A Nurse Shark Joins the Giant Ocean Tank 

By New England Aquarium on Wednesday, November 08, 2023

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Cirri, our new nurse shark Photo: Vanessa Kahn

A new nurse shark named Cirri, the first in our care since 2012, is ready for her new home in the Aquarium’s Giant Ocean Tank (GOT) exhibit. Before making her journey to the GOT on November 1, Cirri—roughly three and a half feet long and 22 pounds—spent some time in the Aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy, Massachusetts for a quarantine period to ensure her health and safety. While there, the team worked to make sure the marine animal would thrive in the Giant Ocean Tank, including readying her habitat, target training, and performing routine health checks while under observation.    

Nurse sharks are benthic which means they dwell towards the bottom of a body of water, so lots of sand was needed to help the animal acclimate to the space. To make the habitat more suitable for the shark, Kristen Ulrich, an aquarist in Quincy, added several 40-pound bags of sand to the tank—which holds about 12,000 gallons of water—where the marine animal lived for a short time.  

Cirri target training with our Aquarist
Cirri target training with our Aquarist Photo: Vanessa Kahn

During the quarantine period, Ulrich and team members started target training—a method used for feeding. Ulrich, in coordination with GOT Manager Mike O’Neill, Senior Aquarist Lindsay Phenix, and other animal care staff, chose an object—an orange ball on a stick—to help the animal associate with feeding time. When the object is placed in the water, the animal comes over to receive its food. The team made sure to differentiate Cirri’s object from others they use with Aquarium residents.   

“After the quarantine period, Cirri received a clean bill of health, and moved into another habitat with deeper water and other animals. We continued to target train her and made sure she could still come to her target while she had the distraction of other animals, like rays, swimming around her,” Ulrich explains.  

How long an animal remains under observation depends on a lot of variables, including how the target training goes. However, since Cirri has proved ready for life in the Giant Ocean Tank, she moved from Quincy to Boston, in a 650-gallon transport tank specially fitted into the back of a truck where the oxygen and pH levels of the water were carefully monitored along the way to her new home.    

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Watch her journey

Witness Cirri's journey from our Animal Care Center in Quincy to our Giant Ocean Tank at the Aquarium!


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