Just like in the ocean waters off the coast of Australia, you’ll find fish and sharks living together at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. The fish are pilchards – a schooling fish. There are about 2,000 of them in The Reef’s 50,000 gallon saltwater tank. According to zookeepers, It’s almost like these schooling fish have one mind – when the sharks get close to them, they’ll school up very tight simultaneously and make course corrections all together. The do the same thing in the wild as a defense mechanism. If the pilchards stay tight in their school, it will confuse the predator (in this case, shark) and they won’t be able to zero in on one particular fish.
There is the possibility that the sharks will pick off the fish, as they’re prone to do in nature, but zookeepers say that as long as they keep the sharks well-fed, that should keep the pilchard casualties to a minimum.The pilchards are fed 9 pounds of food every single day – at least one pound of that is in the form of fish flakes. Why so much food? They have very high metabolisms from swimming around all the time.
Aside from the pilchards, you’ll find 5 sharks at The Reef: 4 black-tipped reef sharks and one zebra shark. The black tips are generally fish-eaters. The zebra shark is more likely to search around the ocean floor for crustaceans, crabs, shrimp, clams, and mollusks to eat. These are intelligent sharks! The zebra shark knows it’s feeding time based on five taps on the wall.
According to zoo staff, the black-tipped reef sharks and the zebra sharks are all considered juveniles. The black-tipped reef sharks will grow to be between 4.5-5 feet long. Meanwhile, the zebra sharks will grow a bit larger – approximately 6 feet long when full grown.
Check out these sharks at The Reef before the zoo closes for the season on October 11!