Aquatic Habitat (Aquatic Habitat) - 01.30.19

Summary | Overview | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Aquatic Habitat is a unique investigation designed to study small fresh water fish including the medaka and zebrafish. This facility consists of two aquariums with a closed loop water circulation system, automatic feeding system, day/night light cycle, and cameras. This microgravity investigation allows researchers to study changes to bones, the loss of muscle mass, the effects of radiation and the biological development of living organisms.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Masaki Shirakawa, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Facility Details

OpNom: Aquatic Habitat

Facility Manager(s)
Masaki Shirakawa, JAXA, Ibaraki, Japan

Facility Representative(s)
Fumiaki Tanigaki, JAXA, Ibaraki, Japan

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan

Sponsoring Space Agency
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

Sponsoring Organization
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2011 - September 2013; September 2014 - March 2015

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Hardware is in development and has not yet flown.


  • Onboard
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    Facility Description

    Facility Overview
    The Aquatic Habitat (AQH) is capable of accommodating small freshwater fish, such as medaka or zebrafish, which serve as ideal models for vertebrates. This facility is closed water circulatory aquarium that can support some medaka or zebrafish for durations lasting up to about 90 days (the maximum number depending on the life stage of each specimen).
    AQH consists of four main components: two aquariums, the water circulation unit, control unit, and CCD cameras. Biological filter (i.e., water purifying bacteria) and gas exchanger maintain the quality of the environmental system. An automatic feeding system can be programmed to support different feeding sequences as needed. One closed water loop supports both aquariums with a total water volume of 3.2 liters. The circulation system monitors PH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, flow rate and pressure of breeding water. Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights are used to provide a day/night cycle for the fish and provide necessary lighting for the CCD cameras. Data is transmitted to the ground for monitoring and analysis.
    Ancillary hardware associated with AQH includes the Fish transport containers, fish catcher, chemical/fish fixation kit, fish return containerwater quality test kit, water exchange kit and a phase contrast microscope. The Fish transport container is uniquely outfitted for ascent with a gas-permeable membrane and LED. The Phase contrast microscope is used to perform microscopic fluorescent observations of fish embryos and larvae.
    AQH supports experiments investigating the long-duration effects of microgravity and the space radiation environment on vertebrates, including human beings. Small fish are used due the ease of breeding and embryonic observations and their short developmental and generational turnaround (1-2 month cycle) timeframes.
    This facility is the fourth in a line of previously flown Space Lab (Space Shuttle) aquariums.

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    Facility Operations

    • The components and accessories of Aquatic Habitat were launched on HII Transfer Vehicle -3 (HTV3) and transferred to ISS/Kibo for stowage.

    • The experiment begins after the fish arrive during a subsequent increment in the transparent fish transport container.

    • Just before fish arrival, the Aquatic Habitat will be assembled in the Work Volume of Multipurpose Small Payload Rack (MSPR) located in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM).

    • Following the initial checkout of the assembled hardware, the fish will be transferred from the fish transportation containers into the aquariums.

    • The data collection period of investigations housed in AQH may last as long as 90 days.

    • Images and environmental data are sent to the ground for monitoring and analysis.

    • Fish are removed from the aquariums using the fixation kit or fish return container according to the purpose of the experiment. The fish catcher is used for fish transfer between aquarium and return container.

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    Decadal Survey Recommendations

    Information Pending

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    Results/More Information

    Results Publications

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    Ground Based Results Publications

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    ISS Patents

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    Related Publications

      Uemoto H, Shoji T, Uchida S.  Biological filter capable of simultaneous nitrification and denitrification for Aquatic Habitat in International Space Station. Life Sciences in Space Research. 2014 April; 1: 89-95. DOI: 10.1016/j.lssr.2014.02.002.

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    Related Websites

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    NASA Image: ISS033E012521 - Right side view of the Aquatic Habitat shown housed in the Multipurpose Small Payload Rack (MSPR).

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    NASA Image: ISS033E012517 - Individual Aquarium for the Aquatic Habitat during installation operations on Expedition 33/34 ground testing.

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    Aquarium ground testing. Image courtesy of JAXA.

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    Schematic of full Aquatic Habitat (AQH) facility (JAXA).

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    NASA Image: ISS033E012523 - Left side view of the Aquatic Habitat shown housed in the Multipurpose Small Payload Rack (MSPR).

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    This view was taken in the International Space Station's Kibo laboratory during a troubleshooting check of the Aquatic Habitat (AQH) pH sensor for its response to an injected reagent. The AQH is part of the Multipurpose Small Payload Rack (MSPR).  Image courtesy of NASA.

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    NASA Image: ISS033E016620 - Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Expedition 33 flight engineer Aki Hoshide fills the Aquatic Habitat with water in preparation for adding the fish.

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