chambers. The main display tank is approximately ¾ of the entire system. Water from the main tank gravity feeds into two side chambers, approximately 1,000 gallons each. The first side chamber has a protein skimmer recirculating back to the side chamber. The protein skimmer is from RK2, model RK75-PE, with a flowrate up to 105 GPM. Water from this first side chamber returns to the main tank via an airlift.

The second side chamber’s purpose is mechanical and biological filtration. The water gravity flows by gravity into this chamber. From within this chamber, water is sent to a Pentair Arias sand filter (Model A6000-60-Q) using a Pentair centrifugal pump, Model PS3SS, where solid matter is removed. From here, the water goes to the top of a 180-gallon Pentair bin, which is the bio-filter. Water then goes through 1”-thick filter padding and through a perforated plate, which distributes the water where it trickles onto

about 30 MarinePure BLOCKs that are randomly stacked on a second perforated plate. Under the plate, the water is collected and falls through a bulkhead to the second side chamber. Like the first chamber, water from this chamber goes back to the main tank via an air lift system. The only maintenance on this system is topping off the water as needed, changing the filter pad weekly, and back-flushing the sand filter.

To seed the beneficial nitrifying bacteria in this tank, pre-seeded MarinePure Blocks were pulled from a temporary shark exhibit. The full nitrogen cycle came to completion in about 7 days. As expected, ammonia and nitrites are no longer detectable.

This shower filter is not a normal setup for nitrate reduction using traditional filter media. It is considered a high-oxygen system. Typically nitrate reduction needs to take place in low-oxygen environments. In fact, for best opportunity to control nitrates, CerMedia recommends our MarinePure Block should be used in low flow areas of a sump to allow for low-oxygen zones to form in the Block. This exhibit’s setup highlights the added benefit of using MarinePure bio-filter media. Due to the large amount of accessible internal porosity, there are zones within the block that do become anaerobic allowing for nitrate reduction. As a result, in this system, nitrates are consistently below 20 ppm. This low level is important as sharks are susceptible to high nitrates. Higher nitrate levels can cause disruptions to the shark’s balance and energy. A healthy level of nitrates for these sharks is below 50 ppm.

The aquarium personnel also use the two side chambers as refugiums. New additions can be acclimated to the tank before being introduced to the other fish mates. Shark egg cases and other newborns can also be placed here safely.

Lake Ontario Exhibit in the Great Lakes Gallery


The second newly refurbished tank is the Lake Ontario exhibit, which was opened in July of 2016. This tank’s inhabitants includes Atlantic and Coho salmon, American eels, and Lake Sturgeon. Feed rate is 3 to 4 pounds of raw fish, shrimp, and pellet food per day, and the fresh-water source is dechlorinated tap water. This is a refrigerated system with the temperature maintained at 56 °F. The filtration for this tank is just like the Shark Exhibit, except there is no protein skimmer with this tank. Again, the MarinePure blocks are used in a shower filter configuration. For the nitrogen cycle, the tank was allowed to cycle naturally as bio-load was slowly increased. As of this writing, ammonia and nitrite are not detected and nitrates are consistently below 10 ppm. It took about 6 weeks for the tank to fully cycle. The target nitrate level for this tank is under 30 ppm.

MarinePure, with its unique properties of High Surface Area AND Open-Flow Porosity, is a ceramic bio-filter media designed to eliminate ammonia and nitrites and reduce nitrates. CerMedia is proud to support the efforts of the Aquarium of Niagara and to help promote our beautiful region. (MarinePure is manufactured 15 miles from the Aquarium in nearby Buffalo, NY.)

We encourage you to visit the Aquarium of Niagara on your next visit to Niagara Falls and check out these exhibits for yourselves and see how the Humboldt penguins have adapted to their new residence. Be sure to look for future CerMedia blog articles about incorporating MarinePure into the Aquarium of Niagara.

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Contact us to learn more about how MarinePure and BioVast can help your aquarium and aquaculture environments!


P.O. Box 600
66 River Rock Dr.
Buffalo, NY 14207
USA or

(716) 549-6600

Leyda Vazquez
Business Development Manager
(716) 549-6600 x264

Paul Pustulka
General Manager