or neutralized before use in aquatic systems (Tompkins and Tsai 1976; Wedemeyer 2000).
The phrase life support system refers to the physical structure used to contain the water and the animals as well as the ancillary equipment used to move and/or treat the water. Life support systems may be simple (e.g., a container to hold the animal and water) or extremely complex (e.g., a fully automated recirculating system). The type of life support system used depends on several factors including the natural habitat of the species, age/size of the species, number of animals maintained, availability and characteristics of the water required, and the type of research.
Life support systems typically fall into three general categories: recirculating systems where water (all or part) is moved around a system, flowthrough systems where water is constantly replaced, or static systems where water is stationary and periodically replenished or replaced. The water may be fresh, brackish, or salt and is maintained at specific temperatures depending on the species’ needs.
The source of water for these systems typically falls into four general categories: treated wastewater (e.g., municipal tap water), surface water (e.g., rivers, lakes, or oceans), protected water (e.g., well or aquifer water), or artificial water (e.g., reverse osmosis or distilled water). Artificial saltwater may be created by adding appropriate salt to freshwater sources. Source water selection should be based on the provision of a consistent or constant supply, incoming biosecurity level requirements, water volumes needed, species selection, and research considerations.
Recirculating systems are common in indoor research settings where high-density housing systems are often needed. Most recirculating systems are designed to exchange a specific volume of water per unit time and periodically introduce fresh water into the system. These systems are the most mechanically advanced, containing biologic filters (biofilters) that promote conversion of ammonia to nitrite and nitrate via nitrifying bacteria, protein skimmers (foam fractionators) and particulate filters to remove undissolved and dissolved proteins and particulate matter, carbon filters to remove dissolved chemicals, and ultraviolet or ozone units to disinfect the water. The systems generally contain components to aerate and degas the water (to prevent gas oversaturation) and to heat or cool it, as well as automated dosing systems to maintain appropriate pH and conductivity. Not all elements are present in all systems and some components may accomplish multiple functions. Recirculating systems may be designed so that multiple individual tanks are supplied with treated water from a single source, as is the case with “rack” systems used for zebrafish (Danio rerio) and Xenopus