Aquarium curation is a passion which has seen aquarist Bradley Dohnt live and work across the east coast. Now he has moved to Exmouth tasked with the challenge to bring the town’s problematic coral reef display to life.
Last week the Ningaloo Centre’s aquarium began to fill with fresh water to clean the tank of chemicals before bringing in the salt water, coral and thousands of fish which will become the star attraction of the marine exhibit.
Mr Dohnt said building a display which replicated the Ningaloo Reef would ensure everyone who travelled to Exmouth would get a chance to see the reef, no matter the weather or swimming ability.
“We have made great strides in the past couple of weeks. It has changed quite a lot,” he said.
“Saltwater reef tanks are one of the more complicated ones to do because you are not just trying to look after fish, you are looking after corals too, which have very different things they want.
“We will start with mainly fish and add coral over time because they are super-sensitive.”
Commissioning of the $1 million aquarium came to an abrupt halt last year when concerns were raised about the proposed system of filling it with seawater twice a week using a $60,000 tanker.
At the time, former commissioner Ian Fletcher described the aquarium plans as a “basket case” and put the brakes on filling it until he was satisfied the fish would not die.
Mr Dohnt said most of the aquarium work had been done quite well.
“It was the right kind of quality and it was set up well, it just needed a few tweaks and changes but the bulk of it was actually just making it operational,” he said.
“A big part of that is making sure the biological side of things is done properly. That can’t be rushed.
“It (the display) will be extremely popular.
“It has that big wow factor.”
The aquarium is expected to be ready for the public in late July or early August.