Is becoming an aquarist right for me?

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What do aquarists do?
Career Satisfaction
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What are aquarists like?

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How to become an Aquarist

To become an aquarist in the United States, consider following these general steps:

  • Education: Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent. While a specific degree is not always required, pursuing higher education in a related field can enhance your knowledge and competitiveness. Consider degrees in biology, marine biology, aquaculture, zoology, or a similar discipline.
  • Gain Experience: Seek opportunities to gain hands-on experience with aquariums and aquatic organisms. This can include volunteering at local aquariums, fish stores, or aquatic research facilities. Internships or part-time jobs in these settings can provide valuable practical experience.
  • Specialize and Learn: Develop expertise in a particular area of interest within the field of aquaristics. This can involve studying specific species, such as marine fish, coral reefs, or freshwater plants. Acquire knowledge about water chemistry, filtration systems, and aquatic ecology.
  • Certifications: While not mandatory, obtaining certifications can demonstrate your commitment and competence. The Aquarium Science Program at a few colleges and universities offers certificate programs that focus on aquarist training. Additionally, organizations like the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America (MASNA) offer certifications such as the MASNA Aquarist Certification Program.
  • Network: Attend industry conferences, seminars, and workshops related to aquaristics. Engage with professionals in the field and build a network of contacts. Join local aquarium clubs or organizations to connect with fellow enthusiasts and professionals.
  • Job Search: Look for job openings at public aquariums, zoos, research institutions, fish farms, or other relevant organizations. Monitor job boards, career websites, and industry-specific publications. Create a compelling resume highlighting your relevant experience, education, and skills.
  • Interview and Demonstrate Skills: Prepare for interviews by researching the organization and familiarizing yourself with their mission and exhibits. Be prepared to discuss your experience with aquarium maintenance, animal care, and any relevant projects or research you have been involved in.

Helpful Resources
Aquarists can benefit from a range of helpful resources available to support their work.

  • Professional associations and organizations like the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) provide valuable resources, networking opportunities, and professional development specifically tailored to aquarists and zookeepers. Another valuable organization is the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America (MASNA), which offers educational resources, publications, and a community of marine aquarium enthusiasts and professionals.
  • The World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association (WAVMA) is also worth exploring, as it provides resources and educational opportunities for aquarists interested in aquatic veterinary medicine.
  • In addition to professional associations, aquarists can access various publications and journals to stay informed. Publications like Coral Magazine focus on reef aquariums, coral reefs, and marine fishkeeping. Advanced Aquarist is an online magazine that offers in-depth articles and research covering various aspects of aquaristics. Aquarium Fish International is another useful publication that covers topics related to both freshwater and marine aquariums.
  • Online forums and communities provide a platform for aquarists to connect, seek advice, and share experiences. Reef2Reef is a popular online forum for reef aquarium enthusiasts, while Aquatic Plant Central is a community dedicated to freshwater planted aquariums. The Reef Tank is an active online community where aquarists can exchange knowledge and seek guidance on saltwater reef aquariums.
  • Local aquarium clubs and societies also play a valuable role in supporting aquarists. These groups provide opportunities for networking, learning, and trading information through meetings, workshops, and events. Engaging with local clubs can help aquarists connect with like-minded individuals and expand their knowledge base.
  • Books and guides are another valuable resource for aquarists. There is a wide range of books available that cover topics such as aquarium maintenance, fish and invertebrate species guides, and reef-keeping techniques. "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" by Robert M. Fenner and "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" by Diana Walstad are popular titles worth exploring.