Working Conditions Aquarium employment as an aquarist is not usually solely focused on fish. Most aquariums include thousands of animals and plants that live an aquatic life. This can include corals, sea lions, birds, reptiles, and crustaceans. An aquarist career is one of the jobs in wildlife that will usually have you interacting directly with the animals in your care.
Aquarist Job Duties
The size of the aquarium will influence an aquarist job description and duties. Big aquariums will have aquarists that specialize in a particular group of animals, while in a small aquarium the aquarist will be responsible for a broader range of marine animals. In general, the aquarist job duties will include:
- Researching care and dietary needs of new or incoming plants and animals
- Prepare diets and feed animals
- Cleaning of large aquariums
- Water chemistry testing
- Life support system maintenance
- Public educational programs
- Monitor health of animals and treat as needed per veterinarian’s instructions
- Training animals to eat at feeding stations, for husbandry purposes, and/or for public interaction
Most work hours are spent in the aquarium during operating hours maintaining exhibits and caring for the animals. This may involve regular dives into large tanks with sharks and other large aquatic animals. Weekend and evening work can be expected. Some work may occur in the field for collection of new specimens.
Aquarist Career Salary
Like other positions working with wildlife, the aquarist career salary is on the low end. Entry-level positions pay in the range of 27,000 to $33,000, while a manager or supervisor may start at $45,000 to $50,000.
Education and Experience Requirements
Entry-level aquarium employment will typically require a bachelor’s degree in marine biology, biology, oceanography, or other biological science. SCUBA certification and previous experience with aquatic species of both plants and animals in large aquariums is also typically required. Knowledge of water chemistry as it relates to maintaining aquarium habitat is also required.
Knowledge of animal quarantine in an aquatic environment and experience with sensitive species are highly desirable for getting jobs in aquariums. Experience working as in interpretive specialist or other position involving public interaction in a zoo or aquarium helpful.
Where to Find Aquarist Jobs in Aquariums
Jobs in aquariums are generally posted on the aquarium’s website, with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), and with the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AZKA).