Fish For The Road

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

warm, we can lower the temperature by adding cool water.

Water for the aquarium usually comes from municipal sources, often with the help of the local fire department. We remove the chlorine chemically. The aquarium's unique filtration, aeration and circulation systems turn the water crystal clear as we scrub road grime from the outside. Life-giving oxygen bubbles up from the unit's gravel floor.

My assistant and I can make the mobile aquarium ready for public display in about five hours.

The same trucks used to transport fish for stocking our state ponds, lakes and streams are used to bring fish to the mobile aquarium. Wild fish are collected in advance and stored at the Lost Valley Fish Hatchery in Warsaw. Some species, such as paddlefish and muskie, are not easily caught from the wild. Instead we use stocks raised at Lost Valley, Blind Pony or other Department hatcheries.

Some of the state's hatcheries maintain show fish in special ponds. They drain the ponds to collect the fish and then transport them in stocking trucks. Some of the same fish have been traveling to fairs for six consecutive years. Now they can also appear in the aquarium.

So far, we've had 35 of the 230 fish species found in Missouri on display in the mobile aquarium. In addition, we've showcased five species of aquatic turtles, three species of crayfish and five species of mussels.

As many as 25 different species of native aquatic organisms are displayed each time we set up. The fish and other creatures move effortlessly within the water or hide in and among the rocks, logs and plants within the tank. Sometimes they seem to play a game of peek-a-boo with curious onlookers.

Fish behavior is fascinating to watch. Large flathead catfish seem to yawn away the day as they await night-feeding time. A 10-pound hybrid striped bass swims from end to end as if it were a sentry. A shimmering school of subordinate white bass follow the hybrid like a platoon of soldiers in formation. Panfish gather against a rock wall to escape from predators, such as largemouth and smallmouth bass.

An aquatic turtle basks on a floating log, a gar occasionally breaks the surface with its toothy bill, a sturgeon dangles its whiskers along the bottom and occasionally moves up the side of the glass, giving all the opportunity to see its unusual underside. Paddlefish and

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