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This month, our River Project team opened the Wetlab once again to the public! The Wetlab is a Hudson River aquarium and marine biology field station located on the south side of Pier 40 in Hudson River Park (cross at W Houston St.). The space features a 3,500 gallon flow-through aquarium system that holds local wildlife from the Hudson River Estuary seasonally.

Wetlab Look-in Hours

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:00–6:00 PM, July 8–October 28

What is a flow-through aquarium? One key feature that makes the Wetlab unique is how we fill our tanks. The Wetlab uses a pump to pull water out of the Hudson River continuously and into our tanks while the system is running. Then, when the water reaches a certain height in the tank, it flows back down into the River via an outflow pipe. By comparison, many aquariums use prepared water and filters and do not have this constant flow of river water. 

For our fish visitors, the flow-through system means that the water quality in our tanks matches the water quality found in the Hudson River at any given moment. It also ensures that organisms collected as part of our ongoing Fish Ecology Survey can be added to and released from the Wetlab without having to adjust to new conditions.

Another major benefit of this system is that the water pulled from the Hudson River is filled with plankton, which are floating, often microscopic plants and animals that move with currents. Plankton are an important food source for filter feeders, and because our tanks are already filled with plankton, we can keep oysters, mussels and barnacles. These filter feeders notably support a healthy tank environment and create excellent habitat for our fish friends.

Getting the Wetlab open takes a lot of team work! Each year, River Project staff conduct maintenance on the pump, pipes, tanks and habitat to make sure our fish are taken care of during their visit to the Wetlab. This work often involves building new pipe fixtures, fixing leaks and lots of cleaning. Once the pump is on, we need to make sure that our tanks are flowing smoothly before we add any animals. On top of that, as a native aquarium, we need to go through the process of collecting and taking care of all the different species in our tanks, from oysters to lined seahorses and striped bass.

The Wetlab is now open, and we welcome budding scientists to visit us during our Wetlab Look-ins. During these events, you can learn more about local fish populations from our River Project team while taking a tour of the aquarium. More information about Look-ins is included below, and we can’t wait for you to visit us this year!