What I’m Doing in California

So I’ve been showing off a bunch on the local wildlife in Southern California, but I think it’s high time that I explain exactly why I moved! I am trying to get a job working in animal husbandry at a public aquarium, and to get experience I am volunteering at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. Here are some pictures of what I’m doing.


The Birch Aquarium is well-known for its seahorse breeding program. That’s the department I’m in. This picture shows the nursery as the visitors see it. We have four tanks of juvenile seahorses, and an exhibit with about 9 tanks of seahorses, sea-dragons, and pipefish.

Behind the scenes is a whole other world. This is the room in which I do most of my work: the Seahorse Propagation Room!

1-Seahorse Propagation Room

We have enormous numbers of seahorses of many ages and species back here. The idea behind breeding species like this is to reduce the pressure on wild populations. In the very near future, the aquarium is going to start a similar program for sea dragons.

2-Kreisel tank

The youngest seahorses live in round tanks, called Kreisel tanks, which prevent animals from either settling on the bottom or getting stuck in corners. These tanks are also well known as jellyfish tanks.

3-Brine Shrimp

When seahorses are that small, they live of freshly hatched brine shrimp, or nauplii. These cups are used to hatch the almost microscopic nauplii, which are orange-ish in color.


Some juvenile seahorses attached to a plastic grate. They use their tails to hang on to any available structure, including each other! It’s not uncommon to see several seahorses stuck to each other, sinking to the bottom as they each pull in a different direction.

5-More babies

These are some more of our juveniles on display, in a different part of the aquarium.

6-Leafy Sea Dragons

Easily the coolest seahorse relative on exhibit is the leafy sea dragon. These animals are about a foot long, from Australia, and internationally protected. They drift around slowly pretending to be seaweed while they sneak up on their prey, small invertebrates. The camouflage helps them avoid predators as well.

9-Behind Tanks

This is what the back of the tanks look like. The other side of the wall is the exhibit, and the aquarists have easy access to the tanks from the back.

14-Big Tanks

Some of the tanks are much bigger. You have to climb a ladder up about a story to work on these three aquaria. On the front is a tank of tropical fish from Baja California. In the middle is a much smaller tank, and our large open-water species are in the back. You can see the exhibit glass clearly on the right. The patch of light in the left is from a sunroof. These tanks are about one story deep, while the large kelp tank is twice that


We have some really cool animals here! These are nautilus, relatives of squid and octopus, except that they have a spiral shell like a snail. They are very sensitive to light, so they’re kept under dim blue lights.

13-Leopard Shark

The shark tank! These are leopard sharks, of which the Birch Aquarium has quite a lot. They are common along the coast here, and come together in huge numbers to breed near La Jolla!

11-Touch Pool Lobsters

Outside, there are touch pools displaying the animals commonly found in the local tidal pools. Here are two lobsters.


This is me, I am commonly found in the local tidal pools as well.


And this is the other reason I’m glad I moved to California. This is the view from the aquarium. It’s about a five-minute walk downhill after my shift ends.

~The Homesteading Hippy

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