An underwater kingdom for Moscow’s concrete jungle

A watery kingdom is washing up in Moscow, as a myriad of sea creatures from around the world arrive to take up residence in the capital’s new Oceanarium.

Nemo and his friends and family flew in from Australia in a set of convenient little Styrofoam boxes.

With thousands of fish arriving from the four corners of the globe, the Oceanarium will have its hands full cleaning these weary travelers as they finally reach their new home. It might sound impossible to give a fish a bath, but staff here are proving it is not.The creatures even have to pass a couple of tests before they are viewed by the public.

­Does a fish need a bath?

When a new fish arrives, it is put into a bucket pumped with clean water to adapt it to the Oceanarium’s water. Then it is placed in a clean aquarium and monitored.

If the fish is sick, it gets 15-minute fresh water baths periodically while its aquarium is cleaned with hot water to disinfect it.

“Our little sand shark hasn’t recovered in the three weeks she has been here – she doesn’t eat,” biologist Galina Mamakina told RT. “We try to do our best to make her feel better, but unfortunately it’s very difficult to cure a fish, because it doesn’t tell or show us what bothers it. If a cat or dog are sick, we can do an ultrasound to find the reason, but with fish we can only do a scrape test, and if there’s no evidence we keep on watching it.”

­Taming of the sea king

The sand shark gets her daily medicine and is being watched carefully. However, she is expected to adapt to her new surroundings far more quickly than the Oceanarium’s sea lions.

The clowns of the sea who will be entertaining the guests here at the Oceanarium were not born in captivity; they were caught in the wild and brought to Moscow in a tank. Instead of catching their dinner in the open ocean, they will be getting it from a bucket. They have to learn a whole new way of survival.

Their handler, Michael Korotkov, has been training sea lions for six years.

“It was very difficult for the sea lions to adjust to iving in the captivity,” Korotkov told RT. “They were really scared. It was a shock; it was hard for them to realize what had happened to them. I began my interaction with them after they were caught and brought to an adaptation area near the Black Sea two years ago. It took a lot of time to make them feel better and safe.”

­Rocks with character

Even the rocks at the Oceanarium are alive. Brought here directly from Indonesia, they host a multitude of microorganisms such as tiny crustaceans and invertebrates essential to creating the living environment in the Oceanarium’s tanks. That is where the divers come in.

“All the bottom-dwelling species, such as rays and the like, need to have a layer of fine sand on the floor,” Maksim Nikulichev, from the Oceanarium’s diving support team, told RT. “Their habit is to dig into the sand for resting, otherwise they can injure themselves against the hard rocks. So, we’re trying to place the rocks along the tank walls and in the corners and keep all the open ground rock-free.”

Even the greenery has an adjustment to make. As the Oceanarium is about bringing unique wildlife to the people of Moscow, almost no expense is being spared. Even the giant palm trees at the new venue are real, having been flown in specially.

When the Oceanarium opens to the expectant crowds, it is sure to provide much-anticipated entertainment and education. But its most fascinating aspect is sure to remain the work that went into bringing this exotic attraction into being.

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