Aquarium Science

The Aquarium Science Program offers a comprehensive two-year Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree and a one-year Certificate that is open only to individuals who already possess a Bachelor’s degree in a life science area. Both the Certificate and the AAS provide theory and practical experience designed to prepare students for a career in aquatic animal husbandry.

Enrollment in the Aquarium Science Program is limited. For additional information and to apply for the program online visit the college webpage at or contact, the Aquarium Science Program Manager.

Students who successfully earn a degree or certificate will be qualified to work in the aquatic animal husbandry profession. They may be eligible for entry-level positions as aquarists, aquatic biologists, and keepers. Potential employment opportunities include public zoos and aquariums, ornamental fish retailers and wholesalers, aquaculture businesses, fish hatcheries, research programs, marine educational centers, state and federal natural resource agencies, as well as self- employment.

Admissions Requirements

Enrollment is limited to 20 to 24 students each year. Individuals wanting to enroll in the program must complete an on-line application located at Each applicant will have an interview with the Aquarium Science faculty.

Program Outcomes

Students completing the AAS or certificate will:

  • Accurately communicate, verbally, and in writing, scientific concepts, research findings and ideas to professionals and the general public.
  • Maintain, analyze, diagnose, and repair aquatic life support systems and their components.
  • Perform basic water quality analysis using standard testing equipment.
  • Maintain healthy animal populations by applying industry standards and practices to aquarium set-up, monitoring, and animal care.
  • Identify healthy, physically compromised animals, and abnormal animal behaviors.
  • Work as a member of a team to conceptualize, plan, construct, and manage environments that promote healthy fishes and invertebrates.
  • Apply fundamental knowledge and skills in science, mathematics, and communications for success in a professional or academic setting (AAS degree specific outcome).


Degrees and Certificates


AQS 100: Introduction to Aquarium Science

Credits 3

Examines the history of animal keeping and present day aquatic animal husbandry industries. Explores the biological processes occurring in the aquarium environment. Learn proper setup and maintenance of home aquaria.

AQS 110: Aquarium Science Practicum 1

Credits 2

Introduces aquatic animal husbandry work environment and the care of captive aquatic animals. Emphasizes daily animal care and exhibit readiness.

AQS 111: Aquarium Science Practicum 2

Credits 2

Builds upon the experiences gained in Practicum 1. Involves participation in a higher level of aquatic animal husbandry activities including animal health procedures, long-term record keeping and life support systems training.

AQS 173: Water Chemistry in Aquatic Systems

Credits 4

This course covers water chemistry dynamics in aquatic systems and covers topics including lab safety, occupational safety, the Nitrogen cycle salinity, dissolved oxygen, acid/base chemistry, pH and pH buffering, ozone chemistry, coliform bacteria testing, working knowledge of spectrophotometers and other lab techniques, proper handling and disposal of water quality (WQ) reagents, management of conservative and nonconservative salts, dilutions, molarity, stoichiometry, and basic calcifying invertebrate chemistry and husbandry. The class will focus on the chemistry of human managed aquatic systems like aquarium and aquaculture facilities but will relate the issues to the ecosystems that aquatic animals inhabit. The Aquatic Animal Life Support Operators (AALSO) Water Quality Technician Level 1 test will be incorporated into the final exam for this course. 

Addendum to Course Description

A Working knowledge of water chemistry and how different chemical compounds interact to promote or degrade the health of a living aquatic system and the animals living in it is essential to the success of a professional aquatic animal keeper. The lectures and labs in this course provide hands-on training in different aspects of water chemistry and how to properly and safely maintain or manipulate water chemistry parameters.

AQS 186: Introduction to Scientific Diving

Credits 3

Examines the technical and safety components of scientific diving and meets all academic training requirements compliant with American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) standards. Includes professional level of emergency responder certifications, watermanship proficiency, and authorization as a surface tender to support scientific diving operations.

AQS 201: Applied Learning in Aquarium Science I

Credits 1

First semester of Applied Learning in Aquarium Science. This course provides degree-seeking students beginning their second year in the Program enhanced learning opportunities and additional development by applying what they learned in their first year in instructor-directed projects in the Teaching Aquarium or at an offsite facility.

AQS 202: Applied Learning in Aquarium Science II

Second semester of Applied Learning in Aquarium Science. This course provides degree-seeking students beginning their second year in the Program enhanced learning opportunities and additional development by applying what they learned in their first year in instructor-directed projects in the Teaching Aquarium or at an offsite facility.

AQS 215: Biology of Captive Fishes

Credits 4

Examines the anatomy and physiology of freshwater and marine fishes and the constraints placed upon them in a controlled environment. Increases an understanding of fish behavior through the use of ethograms.

AQS 216: Elasmobranch Husbandry

Credits 2

Examines the history of captive shark and ray management, current regulations, legislation and conservation of elasmobranches. Emphasizes requirements associated with keeping a healthy population of elasmobranches.

AQS 226: Biology of Diverse Captive Species

Credits 2

Examines the basic husbandry and system requirements of a broad range of phyla found in public aquariums, research, and other zoological collections. Highlights specialized needs of selected invertebrate and fish species and introduces students to challenges and considerations for reptile, amphibian, avian, and marine mammal husbandry.

AQS 232: Reproduction and Nutrition of Aquatic Animals

Credits 4

Examines the reproductive strategies of fishes and invertebrates in a controlled environment and the manipulation of environmental and physiological parameters that initiate reproduction. The nutritional requirement of selected aquatic animals throughout their life history is explored. Industry standards for food handling and HACCP requirements are also discussed.

AQS 240: Life Support System Design and Operation

Credits 4

Examines the role of life support systems in maintaining a balanced, stable aquatic environment. Presents how to design, construct, maintain and troubleshoot semiclosed, closed and open systems.

AQS 245: Animal Husbandry in a Research Capacity

Credits 2

Examines the use of fish in research and the ethical issues associated with this practice. Common procedures and research methodology such as anesthesia, biopsy, blood draws, minor surgeries, field study, behavioral techniques, and euthanasia will be presented.

AQS 252: Exhibits and Interpretation

Credits 3

Introduces the principles of exhibit development and interpretive presentations. Covers projects in exhibit planning, performing interpretive presentations, and writing interpretive pieces. Emphasizes the process of developing exhibits and interpretation from conceptual statement through fabrication, performance, or publication.

AQS 295: Aquarium Science Internship

Credits 12

Exposes students to the daily diligence, responsibilities and rewards of the aquatic animal husbandry profession. Includes daily animal care and facility readiness routines, assisting life support staff and animal health management professionals, and evaluation of operational aspects of the facility.