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Lizard Island Research Station May 2023
Lizard Island Research Station on the north end of the Great Barrier Reef was established by the Australian Museum in 1973. The aquaria facilities allow for controlled experiments and observations with clean marine water pumped directly into large storage tanks. Image: Abram Powell
© Australian Museum

The Station's excellent aquarium system is named after the late founder of the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation. It's most recent extension in 2005 was largely funded by the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation and the Balnaves Foundation.

The flow-through system provides a high volume of seawater pumped from the reef immediately in front of the Station. Seawater is gravity-fed from header tanks through the aquarium system and back to sea. Seawater and compressed air are on tap in numerous areas for use with many different sizes and types of containers.

Booking aquarium space

The aquarium is often heavily used, especially between October and March, so space and equipment should be booked in advance. If your trip hinges upon use of the aquarium, you should enquire about its availability when you book trip dates. Wet benches, aquarium rooms, large fixed tanks and heating/cooling equipment can be reserved but individual smaller containers cannot.

Sir John Proud Aquarium plan
Plan view of Sir John Proud Aquarium at Lizard Island Research Station Image: Anne Hoggett
© Australian Museum

Seawater and air supply

  • A total of 30,000 litres of seawater is stored in three header tanks.
  • Four pumps refill the header tanks continuously as water is used. They are capable of continuously moving up to 50,000 litres of seawater per hour.
  • Raw seawater is gravity fed from the header tanks to all parts of the aquarium system.
  • Filtered seawater can be delivered to certain areas of the system.
  • Equipment for heating and chilling seawater is available.
  • Compressed air is provided to all areas of the system.

Wet benches

Fibreglass wet benches are used in many parts of the system as supports for a variety of aquarium containers. Each bench has five water inlets and five compressed air inlets overhead and drainage below. Each measures 2.65 x 0.75 metres and can comfortably hold 5 large Nally bins or many smaller containers.

Wet benches are located as follows and numbered as on the aquarium plan.

  • 12 in the main outdoor area under a transparent roof (numbers 1-12)
  • 10 under shadecloth (13-22)
  • 4 in Aquarium Room 1
  • 4 in Aquarium Room 2
  • 2 in Balnaves Room 1
  • 2 in Balnaves Room 2

Aquarium rooms

Two large rooms (Aquarium Rooms 1 & 2) and two smaller rooms (Balnaves Rooms 1 & 2) are fitted with wet benches as outlined above. They are useful for behavioural experiments because disturbance to animals can be eliminated. Light level and temperature can be controlled in all aquarium rooms.

Large tanks

Tank stands

13 stands can each fit 2 round grey tanks or 1 oval grey tank (A-M on plan)
Round grey >20 available, plastic, ~ 300 litres, 1.0 m diameter x 0.4 m deep
Oval grey 6 available, plastic, ~ 1000 litres, 2.2 m x 1.2 m x 0.5 m deep
Tank W 1 round fibreglass tank, 2.6 m diameter x 0.9 m deep (W on plan)
Tank X 1 round fibreglass tank, 2.2 m diameter x 0.6 m deep (X on plan)
Tanks Y, Z  2 round fibreglass tanks, 1.2 m diameter x 0.7 m deep (Y & Z on plan)
Rectangular 10 available, plastic, 1.1 x 0.6 x 0.5 m deep (8 fit Rack on plan)

Small tanks

Numerous, smaller plastic and glass tanks are available for use on wet benches, including the following sets of uniformly sized containers:

Nally bins

>40 x rectangular plastic tanks, Nally IH078, 68 litres, 5 fit on a bench

External 645 x 413 x 397(H) mm, internal 597 x 362 x 381(H) mm

Medium white

>40 x rectangular plastic tanks, Nally IH307, 32 litres, 8 fit on a bench

External 432 x 324 x 305(H) mm, internal 387 x 286 x 298(H) mm

Small white

>20 x rectangular plastic tanks, Nally IH303, 22 litres, 8 fit on a bench

External 432 x 324 x 203(H) mm, internal 387 x 286 x 197(H) mm

The clarity of glass containers deteriorates quickly. If photography or videography into aquaria is needed, it might be necessary to purchase glass to construct new aquaria. This should be organised at least 6 weeks before a trip. There may not be space at LIRS to store glass aquaria for individuals between trips.