The Aquatron laboratory

Dalhousie University's aquatic research facility has an Aquatron

laboratory which is a marine and freshwater facility for university, government and industry researchers.

Pool tank

The Aquatron laboratory features a 684,000-litre pool tank which is 15.24 metres in diameter and 3.54 to 3.91 metres deep. Our full-time technical staff members are experts in the preparation and operation of the tank.

The pool tank is large with an axially suspended rotating bridge. It's constructed of reinforced concrete and has a fibreglass and epoxy liner. The tank can be tailored to the requirements of individual research projects whether the tank is required as a large holding pen for fish or as an artificial reef.

Applications of this unique research tool have included:

  • Artificial reef habitat for cuttlefish, lobsters and other marine animals;
  • Spawning habitat for Atlantic Cod;
  • Testing facility for instrument development and calibration;
  • Holding facility for seals, squid and diving birds.

Included in the wall of the tank are 22 viewing windows that are approximately one metre square. The tank has a small isolation pool connected by a duct 0.92 m wide and 1.12 m deep. The pool has a depth of 1.12 m and an approximate diameter of 1.8 m.The isolation tank can be operated from the main tank by dropping in a gate at either end of the duct.
The pool tank can be supplied with seawater or dechlorinated freshwater; filtered or unfiltered; heated, ambient or chilled. The tank has various location options for inputing and draining water. Water flow can be controlled through the use of directional nozzles.

Tower tank

This research apparatus is unique in Eastern Canada. The specially designed cylindrical tank is 10.64 metres deep and 3.66 metres in diameter with an approximate water volume of 117,000 litres. This tank is ideal for research requiring depth and stratification.

It's constructed of reinforced concrete and is lined with a fiberglass and epoxy liner. The tank can be divided into three layers of water with each layer having different physical parameters. Sampling can be performed through the sampling ports arranged throughout the wall of the tank. It's also equipped with a series of viewing ports - suitable for human observation or for use with video equipment.
The tower tank can be supplied with seawater or dechlorinated freshwater; filtered or unfiltered water; heated, ambient or chilled. Water can actually be input into the tank to create three different thermoclines. Each thermocline can be input and output separately and each can be sampled through the tank wall.

The tower tank can be illuminated with six overhead lamps. The lamps are divided into three banks or two with each bank on a separate timer. The lamps consist of four 1,000-watt phosphor-coated metal halide lamps, plus two 400-watt mercury vapour lamps. Light intensity is in the order of the 10 to 40 per cent of the normal midday summer sun, with measured light levels between 0.04 to 0.16 cal/cm2/min from the edge to the centre of the tank.

The tower tank also has an electric hydro winch installed at its top and an electric, one-ton chain hoist, which runs on a mono-rail extending from the working area across the top of the tank.

The tower tank has three lab work areas located at the top, bottom and mid section of the tank.

Wet labs

There are numerous wet labs throughout the Life Sciences building. The Oceanography and Biology Departments both have access to wet labs within their regular departmental areas. In addition, the Aquatron has 17 wet labs which are used independantly from the other labs. These labs can be accessed by users from within and outside Dalhousie.

Two of the wet labs within the main Aquatron area are doubles, with two times the area of other labs, allowing for more tank and research space. Header tanks and packed columns are used in each wet lab to improve water quality and supply. 

Wet labs tank design can be customized to accommodate research needs. This lab has an identical piping arrangement as other labs but the tanks have been laid out to best accommodate researchers' needs. 


The Aquatron laboratory has a number of holding tank areas suitable for fish and other aquatic organisms. Tank holding areas can consist of banks in various sizes or large single tanks.

Twelve 1.5-metre holding tanks are available for fish holding and experimentation. These tanks can be supplied with heated and ambient freshwater and seawater. Outside standpipes are used to control water depth.

Eight two-metre holding tanks are available for fish holding and experimentation. These tanks can be supplied with both heated and chilled water. Water can be either seawater, freshwater or a combination of the two. These tanks have been used for holding salmon, trout, atlantic cod and winter flounder.
One bank of tanks consists of nine small 100-litre tanks. They can be supplied with heated and ambient water, either freshwater or seawater. These tanks can be used for experiments and holding of small fish or they can be used to hold other less mobile animals.

Behavioural observation tank

The Behavioural observation tank is a specially designed facility which allows researchers to observe aquatic animals from both above and below the water's surface without ever getting wet. The concrete structure is 45 cubic metres in volume and is located just outside the Life Sciences Building. The researchers however, can observe the animals with ever going outside.

Known as the seal tank, this tank has been in operation for 30 years and has recently undergone a complete refit. This work was made possible by a major facilities access grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council.


John Batt, Manager

Phone: (902) 494-3874 
Fax: (902) 494-2405