Beneath the Scenes: Cleaning the sand filters at Georgia Aquarium
Have you ever used vinegar for household cleaning? It works because its main component, besides water, is acetic acid. At Georgia Aquarium, the Life Support Systems (LSS) team puts acetic acid to good use in keeping up the Aquarium — specifically, cleaning the filtration system of the AT&T Dolphin Coast gallery, home to the Aquarium’s ever-popular bottlenose dolphins.
The filtration process mimics the wave action along shorelines, allowing water to drain through the sand and catch particulates in sand filters as it would on a beach.
Over time the sand filters become clogged with calcium — think of the white gunk that builds up in your home aquarium. When that happens, the rate of water flow slows by as much as 75 percent.
To clean the filters, first, the LSS team closes the valves from the control room to take each filter coupling “offline” from the gallery. After the filter drains, they flush it with a mixture of water and pure acetic acid (20 times stronger than vinegar) to dissolve the calcium. Then they add another chemical to slowly raise the pH.
In this video, a Mother Nature Network reporter, clad in protective gear and rubber boots (which come in handy, as you’ll see), takes you beneath the scenes to witness the process for yourself.
To read more about Georgia Aquarium’s Life Support Systems and learn how you can see the pump and filtration systems during a Behind the Seas tour, please visit www.georgiaaquarium.org/behind-the-seas-tours.