Sep 15, 2009

A Fish Named Jerry

by Cat Hewett

A flame angelfish named Jerry, a goby named Hoover and a clown fish named Omen call it home. It is a new 55-gallon saltwater fish aquarium in Science Hall 129, and there are already plans to expand it.

The current aquarium that was set up last semester also houses several snails, a variety of corals, a cleaner shrimp and several anemone.

The fish tank gives biology students a hands-on approach to their learning by allowing them to see organisms from their textbook in a controlled environment.

“Biology is the study of life, and all we had were dead things,” biology Department Head Paul Sattler said.

Biology professor Dr. Gary Isaacs wanted to start the fish tank as a hobby, but many other professors have shown the aquarium to their students and used it to illustrate their lectures.

Plans for expansion include a predator aquarium that Isaacs and Teaching Assistant David Asfour hope will house shark, eel and lionfish, along with the chocolate chip starfish that was rescued and brought to the science lab. They hope to have the new tank working by the fall 2010 semester, according to Asfour.

A rhinoceros tang-and-maroon clown fish are among those that Isaacs wants to add to the current tank by the end of the semester.
A poison dart frog aquarium has already been made, and the frogs are expected to be obtained by the end of the semester.

Isaacs and Asfour also mentioned that the long-term goal is to have a “wet lab,” where several large fish tanks and other animals could be housed in the same location.

Asfour said that the aquarium shows an entire ecosystem of organisms students previously studied only after the specimens were killed and dried or placed in jars of alcohol. Isaacs also said that many of these organisms lose their color and are harder to observe after they die.

Isaacs visited with a Sweet Briar professor who is working with sharks to discuss how the shark tanks were set up and maintained.
Isaacs personally donated most of the equipment necessary for the aquarium. He and Asfour also built the pump and filtration system that uses algae as a natural filter.

A friend of Isaacs’ and doctoral candidate at Cornell University, David Baker donated much of his extra coral to the project. Andrew Evans, who maintains saltwater aquariums around the Lynchburg area, donated the chocolate chip starfish and some coral.

Liberty students are welcome to look at the aquarium whenever the lab is open, and anyone needing Christian service can assist with maintaining the salt-water tank.

Students wishing to volunteer can contact Isaacs at

Contact Cat Hewett at

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