Water: The Science Beneath the Surface Part II

This post written by Mike Fannin, Manager, Life Support Systems

What the heck do they do, anyway?  From filtration to chemistry, this blog series is a behind-the-scenes look into the Zoo’s most mysterious department.

 

CHILDREN’S ZOO KOI STREAM:  PART II – FLOATING ISLAND UPDATE

As you may recall from Part I, Water Quality Department staff members were preparing to plant new floating islands in the CZ Koi Stream.  The islands were to serve a dual purpose:  1) they would provide space for plants that would help remove nutrients from the stream, and 2) they would house tiny aquatic invertebrates called amphipods.  Why?  To help keep our exhibit free of filamentous algae.

Planting and Launching Our New Islands – March 2017

Our three floating islands arrived at the beginning of the month.  Being science nerd types, all of us Water Quality folks were eager to open up the boxes and get these things planted!  They were made of a brown mesh (the material was very similar to a scrubber pad) and had a coating of buoyant foam on the bottom to help with flotation.   The island planter holes were pre-cut and were to be filled with a special soil.

We chose a selection of pollinator-friendly plants for our island experiment, mostly herbs like catmint, oregano, thyme and African Blue basil for the bees, but also included some Texas salvia, bee balm, and Cardinal flower for hummingbirds.  With the expertise of Jeff in the Zoo’s Horticulture Department, we got all three planted up and ready to go.  We kept the islands out of the Koi exhibit for a couple of days to water the plants, but with rain in the forecast they were ready to set sail!

Progress report – April 2017

Once the islands were in place we watered them by hand for a little over 2 weeks, just until the roots had a chance to start growing through the mesh into the stream.  After that they did just fine without us, but seemed to be putting most of their energy into root growth – there wasn’t much visible change in plant size since we planted them a month earlier.  We added a small group of amphipods to the stream during this time since we were seeing a hint of filamentous algae growth.  By mid-April another clean-up crew arrived… tadpoles!  Hundreds of them!  A few pairs of Gulf Coast Toads evidently found their way into the Koi Stream to spawn – thankfully these tadpoles are voracious algae-eaters.  Towards the end of the month, many of our island plants were in bloom.

Progress report  – May 2017

The islands are really picking up speed, although one of them is not doing as well as the other two… Horticulture is called in to investigate.  Jeff finds signs of mites and thrips, tiny arthropods that feed on plant juices and stunt plant growth.  Two of the islands are temporarily removed and sprayed with horticultural oil, a substance bad for small pest insects and mites but safe for other insects once it dries.  Meanwhile, more tadpoles have arrived (the last batch is long gone – Gulf Coast Toad tadpoles go through metamorphosis and turn into tiny toadlets in about 3 weeks).  Between the tadpoles and amphipods, the hair algae growth is kept at bay.

Progress report – June 2017

Here we are a little over three months later, and our islands are really filling in.  The plants are blooming and attracting many species of bee, beetles, dragonflies, butterflies, and damselflies.  Just as we had hoped, the Koi stream is free of hair algae even in the blazing Texas sun.  Our biological one-two punch is working!  Now that the tadpoles are mostly gone for the year, we will add more amphipods to increase the current population and keep up the momentum.  Encrusting green algae are present on the sides of the stream, but this is perfectly natural in aquatic ecosystems.  Contrary to popular belief, a modest population of green algae is actually an indicator of good water quality.  This small amount of algae plus our thriving island plants are removing nutrients from the water faster than the fish are producing them, even though the fish are fed generously a few times per week.  Koi Stream water samples are analyzed monthly by our department; the water chemistry is not only excellent, it’s among the best in the Zoo.

Our main goal with this experiment was to achieve pristine water quality and clarity, and establish a healthy fish, invertebrate and plant community – we reached this goal faster than we expected, and with no chemicals added.  Of course we have an entire summer ahead of us, but we expect to maintain the health and beauty of the Children’s Zoo Koi Stream just by letting nature take its course.  We invite you to visit the Houston Zoo this summer and hang out on the Koi Stream bridge to check out our progress!

Stay tuned for more fascinating Water Quality blog posts!

The beautification of the Children’s Zoo Koi Stream is an ongoing team project between the HZI Water Quality department, Horticulture department, and Children’s Zoo husbandry staff.



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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam. Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years.

The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/
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This morning, we humanely euthanized our male, 20-year-old jaguar, Kan Balam.  Due to the tremendous care provided to him by his keepers and our veterinary team, Kan Balam lived well beyond his expected lifespan. Jaguars expected lifespan in the wild is between 12-15 years. 
 
The carnivore staff and veterinary team made the decision after his quality of life began to decline. Quality care and continuous advances in veterinary medicine extends animals’ lives longer than ever, with most felines in human care living well beyond previous generations. Because of this, all cats, including domestic house cats and jaguars, often spend a significant phase of their lives as older animals, and are at a higher risk for geriatric complications.

