Charlotte-Concord aquarium starts to fill, preparing for creatures
Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013

Charlotte-Concord aquarium starts to fill, preparing for creatures

    Lee Cavin, a firefighter with the Concord Department of Fire & Life Safety, starts to fill the 12-foot-deep, 117,000-gallon main Ocean Tank with a fire hose Dec. 6 at the Sea Life Aquarium Charlotte-Concord at Concord Mills mall.
    A group of children who were invited on Facebook to participate in the initial filling of the Sea Life Aquarium’s water tanks, paint a mural for the aquarium at Concord Mills mall.
    Children, including, from left, Abby Shepardson, 10, of Concord, Alexis LaCroix, 6, of Concord, Koryn Beasley, 5, of Charlotte and Abby Hathcock, 8, of Concord were invited to work on a mural for the Sea Life Aquarium at Concord Mills mall Dec. 6.
    David Cochran is the curator of the Sea Life Aquarium at Concord Mills mall.
  • Want to go?

    Merlin Entertainment, operator of the aquarium, plans to have Sea Life at Concord Mills open next spring.

    For more information on the Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium, including the opening and ticket prices, visit

    Advance tickets and annual passes are available online at special prices for a limited time.

Concord’s newest attraction, Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium, began filling its tanks Dec. 6.

Jack Stevenson, marketing manager for Sea Life, explained how the tanks were being prepared for the 5,000 creatures that will live there.

Meanwhile, Firefighter Lee Cavin stood above the main Ocean Tank with a fire hose from Concord fire engine company No. 9 at the ready.

Cavin turned the nozzle and started a rush of water pouring into the 117,000-gallon, 12-foot-deep main tank, which has a sea goddess theme. It includes a walk-through underwater tunnel.

Soon the tank will be home to rays, tropical fish and sharks.

Several area students worked on painting a third layer of a mural by local artist Bridgit Scheide. The custom sea mural will be on display at the aquarium once it is open.

Roughly 150,000 gallons of water were to be pumped into the display tanks, beginning the process that will end with delivery of the sea creatures, tentatively planned for January.

Sea Life, a one-story, 26,000-square-foot indoor aquarium at Concord Mills mall, is scheduled to open next spring. Another 10,000 square feet of space is planned for future expansion.

Besides the main Ocean Tank, the aquarium will have a 3,500-gallon fresh-water system with two tanks that will house species native to the Charlotte-Concord area.

Curator David Cochran said it would take 12 to 18 hours to fill the Ocean Tank with water. Then workers must use chemicals to eliminate chlorine and other impurities before adding synthetic sea salt to create the environment needed for the creatures to survive.

“The 17 tons of salt needed must be added very slowly, as the water is circulated, in order for it to dissolve properly,” said Cochran. “The main tank feeds several satellite tanks as well.”

Once the right salt balance is achieved, a biological filter must be grown before adding any creatures. The filter will consist of bacteria that eat the waste products of the creatures in the tanks.

“It will take a few weeks for the biological filter to mature to where it can handle the added animal waste,” said Cochran.

Once the filter matures, sea creatures will be added a few at a time, so as not to overload the filter and to allow it to grow as the population grows. Smaller creatures will be added first, and the sharks will be added last.

The slow process will establish a healthy ecosystem, Cochran said.

Looking forward the opening of Sea Life’s sixth aquarium, Cochran said, “We have done this all before, and our manufacturers have a pretty good system worked out. The only thing we usually run into is a fitting that might need to be tightened.”

Marty Price and Jenny Brantley are freelance writers. Have a story idea for Jenny or Marty? Email Jenny at or Marty at

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