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Product Spotlight - July 2016

Bottled Ocean Reinvents Artificial Marine Habitats

by Keith Miller

When visiting aquariums and other marine wildlife attractions, it’s easy to marvel at the beautiful theming of the underwater habitats. However, facilities face the challenge of giving habitats a realistic appearance while creating an environment that is easily maintained, moved, and reconfigured, while also maintaining animals’ safety. 

Now, a company called Bottled Ocean in Orlando has created a product that singularly addresses all these concerns. Called the Modular Reef System, it’s the result of more than four years of development. “The idea was first conceived while we were consulting one of our clients who was looking for a more authentic-looking reef system that was easy to move in and out of an aquarium for regular cleaning and maintenance,” says Bottled Ocean President and CEO Greg Lund. “Our Bottled Ocean team began to research and explore possible materials and methods to lower and raise a 1,700-pound module with ease in a marine environment. Our solution is the Modular Reef System, featuring a self-balancing buoyancy chamber that allows the module to be easily floated, submerged, and moved at will.”

Reef habitats are usually made from materials like concrete, which are obviously very heavy to put in place, move around for cleaning, reconfigure, and retheme. But Lund says concrete also causes other problems. When submerged in water for long periods, especially saltwater, it begins to break down and leach chemicals into the water, creating pH swings. Bottled Ocean solved this problem.

“We studied and researched a number of materials to build the modules from and decided upon isophthalic resin,” he says. “It’s the Cadillac of polyester laminating resins known for its strength and best-in-class resistance to marine water blisters. Also, once it cures, it doesn’t leach chemicals into the water. We also use isophthalic gel coats for coloring, which ensures compatibility bonding between the base structure and the coral rock formation.”

Lund notes exhibit displays made with concrete or other fixed materials mean makeovers entail draining tanks, removing fish and other marine animals, and cutting out the concrete. The lightweight segmented design of the Modular Reef System allows easier reconfiguration of an exhibit/habitat with new and different displays at a lower cost.

Bottled Ocean is now working to enhance the system with Modular Reef wall panels that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. “The wall panels will have large overhangs creating the types of cover and structure that marine animals often require,” he says. “They will be removable for cleaning using the same patent-pending system.”

Because the reefs are modular, the system can be customized to any size display. Lund says though it was designed for marine theme parks, zoos, and aquariums, it can be used by any facility with underwater exhibits.