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Cosmocaixa Barcelona
July 5, 2008
10:07 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Last week I visited the huge public aquarium here on the port in Barcelona. I paid 17 euros to get inside and to say I was disappointed would be an understatement. There were a few really impressive displays (sea dragons ((Phycodurus sp.)) and errr, sea dragons) and the shark tunnel was bigger than most but basically the displays were of the same theme you see in almost every public aquarium. Uninspired and at times, totally incorrect. /rolleyes.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":rolleyes:" border="0" alt="rolleyes.gif" />

Well today I decided to pop into the the city's science museum "Cosmocaixa" having heard they have a "few" aquarium displays, and what an amazing place it turned out to be! Unfortunately we turned up at 7pm and it closes at 8 so I only paid attention to the fish exhibits this time but I will be back armed with a decent camera! 3 euros to get inside and I could easily have spent all day there. Apologies for the pic quality as these were all taken with my crappy phone cam:

Outside the museum:

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Entrance hall. The thing in the centre is a 300 year-old tree from the Amazon!

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This is the first animal display I came across, not fish but stick insects! Sorry didn't catch the species:

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This display has two pairs of Amphiprion ocellaris (common clownfish) with host anemones, plus a few fire shrimp:

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...and next door is this tank housing a stunning and incredibly healthy-looking Pterois volitans plus a large clownfish (A. clarkii I think):

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Archerfish tank. This contained at least three species of Toxotes. Will id next time:

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Land hermit crabs Coenobita sp.:

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These two tanks were cool. They were set up to show how electric fish navigate and how they feel at ease in a clear plastic tube as they cannot see that it is clear!:

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Tank on the left contains a 12" Black Ghost Knifefish Apteronotus albifrons. You can see it in the plastic pipe at the bottom right:

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...and the second tank contained a group of elephant noses Gnathonemus petersi:

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Scyliorhinus stellaris?:

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Next was this rather nice planted tank. I think it was originally meant to be a SE Asian set-up but there was a right motley crew in here including angelfish, Madagascan rainbows (Bedotia geayi) and African knife fish (Xenomystus nigri) as well as all the Asian stuff:

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...swiftly followed by these three small planted tanks containing corys, various tetras and hatchetfish. Not sure about the scientific value of these (or the previous planted tank). Someone in charge here is a definite fish geek! /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" />

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End of part one, Nautilus. Wait an hour or so for me to upload part two as it's this that really blew me away....

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Cake or death?
July 5, 2008
10:13 pm
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Malti
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thats a good place to spend a day in /biggrin.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":D" border="0" alt="biggrin.gif" />

July 5, 2008
10:19 pm
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Bluedave
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Great pics mate,

If you want a good public aquarium check out ocean world in Bangkok (if your ever in Thailand!!) - got some fantastic pics of some great displays - me and the family spent most of the day there when i thought that we would last about an hour!

July 5, 2008
10:31 pm
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Matt
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You lot are too quick! /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" /> Not finished yet just wait and see....

Cake or death?
July 5, 2008
10:36 pm
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Bluedave
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Wow, cant wait to see some more pics of the nautilus - weird things but i love the look of 'em (roll on a lottery win, then i'm having one!)

July 6, 2008
12:26 am
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Matt
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Right this is where things got really interesting! The main exhibit on the bottom floor of the museum is a 1km square (!) recreation of a flooded Amazon rainforest! In terms of the plants, trees and species selected it is spot on in every aspect and is the best single aquatic-based display I have ever seen. It's split really cleverly (almost invisibly) into different terrestrial and aquatic enclosures to ensure that incompatible species don't come into contact.....truly inspiring. I will be back to spend a good few hours investigating this as I missed loaaaads of stuff.....

The approach to the "tank"....my jaw was already dropping at this point....

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I'm trying to give you a sense of the scale of the thing in the next few....this pic shows about a 1/4 of the front of the display:

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Right hand half of the display:

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Left-hand half:

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Top of left-hand half:

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Centre-top:

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Right-top....this gives you some idea of the size of the thing....this section alone must be over 100 square metres:

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Now for some of the animals living in this superb biotope recreation. This is my Mexican flatmate Carolina attempting to communicate with a huge Arapaima gigas...using a metro map! /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" /> These guys share the enormous right-hand pond with loads of other species large and small (check the massive L095 at the bottom of the pic) and it was just wonderful to see these creatures living in an environment that truly does them justice rather than cramped into a display tank to satisfy the whims of the paying public. The message regarding tankbusting fish was also carried on display boards around the exhibit... :

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Arapaima head...bigger than that of a human!:

