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Raise & Release- Teacher Tips

Teacher Tips

Estimated Time: One Day


The concept behind raise and release is that students will have the opportunity to study a native aquatic species from youth to adult in a classroom aquarium. When the species reaches maturity, students can release them into the adopted waterway. Releasing their species into this waterway will solidify the connection between the natural environment, the species and our impacts. Students will have the satisfaction of knowing that their fish or salamander has a good home in the waterway they have been protecting and enhancing. 


Students will be able to study aquatic species in a microenvironment that simulates the natural environment. Aquariums can be a used as a classroom tool to study water quality, habitat, the food chain, or species adaptation to a specific environment, such as water. They can also learn about the life requirements and life cycle of an aquatic species found in their local watershed. 


  • 15-30 gallon aquarium provided by the city and BVSD Science Coordinator 
  • gravel, pumps, plants, food 
  • (can be done in class, with a small group of students or before class) 
1. Rinse the aquarium, gravel, undergravel filter, external filter, plastic plants, and large rocks several times with tap water. 

2. Locate the aquarium as close the sink as possible making sure the stand is strong enough to support the filled aquarium (a full 30 gallon aquarium will weigh approximately 300 pounds). 

3. Assemble your undergravel filter according to directions and place in the bottom of the empty aquarium. 

4. Carefully add gravel over the undergravel filter to the depth of 1-2 inches. Make sure to have the gravel deeper on one end of the aquarium to make a land area for the salamanders. 

5. Connect air tubing to one of the lift tubes of the undergravel filter and adjust the other lift tube to accommodate the power head filter following the directions on the package. Attach an air tube to the air stone and position it towards the rear of the aquarium, leaving space so your external filter lift tube will not pull bubbles into the filter. 

6. Install the heater according to the directions on the box. It is important that the heater be under water for it to work correctly. If raising salamanders that have matured, you will want to make sure that the heater is completely under water once you have drawn it down to make it have land/half water. The heater can be installed horizontally at this time. The water in the tank should be around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. 

7. For both fish and larval salamanders you will fill the aquarium within a couple of inches of the top. As the gills of the salamanders begin to be absorbed, you can start drawing down the level of water to expose an area of land with rocks and moss for the salamanders to rest on. Make sure that the tank is up and running for at least 24 hours before you introduce either fish or salamanders to their new home. By allowing the tank to run for 24 hours, all chlorine in the water will be dispersed. 

Place plastic plants (if you have them) and large rocks to create a tunnel or cave for the salamanders to hide under (we encourage you to find round, flat rocks from the areas where you will be releasing your salamanders). Be careful when placing the plants that you do not dig up your cooling tube. 

8. Hook up all air tubing to the gang valve and then to the air pump. Plug in air pump and adjust air flow to the air stone and the lift tube of the undergravel filter. 

9. Assemble the external filter according to directions provided and place it in the appropriate position on the aquarium. Start the filter (according to directions) and check that it is functioning properly. 

10. Place cover on aquarium and determine if it needs any adjustments to accommodate the external filter, air lines and power cords. It is important that the aquarium cover fit in such a way as to leave no holes large enough for the salamanders to get out. 

11. Turn the light on in the aquarium each morning and turn it off each night. It is okay to leave the light off over the weekend. 

12. For decoration, have students create a scenic mural for the back of the aquarium, to be taped onto the outside. If the aquarium is going to be near a window, it is important to cover the side nearest the window with dark paper. 

Extensions & Corresponding Activities 

Following are some ideas on extensions and related learning activities:

1. Conduct comparison water tests between the aquarium and your adopted waterway. 

2. Design your aquarium to be similar to the natural habitat that you will release your species into. 

3. Create a web page and share your findings and investigations with others 

4. Plan a big release party and invite the media. 

Project WET  

  • Where are the Frogs, page 279 
  • Microinvertebrate Mayhem, page 322 
Aquatic WILD 

Water Wings, page 4 
Designing a Habitat, page 20 
Water Canaries, page 38 
Fashion a Fish, page 88 
Aquatic Roots, page 100 
To Dam or Not to Dam, page 134 
Deadly Waters, page 146 
Dragonfly Pond, page 154  

People to Contact 

Water Resource Educator 413-7350 
Reef Encounters Aquarium Company 665-7449 
BVSD Science Coordinator 447-5106

Science Standards 

#1 Students understand the processes of scientific investigation and design, conduct, communicate about, and evaluate such investigations. 

#3 Life Science: Students know and understand the characteristics and structure of living things, the processes of life, and how living things interact with each other and their environment. 

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Last Page Update - Tuesday December 27, 2005