Come visit the new great barracuda in our Giant Ocean Tank exhibit!
You now have the chance to meet the critter—currently located in a pen at the very top of the tank—that has everyone in awe.
Barracudas are bony fish with long tubular bodies that vary in shades of gray. What distinguishes the great barracuda from other species are black spots on the lower sides of their bodies (see if you can “spot” these spots on ours!). While our new friend is currently quite tiny, these critters can get really big, growing up to 6 feet long. Barracudas are devastatingly fast ambush hunters. Swimming in speedy bursts of around 35 miles per hour, they locate prey visually and quickly take them by surprise with their razor-sharp teeth. The new barracuda is easily one of the fastest fish in the Giant Ocean Tank! Speaking of our massive Caribbean coral reef exhibit, this animal has a great home since they’re typically found near the shore in tropical and subtropical seas. It’s a perfect match!
The New Arrival
One thing to notice is that our great barracuda is currently isolated in a pen at the top of the Giant Ocean Tank rather than free swimming. Upon the barracuda’s arrival, aquarists introduced the fish to the exhibit via an acclimation pen. The pen allows the barracuda to get used to its new environment before releasing it into an ecosystem with more than 600 animals! Aquarists are extending the barracuda’s time in its pen in order to target train the animal.
But what is target training?
When the Aquarium introduces a predatory animal into an exhibit, we often associate interaction with a physical object—a target—with feeding. When this animal is able to approach and interact with its target to receive food, we can better track its food intake to ensure we’re exactly meeting its dietary needs (so that it doesn’t get ideas about its neighbors). We introduced the great barracuda’s floating target in its acclimation pen so that it could get used to the target and feel comfortable swimming around it. Placing the target in the acclimation pen was especially important because our barracuda made it very obvious it initially did not like the target at all! The end goal of this target training is to have the barracuda swim over to the target so it can receive its food. Training involves reinforcing small steps toward the end goal so the animal can slowly progress into the desired behavior.
Currently, our fishy friend is approaching the floating target for its meal. The next step will be only placing the target inside the exhibit when it’s time for feeding, so the barracuda associates the target with food. Aquarists hope that in another two to three weeks of only presenting the target during feeding time, the barracuda will successfully be target trained and released into the Giant Ocean Tank to free swim to its heart’s content.
Stay up to date on our lovely great barracuda by visiting our Giant Ocean Tank exhibit at the Aquarium or attending one of our Giant Ocean Tank presentations. Don’t miss the chance to get to know our new totally tubular fish!