Aquarium After Dark

As the final hours of daylight saving time tick down, take a peek inside the National Aquarium at night.

  • Multimedia

I don't know if I really get the creepy feeling from dark; I get more of a feeling when things are quiet.

Right now, in the mid-Atlantic, it's getting dark a little bit earlier, so around 6 [or] 6:30, it would be dark outside where some of those fish would be experiencing darkness now. Here at the Aquarium, they're not going to experience a dark period until 10 o'clock. We show sort of a ramp up and a ramp down where you have kind of a sunrise and sunset. We're kind of balancing between what they'd experience in the wild and what we need operationally for the Aquarium.

So typically the lights are going off at 10 pm, but even before the lights go out at 10, you can see a little bit of some changes; some of the animals are coming out and being a little bit more obvious than they are during the day. In the wild you will see these assemblages of diurnal fishes and nocturnal fishes sort of switching places at dawn and dusk.

There was one night at the Atlantic Coral Reef in particular—there was a project going on; they were fixing one of the gates up there. It was fairly late, it was dark in the exhibit, and the contractors were working and the creole fish were actually breeding and that was the first time I've ever seen that. I could hear them coming up to the surface and popping at the surface and making quite a bit of racket.

There is some breeding activity that does happen at night. A lot of times that is in phases with the moon, even though they're not seeing the moon in here. It's still a little bit of a mystery.

What happens when the lights go down and night falls inside the National Aquarium? Watch and listen as Jay Bradley, curator of Blue Wonders, talks about the dark, quiet hours between sunset and sunrise.

When fall ushers in shorter days, longer nights and colder temperatures, subtle changes start happening inside the National Aquarium, too. Adjusting the lighting in Aquarium habitats is just one way our team encourages animals to maintain natural rhythms and show innate behaviors. They also modify temperatures and vary the foods and materials available.

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