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Topping Off the Tanks

Marine Aquarium Society hosts conference

Matt Klapper, the tech-ed teacher at ­Southern Middle School in Lusby, helped his students build a new, three-tank system after their previous aquariums were destroyed in a catastrophe.
      You may not find Nemo or Dory, but a local club hopes you still find inspiration in the wonders of a saltwater tank.
      The Southern Maryland Marine Aquarium Society is a dedicated cadre of marine hobbyists seeking to spread their love of saltwater tanks and to raise awareness of the delicate coral reefs they tend therein.
      At Chesapeake Biological Labs this Saturday, March 10, you’re invited to join them to learn about coral health and culture, with lab tours and science. Dr. Carys Mitchelmore shares her work investigating the effects of aquatic pollutants and other stressors on the health of aquatic organisms, including corals.
      “Our goal is to educate ourselves as well as the general public about the saltwater aquarium hobby and to raise awareness of the delicate reefs we take care of, in and out of our aquariums,” says president Lynne Caplinger.
      The Society was formed in 2007 by Mike Howell, who was finding it difficult to get information about setting up and keeping a marine aquarium. His vision was also to teach the upcoming generation about the importance of our marine reefs/marine ecology and to get people involved in the hobby. The Society meets quarterly to exchange ideas, discuss current conditions in member’s tanks, share and trade corals and plan field trips.
      The School Program gets kids involved in five area schools.
     “We’re helping the next generation learn about the hobby and about the marine environment,” Caplinger says. 
      Saltwater tanks are a passion and a learning resource for Matt Klapper. The tech-ed teacher at Southern Middle School in Lusby, one of the involved schools, led his students in rebuilding their classroom tank system after a catastrophe in 2016 destroyed the mature 17-year-old saltwater system. It took 17 months to rebuild and refine. New fish completed the tanks last fall.
     The new tanks include a 150-gallon reef tank, a 150-gallon fish-only tank, a 125-gallon submerged aquatic vegetation tank and a mosquito fish breeding tank. Klapper documents all the remarkable work on a website and YouTube channel, showing how the project brought science, technology, engineering and math to life for the students involved. 
     Lexington Park Elementary School has a 35-gallon tank where Mrs. Keuppers-Bradley’s second graders care for clownfish. St. Mary’s Ryken Elementary School in Leonardtown has two tanks: a 72-gallon freshwater tank and a 125-gallon fish-only tank. The Society also helped set up a 90-gallon tank at the Leonardtown Tech Center and a 75-gallon freshwater tank at Little Flower School.
     Join the Society at Chesapeake Biological lab to buy and sell coral fragments, supplies and other items to raise funds to set up a new classroom aquarium at Lexington Park Elementary School. Raffles and door prizes are included.
March 10: 1-4pm, Bernie Fowler Laboratory, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland, Solomons, free: