After a long lecture in the Environmental Studies (ES) 100 classroom, students can enjoy the tranquility of a fish tank just outside the classroom in the lobby of the ES building.
“It’s to show off some Florida biodiversity,” senior environmental studies and biology major Conrad Childress said.
Childress and junior Andrew Weisberg worked with Professor of environmental science and biology professor Beth Forys to build the 55-gallon fish tank for students and professors to enjoy last spring.
“I like fish tanks, it is really therapeutic to just watch a fish tank,” Childress said.
Featuring many popular freshwater Florida species, almost all were hand caught by Weisberg and Childress at Lake Weir Chautauqua in Ocala.
Fish species include golden topminnows, American flagfish, metallic shiners, black banded darters, sailfin molly, least killifish, bluefin killifish and plecos, with freshwater plants including vallisneria, hornwort, hydrilla and chara. Plecos and hydrilla represent common invasive species found in Florida’s freshwater.
A male golden topminnow is melanistic, the opposite of albino, with extra pigmentation. It has black dots on its side instead of being light gold, an uncommon characteristic for such a fish. Another fish was a little shy at first.
“It takes the fish a little bit of time to warm up to a lot of people passing by,” Childress said. “One of the fish last semester was always hiding, but this semester, he’s out in front and checking people out. I was a little sad, like ‘Oh no, he doesn’t like it’, but he’s adjusted well, it seems.”
Childress or Weisberg feed the fish everyday and clean the tank when necessary, but plecos serve as natural algae cleaners to lighten the work. They are looking for other students to help since Childress will graduate in May.
In the meantime, the fish will continue to swim at the heart of the academic part of campus, bringing a small piece of the natural world to students in the environmental studies building.