DUBAI // Visitors to Dubai Mall can now take a ride across the shopping centre's 10-million-litre aquarium in a glass-bottomed boat. As the craft glided gently over the water yesterday, six-year-old Nikhil Sasi stood with his feet apart, staring at the fish below. "Is that a shark? Cool. What do you feed them?" he asked.
Answering his questions was Eric Binua, who pulled the boat around the aquarium tank using ropes attached to the ceiling and walls. "We have different food for different fish - for some of the sharks we use milkfish, for other fish we use herring and other types of food," he said. "People ask why the sharks don't eat the other fish, but that is because they are fed by hand, by divers in a cage, and are kept well fed and happy.
"We clean the food before we feed it to them so it does not smell of blood; that would make the sharks more aggressive, and we don't want that." The aquarium is home to 33,000 individual fish, including 32 sand tiger sharks and several other species of sharks and stingrays. The temperature and salinity of the water and the lighting are all carefully controlled to keep the animals comfortable. "In the morning, the lights come on automatically, but they do so slowly as if it is sunrise," said Mr Binua.
"You might have noticed outside in the mall there are stars in the ceiling. This is also for the aquarium; when the mall is shut and dark, from inside the tank it looks as if there is a night sky. "We also have fans on the ceiling of the aquarium; these are not part of the cooling system, they blow air on to the water to make waves. "When the fish look up, they see waves and they think they are still in the wild."
The glass-bottomed boat has been giving rides to the public for two weeks, with around 200 to 300 people a day taking the 15-minute trip. The rides cost Dh25 and are available only to visitors who have already bought a Dh75 ticket to the aquarium's tunnel and underwater zoo. email@example.com