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This pic shows just how realistic and colossal this display is. The Hypostmous (plec) in the centre of the shot is well over 12" long. Look at the layers of detritus on the bottom. The blue dots you can see are some of what must be 1000s of cardinal tetras contained in this section. I had a brief conversation with a member of staff who told me that most of the smaller fish are reproducing at will in the tank so any that are eaten are not of any real concern as their numbers are actually increasing! Also take note of the red-tailed cat at the back of the pic...there are a few of these in the tank and we sat and watched two of them having an amazing territorial battle for ten minutes or so, shooting up into midwater and so on. The tank is big enough to cope with a good number of the enormous territories required by this species. It's only when you see this kind of natural behaviour up close you realise just how unsuitable these creatures are for the home aquarium.... /sad.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":(" border="0" alt="sad.gif" />

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Couple more shots of the front of the display:

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This is the "centre-left" section of the display. It's miles smaller than the pond on the right but must still be 10 metres across the front. In here are various cichlids, larger characins (including amazing shoals of various Anostomus and Metynnis species) plus loads of corys and smaller tetras. I didn't have much time so couldn't record them all but more details will follow. There's a large terrestrial section to this part of the display containing a small group of Capybara but I couldn't get any good shots of them. The second pic here is terrible but if you look closely you can just about make out a pair of Heros sp. "Rotkeil" guarding a batch of eggs (the white patch to the right of the top fish). :

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This is the "far-left" section, containing Amazonian turtles, dwarf caiman (small crocodilians around 6 feet in length) and Piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri). Check out the huge Echinodorus (Amazon sword plant) species growing emerse in the top left of the third pic:

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You then have the opportunity to walk around the left side of the exhibit and explore underneath it! The first thing to confront you in this dark space is an enclosure containing a huge Anaconda Eunectes sp. Sorry didn't get the exact species and the bugger was in the water at the front of the tank so I couldn't get a good shot of it. This space is open to the main exhibit above allowing this aquatic boa to move above ground if it wants. It's cut off from the other animals in the display for obvious reasons though:

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This pic is crap, sorry. /blush.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":blush:" border="0" alt="blush.gif" /> However I thought it was worth including as this brightly-lit tube leads to an underground nest of leaf-cutter ants (no idea on species but the genus could be either Atta or Acromyrmex). The nest is enormous and viewable through glass but what's amazing is the length of the tube (at least 10 metres) and the fact it opens into the forest above allowing the ants to exhibit totally natural behaviour. You can go above ground and watch them slicing bits out of leaves then follow them carrying the pieces down to the nest. The interaction between them as they bump into each other in the tube is incredible to watch... /ohmy.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":o" border="0" alt="ohmy.gif" />

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Next up as you walk under the flooded forest is this massive viewing window into the main pool...awesome to watch Pacu shoaling above smaller tetras, dwarf cichlids, Loricariids and Corydoras. I really must get back with a good camera as it's impossible to describe with words alone as all you can really see here are the blue dots of the cardinals. I assure you there's loads more going on! :

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...followed by a series of smaller viewing windows. First one is into the main pool again. We were lucky as both Arapaima were resting here as we walked by. That is the hand of an adult not a child by the way!:

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Next is a window into the smaller section I mentioned earlier. I wish I could have got better pics as there must have been 50 or so corys of various species scooting about among the detritus in front of the window. These were the best I could do for now:

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Opposite this window is this tank containing a beautiful Amazon tree boa Corallus hortulanus plus a population of poison frogs Dendrobates tinctorius . No pics of the creatures as my phone couldn't cope with the lack of light /rolleyes.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":rolleyes:" border="0" alt="rolleyes.gif" />:

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As you begin to climb up into the exhibit itself you have a couple more viewing windows. It was then we realised there are loads of birds in there too! View into the terrestrial part of the section containing the caiman/piranhas:

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....and opposite is a view into the Capybara enclosure:

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This is the view as you emerge into the light:

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...looking back from where we came. Can you see the stunning bird on top of the "tunnel"?:

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This guy was very friendly....he followed us all around the exhibit and had the funniest running action... /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" />

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Echinodorus sp. growing emerse around the margin of the "flooded forest":

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Views across the surface of the main aquatic section that houses the bigger fish (plus thousands of smaller ones). I wish I could give a better sense of the scale here....it's at least 50 metres across to the other side...

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...and as if this wasn't all cool enough, it only started raining!! /ohmy.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":o" border="0" alt="ohmy.gif" /> Ingeniously this only fell on the water and plants and we remained totally dry!

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Last couple of shots of the front of the display. We were the last people in the place (my fault /blush.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":blush:" border="0" alt="blush.gif" /> ) but I'll be returning really soon to observe the species more closely and find out about filtration/maintenance/water parameters/volume etc. It's so refreshing to find a display like this dedicated to freshwater (as opposed to marine) species and attempting to reproduce an accurate biotope. The best I'd seen before was at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, U.S. but this 100% bettered that by its sheer scale. I could easily spend a full day looking at this exhibit....it is incredible and I'm only sorry that these pictures don't do it justice. With the possible exceptions of the birds, Capybara and caiman (although even these have enormous spaces in which to roam compared to most exhibits I've seen before) the creatures here really do show totally natural behaviour and the museum should be applauded for that in my opinion. All the plants selected are native to the Amazon and none are plastic as is seen so often in public displays. It also absolutely reinforced my view that "tankbusters" have no place in the home aquarium or even most public aquariums. The behaviour shown by the biggest fish on display here was like nothing I'd seen in captivity before. Just look at the happy shoal of pacu below for evidence. I'll try to get some video next time so you can see what I mean. Hope this hasn't become boring for anyone and sorry for waffling on but this thing really did blow my mind, especially for only 3 euros! /biggrin.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":D" border="0" alt="biggrin.gif" /> /tongue.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":p" border="0" alt="tongue.gif" />

