Aquarist Career Profile

How do I become an aquarist?

READ: This page helps you to read about the career and the info you need to decide on whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.

RESEARCH: ​Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.

PREPARE: If you want to plan and prepare for the career, then join the OZT Community! Members have access to tools, while chatting with other students and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!

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UPDATED: 26 April 2023

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What is an Aquarist?

An aquarist is an individual that cares for the marine life in aquariums by maintaining their living environments and having hands on interactions with the creatures.

Jellyfish 1

Alternative Names

Some careers might be called by different names, and might overlap with other careers:

  • Aquarium Technician

Career Categories

The Aquarist falls within specific animal related career categories:

  • Animal Care
  • Marine Conservation
  • Zoos, Aquariums, Museums and Amusement Parks

What does an Aquarist do?

With which Groups of animals does an Aquarist work with?

Mammals List Icon OZT
Mammals
Fish List Icon OZT
Fish
Crustaceans List Icon OZT
Crustaceans
Mollusks Link Icon OZT
Mollusks

What is the level of Interaction with the Animals?

With who does an Aquarist work?

Besides working with all of the animals, Aquarists will need to interact with other people while doing their daily tasks. The people might include fellow staff members or the public.

Fellow staff might include:

  • Supervisors/Managers
  • Operational staff, such as Human Resources, Finance and Maintenance
  • Veterinary staff
  • Habitat Specialists
  • Animal Trainers

What does an Aquarist focus on?

An aquarist is in charge of feeding the fish and animals, preparing the food and making any dietary adjustments that may be necessary. The aquarist is also responsible for making sure that the aquarium, tanks or exhibits are all clean and free of algae, that the water quality is maintained, and that the temperature is adjusted as needed.

What is the daily tasks of an Aquarist?

  • monitor and treat fish diseases
  • ensure life support systems are functioning, such as pumps, heaters, and filters
  • monitor water quality 
  • observe for any anomalies in fish tanks
  • clean the inside of the fish tanks and up-keep the underwater habitats
  • feed and administer vitamins to sea life 
  • create habitats that will delight visitors 
  • mentally stimulate some species with challenges

The working Environment of an Aquarist

Where does an Aquarist work?

Environment –

Aquarists mainly work indoors, and in most cases with large aquariums, inside the tanks.

Places of Employment –

​They are employed by public or private aquariums, as well as zoos that have large Aquatic sections. Positions are also open at research facilities and laboratories.

What is the average salary of an Aquarist?

The average yearly salary of an aquarist is around US$23,000. This might be different, depending on the place of employment, the country and strength of the economy.

Can an Aquarist be promoted?

Advancement in the field typically depends on work experience. Promotion to senior levels are available in all related careers. The levels of each promotion might differ from organization to organization, but generally are the following:

Intern > Junior Aquarist > Senior Aquarist > Supervisor or Curator

​It is also possible to branch out into other related positions such as marine mammal trainer, veterinary technician, or marine biologist.

What difficulties does an Aquarist face?

​Aquarist careers often require strenuous physical activity, significant periods of time spent in the water while outfitted in scuba gear, and the use of tools and equipment to complete the required tank maintenance tasks. You may also be required to work irregular hours including evenings, weekends, and holidays. Aquarists may also be required to perform fieldwork outdoors, meaning that they must travel to other locations to collect specimens that could be used in the aquarium.

​Future Growth and Possibilities

The prospects of future growth in this industry is 15%.

Availability of Jobs

Good

Which skills are required to be an Aquarist?

The skills required for a career as an aquarist can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem Solving
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relationship
Life Skills
30%

Career Skills

  • Basic animal handling and care techniques
  • SCUBA diving certified
  • Ability to give educational talks to the public
  • Basic customer service skills
  • Good health and physical fitness
  • Basic computer literacy
Career Skills
70%

Which subjects must I have at School?

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!

What will I need to study to become an Aquarist?

Minimum educational requirements

Positions working with marine mammals tend to be the most difficult to obtain, as there is a particularly strong level of interest from individuals wishing to work with marine mammal species, such as dolphins, seals, and whales. For this reasons most aquarists have a bachelor’s degree.

Study Focus

A Bachelor’s Degree with a focus in marine biology, zoology, aquaculture, or a closely related area is preferred. Scuba diving certification is also required, as is a certification course in first aid and CPR.

Study Duration

The duration of most Bachelor’s Degrees are between 3 and 4 years full time. The duration of short courses differ, but can range from a few days to a few months.

Possible Career Preparation Paths

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A Preparation Path is like your road map to where you want to be.

​Possible Path:

Possible Combined Career Paths

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternative(s):

Stepping Stone Career

Being an aquarist can also be used as a stepping stone career. A stepping stone career is one which is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to reach (high fees etc).

You can begin as an intern aquarist after basic short courses and expert guidance (maybe working under a mentor at a zoo, aquarium or park). The money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One paying to help get to the other.

Some of the possible paths:

Training and Apprenticeship

Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal care careers, most of required skills will be acquired through on-the-job training. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.

In some cases entry level positions (or junior positions) require training sessions even before you are allowed to actually perform your job duties. These sessions are offered by the place of employment, after you have successfully applied.

Join the Aquarists Group to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Minimum level of education of those entering the career:

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

Licenses, Certification, Registration and Professional Associations

Certain animal care careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.

For some careers there are extremely important certifications, without which they wont even be able to perform their daily duties. For example, most aquarists will require certification in scuba diving.

Learn more about these specific requirements by joining the Aquarist Group in the Community.

Professional Associations

Where can I study further?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards animal care

Do you want to Contribute?

Do you have information that you would like to contribute to this career?

My Story

Information

Mentorship

Resources

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Join the OZT community and the Aquarist Group

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming an aquarist.

Members of the Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge 
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being an Aquarist, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. If you are a Member, it will take you to the Group, if you are not a Member, it will help you register first.

If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu to start a new search and learn about a different career. 

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