Marine Aquariums: Their Use in Education, Science, Conservation, and Impacts on Coral Reef Biodiversity

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

James Thomas

Second Advisor

Curtis Burney


Aquariums, in a variety of glass forms, first appeared about 150 years ago m Europe and have changed considerably over time. What was once a fanciful decoration of Victorian era homes has now evolved into complex home "mini-reefs" and million-gallon public exhibits. On top of their aesthetic appeal, marine aquaria have been invaluable tools for science and education, revealing the complexities of reef ecology and introducing future generations to ocean environments. Over the last 30 years, innovations in technology and lower costs have allowed marine aquariums to become centerpieces of offices and restaurants, in addition to many homes. The increased demand for marine aquariums has lead to growth of a multifaceted business extending to aquaculture, airfreight markets, manufacturing, scientific research, and retail pet stores. The rapid growth causes much concern over impact the marine ornamental trade is having on coral reefs. In this paper, the author will examine the marine aquarium industry in its entirety from history and development to collection practices, as well as public and home aquariums. Currently the marine aquarium trade is developing regulations through the Marine Aquarium Council (MAC), which will help ensure the future of marine life collectors and reefs. Following the example of the older freshwater industry, marine aquarists are experimenting with aquaculture for alternate sources of display animals. As an aquarist, I want to inspect the developments in both public and private aquaria, their importance in conservation of ocean resources, and economic significance.

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