THE sudden coronavirus lockdown in March was a shock to Sea Life staff.

But it was also uncharted waters for the many hundreds of creatures living in the Brighton aquarium.

“Some of the more interactive species like grouper started to change their behaviour,” said displays curator Monica Solda.

“With the aquarium going quiet they were quite sad almost.

“They usually see people moving around and looking at them but they weren’t having any interaction.

“As soon as the Government said the lockdown was starting our first thought was for the animals.”

So for Monica and the Sea Life team, keeping up the spirits of their fishy friends was as important as their own morale.

The Argus: The aquarium has been closed since MarchThe aquarium has been closed since March

Keeping everything ticking over at the aquarium has been a mammoth task through lockdown.

Teams have worked seven days on, seven days off to keep the animals fed and, well, watered.

And there has also been the matter of a few new arrivals.

“We had some shark pups born, they’re our first Covid babies,” Monica said.

“They’re doing wonderfully so that’s cheered us up quite a bit.

“They take much more care, it’s like having a baby of your own.”

And feeding is no small task at the Sea Life Centre.

Sharks, turtles and seadragons are quite picky in particular.

The Argus: Staff have been busy preparing the aquarium for reopeningStaff have been busy preparing the aquarium for reopening

“You might spend eight hours preparing food for the sharks and feeding them,” Monica said.

“It’s quite a big job.

“It’s not like we’re going around the tank and throwing food in there.

“We’re constantly checking the water quality is right too.”

Naturally staff have taken advantage of a spring without visitors to do some spring cleaning. Some fish were put on “vacation” in holding tanks while cleaners gave their usual homes a proper scrub down.

Now with the aquarium set to open on July 4, the main job has been getting the creatures used to seeing crowds again.

“When we’re on lunch breaks we go up to tanks and talk to them,” Monica said.

“We’ve been playing music for them too.

“We’ve mostly been playing what’s on the radio, just playlists the team likes.

“We’ve been having a lot of Nineties stuff, Spice Girls especially. We’ve been dancing around, it helps lift our spirits.”

The Argus: The hundreds of creatures in the aquarium have helped the staff get through lockdownThe hundreds of creatures in the aquarium have helped the staff get through lockdown

But the aquarium’s residents have been a source of strength for the team too.

Green sea turtle Lulu has been a big morale booster.

“In the beginning it was about keeping the mood up,” Monica said.

“It was just quite sad, we were working and not knowing when we were going to reopen, not knowing what was going to happen and looking at the news.

“But whenever I was cleaning Lulu’s tank she would always come over for a stroke and a cuddle.

“It helped me forget about all of that.”

With a light at the end of the tunnel now in sight, the team is raring to open.

The centre has been littered with social distancing markers and hand sanitising stations.

Meanwhile cash payments have been done away with and visitors will be checked for their temperature on the door.

The Argus: Social distancing will be in place throughout the aquariumSocial distancing will be in place throughout the aquarium

As more flock to the seaside to beat the summer heat, Monica hopes raising awareness of the marine life in our oceans will encourage people to be considerate.

“It’s great when you’re walking around the arcade and can see all of these happy faces,” she said.

“It’s a chance to raise awareness about marine life and inspire them to look after our beach.

“We can’t wait to have people around again.”

  • At The Argus, we are championing the work of traders during the coronavirus pandemic as part of our #BackingSussexBusiness campaign. We are always interested to hear how the community is coming together in this crisis. If you know of a local business battling to do all it can in these tough times and/or offering support to the local community, please get in touch at and