Read more about Kan B, and the love his keepers had for him on our blog: https://www.houstonzoo.org/blog/mourning-loss-geriatric-jaguar-kan-balam/

 

Comment on Facebook

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur; happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr purr purr #RIP #bigbangtheory

I know he lived a lot longer due to the excellent care he got at the Zoo.

Is this the one that had the limp?

This was my daughters favorite critter at the Zoo. We always went to say hello to him before anyone else whenever we went. When she was 7 years old we sent a post out to out neighborhood on Halloween saying Paisley was asking for pocket change donations in lieu of candy for Halloween and all amounts would be donated to Kan thru the zoo. She raised over $40 in coins! I still have the letter from the zoo thanking her for her donation. He was a sweet boy and will be missed. 😔

I saw him limping about 2 weekends ago. The first time we walked by he was fine. When we walked by on the way out he was limping and moaning pretty loudly. I wondered what happened but I figured his keeper already knew or would find out shortly. Super Sad. He was always a lively one.

Dunno if the Zoo staff considered him a pet but he was certainly a family member, and because of that i offer this: RainbowBridge Author Unknown Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Jaguar habitat is in the Zoo or Jungle's? ??or is only entertainments for person's? ??$$$$$$$!.Sorry animals the person's don't love you ..

Thank you Houston Zoo for taking such good care of him and all the animals! I've been going to this zoo since I was little bitty. I always enjoy it.

Aww. When interning in the carnivore dept he was one of my faves. So smart! Ashley remember when Angie was teaching him to do the moonwalk after Michael Jackson passed?

Aww I’m so sorry for the loss, I’ve seen him many times, he was absolutely gorgeous! I’m glad that you guys were able to make him comfortable, sometimes the best thing we can do is let them be at peace. Will miss this handsome guy; play hard at the Rainbow Bridge friend, day hi to my cat, Junior for me!! Much love to the HZI staff!!

Jaguars are one of my favorite and he seems like a sweet boy. I'm so sad but I'm happy he can be painless and be free now. RIP❤️

Beautiful jaguar ....so grateful for the Houston Zoo keepers and veterinary team that gave their time and efforts to share this awesome jaguar with us for so many years.

Thank you for doing what was right and kind for Kan Balam even though it was hard and painful for you. That’s true love for an animal. ❤️

What a great long life he lived because of his excellent care at the zoo Thoughts go out to his keepers and the entire Houston Zoo staff

Thank you to you and your staff for the years of quality care given this magnificant creature.

Sending love to the keepers that are broken hearted right now. And thank you for all the care you’ve given.

RIP Kan Balam. You have given the visitors so much pleasure just watching you over these years. You were taken care of by top notch professional handlers, etc.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thanks for taking such great care of him so he was able to live a long life. My thoughts are with his keepers and all who adored him. <3

I am soo sorry for the loss of this handsome fella Kan Balam. May he rest in peace and run free or any pain over the rainbow bridge.. My heart and prayers go out to each and every one of the staff at the Zoo.

Aww, so very sorry for your loss, Houston. Condolences to his keepers and all who loved him. ((((Lorie Fortner)))) He surely lived a long life with the great care he received at Houston.

Katie Rose Buckley-Jones I won’t ever forget the time you asked him to bring something and he ripped off a piece of cardboard and tried to hand it to you ❤️ thank you for introducing me to him. Sending you guys many hugs

He was well-cared for and most of all well-loved. My heartfelt condolences to those missing Kan B as well as me. What an amazing ambassador for his kind. What a beautiful old gentleman. Thank you for loving him into old age and giving him peace.

So sorry to the keeping staff for your loss i cant imagine how youre feeling :( his old age is a testimony to the amazing care he received

I will miss him. The last time I saw him he looked tired, and it appeared his foot was bothering him.

Sad to hear of this. Thanks for taking such good and compassionate care for him and the other animals.

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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: I'm still using this.
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Social Media Guy to Sea Lion Keeper: Can you send me a pic of you working with the sea lions in this chilly weather?

Sea Lion Keeper: Sure... (sends picture next to sea lion statue)

SMG: Im still using this.

 

Comment on Facebook

Are there some zoo animals that enjoy this weather?

SMG is another reason why Houston Zoo is the best Zoo!

Happy New Year “sea lion keeper “ 💖💖

More snow for TJ and Max ❤️ lucky them!

Are we positive that’s the statue rather than it really just being that cold? 😛

That’s my best friend Sophie for ya! 😂

Brrrrr

Omg the Zoo is so awesome 😂😂😂 Alana Berry

Omg be warm sweetoe

Haha!! Good one!

Sweetie 💞

Ashley Jucker 😂

Mike DePope

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