Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Exotic fish at Pier go belly up after electrical problem

Late Friday, electricity was interrupted to air pumps for three “tube” tanks. Within 15 minutes, about 35 exotic fish died.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

Late Friday, electricity was interrupted to air pumps for three “tube” tanks. Within 15 minutes, about 35 exotic fish died.

ST. PETERSBURG — They have captivated visitors for years, dozens of brilliant tropical fish inside the Pier Aquarium's 20-foot high cylindrical tank in the lobby.

But late Friday afternoon, the fish began to act peculiar. Some sank, others turned belly up. It wasn't long before someone noticed they were dying.

"They noticed the fish gasping for air," said Butch Ringelspaugh, the curator of exhibits at the aquarium. "I immediately got the air (pumps) going, but it was too late."

The 35 or so fish in the tank — the largest of a trio of "showstopper" displays created to entice visitors to visit the 22-year-old aquarium upstairs — perished.

Ringelspaugh said an electrical failure cut power to two air pumps that provided oxygen. Fifteen minutes without the machines was enough to kill the fish, he said. Among the casualties were damselfish, vlamingi tangs, koran angelfish, cinnamon clownfish, porkfish and foot-long orbicular batfish.

Now the aquarium is asking the public to help raise $2,600 to replace the exotic fish and purchase stronger air pumps.

"This is a lesson learned," Ringelspaugh said. "Of the six years I have been here, something like this has never happened."

The fundraising effort comes as the aquarium is looking for a new downtown home to move into by 2012. But those plans will not affect the aquarium's intention to invest in the tube display in the meantime, said aquarium spokeswoman Emily Stehle.

Online, the nonprofit aquarium is soliciting donations. Stehle said the aquarium had 88,500 visitors last year and has an annual budget of about $700,000, mostly generated through gift shop sales and entrance fees.

Ringelspaugh was notified of the power failure by the staff and visitors who noticed the unusual activity in the tanks about 4:45 p.m. Friday He said there was no backup power system.

"I know people will question why the backup didn't work and what we could've done," he said. But "the tubes," as the public aquarium display is known, was not built with a backup power system, nor can it be updated to include one, he said.

Ringelspaugh said the pumps were most likely overworked. The tube display was built 15 years ago, and the pumps were intended to service fewer fish. As the years have gone by, however, the number of fish in the tanks has increased and the existing fish have grown. That means the demand for oxygen in the tank most likely increased over time, he said.

Visitors to the pier Monday hardly seemed to notice that the large tube display was unlighted and covered with white poster board. A sign explained that the display was being serviced. The two smaller tube displays were lighted and swarming with small fish.

"I feel bad for the fish," said Nicolas Weathersbee, owner of St. Petersburg Candle Gallery.

Reach Luis Perez at (727)892-2271 or lperez@sptimes.com.

Exotic fish at Pier go belly up after electrical problem 08/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 7:13am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida education news: Charter schools, traveling man, lunch prices and more

    Blogs

    #HB7069: Now that it's law, HB 7069 has a new target on its back: Will it be challenged in court? Broward County Democrat Sen. Gary Farmer says he's doing all he can "to …

    Thousands of children attend Florida charter schools, which are growing in number and now stand to receive capital projects local tax revenue.
  2. Forecast: Hot, humid and mostly dry conditions prevail for St. Pete Pride weekend

    Weather

    The threat of any lingering effects from Tropical Storm Cindy have passed, leaving behind a relatively dry — but hot and humid — St. Pete Pride weekend.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast [WTSP]
  3. Florida Insiders: The state parties are dying; 'I heard someone long for the leadership of Jim Greer'

    Blogs

    For all the attention on Florida Democratic Chairman Stephen Bittel's bone headed gaffe this week, the diminished state of the once mighty Florida GOP today compared to even a few years ago is arguably more striking than the condition of the long-suffering Florida Democratic Party. A decade ago, no one would have …

    Florida Insider Poll
  4. Florida Democrats surging with grassroots enthusiasm, but 2018 reality is grim

    State Roundup

    After Donald Trump's election, so many people started showing up at monthly Pinellas County Democratic Party meetings, the group had to start forking out more money for a bigger room.

    Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses Florida Democrats at the Leadership Blue Gala on June 17 in Hollywood, Fla. (Photo by Carol Porter)
  5. Will new laws protect condo owners from apartment conversions and rogue associations?

    Real Estate

    Danny Di Nicolantonio has lived in St. Petersburg's Calais Village Condominums for 33 years. Annoyed at times by the actions, or inaction, of the condo board and property managers, he has complained to the state agency that is supposed to investigate.

    That has left him even more annoyed.

    A bill passed by the Florida Legislature would affect places like The Slade in Tampa's Channelside district, where cCondominium owners have battled a plan to convert homes into apartments.
[Times file photo]