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Cake or death?
July 6, 2008
1:14 am
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dunc
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That looks absolutely insane man. I am DEFINITELY coming over to see that /ohmy.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":o" border="0" alt="ohmy.gif" /> It's exactly the kind of thing I'd have in mind if I was running an aquarium.

Sounds absolutely excellent, and I have a suggestion for you... /ohmy.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":o" border="0" alt="ohmy.gif" />

July 6, 2008
9:52 am
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Malti
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did you hear that?

i meant,

my eyes popping out,
my jaw dropping,
and my heartbeat faster than a 1/4 mile 9sec car

I definitely want to go!

July 6, 2008
12:08 pm
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mickthefish
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you lucky b*gg*r Matt,
i'll definitely have to go there and see it for myself, with the wife in tow.
first though i'm going to Egypt for a break and the sun.

mick

July 6, 2008
12:18 pm
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dunc
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Just gonna edit the subtitle and put a not safe for 56k users warning /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" />

July 6, 2008
1:16 pm
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Matt
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Good idea Dunc /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" /> Guys, anyone that wants to come here will always be welcome and I'll be your personal guide for the whole city.... /biggrin.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":D" border="0" alt="biggrin.gif" /> Mick there are also places close to here that are not difficult to get to where several species of Cobitis can be caught. This will be one of my next missions!

Cake or death?
July 6, 2008
4:14 pm
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Malti
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QUOTE (Matt @ Jul 6 2008, 02:59 PM) < {POST_SNAPBACK}>
Good idea Dunc /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" /> Guys, anyone that wants to come here will always be welcome and I'll be your personal guide for the whole city.... /biggrin.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":D" border="0" alt="biggrin.gif" /> Mick there are also places close to here that are not difficult to get to where several species of Cobitis can be caught. This will be one of my next missions!

if i had the money i'd be on the next plane...

July 6, 2008
6:32 pm
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Daspricey
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WOW is all i can think of to say!! That is quite amazing!

Thats it; i'm going to Barcelona!!!! /ph34r.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":ph34r:" border="0" alt="ph34r.gif" />

David

July 6, 2008
9:47 pm
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Bluedave
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That is truly amazing - if i am ever in Barcelona i am going there!

July 6, 2008
10:47 pm
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dunc
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Let's organise a coach trip. You all give me £300 and I'll sort it out.

/laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" />

July 7, 2008
12:20 am
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Richy
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Gobsmacked and will have to read again properly. My parents have been to Barcelona many times and NEVER mentioned this place /sad.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":(" border="0" alt="sad.gif" /> Never fancied going to Spain but I've changed my mind now /biggrin.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":D" border="0" alt="biggrin.gif" />
There was suppose to be a project in plans fo the UK, NIRA (i think) but i'm not sure what happened to that. From vague recollection it would be something like this.
Stunning pics and write up Matt /biggrin.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":D" border="0" alt="biggrin.gif" />

July 7, 2008
2:48 am
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Matt
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Lol guys, and thanks...Get yer arses over (even you Dunc /tongue.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":p" border="0" alt="tongue.gif" /> )! Mick when are you going to Egypt and where?? Richy this place isn't mentioned in most tourist guides so I guess your parents missed it. I think the NIRA project should even better this if all goes ahead as planned but from what I've read they're still having problems with funding. Pablito may be able to give more info on this. My lady is here next week but I'll be going back the week after with my other flatmate's camera to try and get some better pics. /ph34r.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":ph34r:" border="0" alt="ph34r.gif" />

Cake or death?
July 7, 2008
6:31 pm
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Richy
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I get bored ridgid looking through my parents hol pics of boring scenary but if i send them there i'll be more interested /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" /> /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" /> /laugh.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid="Laugh" border="0" alt="laugh.gif" />
NIRA, it did sound fantastic but if it does happen it won't be anytime soon /sad.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":(" border="0" alt="sad.gif" />

July 7, 2008
8:01 pm
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ulster exile
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Matt, I meant to say I really enjoyed looking through your pics, but I forgot soz! What a stunning place - would love to go there.

Mick, want to know where in Egypt you're going too? Me and the oh are off to the Nile for a week and the Red Sea for a week in October.

July 8, 2008
8:55 am
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mickthefish
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Matt and UE, i'm going to sharm el shiek, as i said it's just to laze have plenty of beer and food and go to the beach to see the marine fish my wife said were there.
then i'm going to Barcelona to see that museum but that will probably be early next year.

mick

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