A Look Behind Evan Baldonado's Empire of Aquatic Education

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The AquariumKids mastermind spends his Sundays cleaning his tanks, feeding his fish, and updating his website.

Evan Baldonado plays with his goldfish Caramel. "Mentally, taking care of my fish is kind of relaxing," he says. "Just taking the time to do some manual work with the fish tanks and carrying around all the water is an unlikely a stress reliever."

By Ashley Wang     Photos by Zoë Wong-VanHaren

December 7, 2018

For Evan Baldonado, it was the Duveneck Harvest Carnival that started it all. He was a Jordan Middle School sixth grader at the time, playing at the elementary school event's ring toss station, when he figured out that many of the goldfish they were giving out as prizes died because their owners didn’t know how to care for them. The next year, he started his own website and brought a goldfish care sheet to the carnival.

That was the birth of AquariumKids, his platform dedicated to both promoting aquatic education as well as defending aquatic life and ecosystems. AquariumKids recently just hit 200,000 fans.

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A FISH FRIEND

I’ve always really been into animals and the environment, but the first time I’ve actually had the responsibility to take care of animals was when I got my goldfish Caramel. That was an important moment.

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OUT THE WINDOW

I clean the tanks once a week or once every two weeks on Sundays. I drain out maybe between one quarter to one half of it using a pump. I drain it directly out the window into the plants. It takes me usually around an hour to do this.

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THOUGHTFUL CARE

I refill the tanks using these big containers of water. They're five gallons each, around 40 pounds. I'll let the water come up to room temperature first before I pour them into the tanks. That way I don't shock the fish.

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GETTING CRAFTY

I actually made these coconut caves myself. I brought back the coconuts from Hawaii. I used a saw to kind of make an incision around the coconut and then I hammered it to break it apart. Then there was some filing and sanding that I had to do. The fish really like to hang out in there. 

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CAREFUL CONSIDERATIONS

I had to test a lot of rocks to make sure they were safe for the tanks, since certain rocks will change the pH of the water. I tested them by putting them in a container of vinegar — if they fizz a whole lot, it means they’ll change the pH.

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THE BIG BREAKTHROUGH

I would say that my biggest accomplishment has been convincing the Harvest Carnival to stop giving away fish altogether this year. It might sound a bit counterintuitive, since I wouldn't have started AquariumKids without having fish in the first place, but it’s all about animal welfare.

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POWER OF THE WEB

Getting to 100,000 fans was a big milestone for me. That's adding Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, everything. When I got there it was like, “wow, people actually care,” and I realized that I can actually make a difference with the reach that I have over these platforms. We’ve now reached over 200,000 fans.

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HELPING OUT

I’ll get messages from people — these complete strangers that I don’t even know — asking about how to take care of their fish. It’s really exciting to be able to help them and their animals. 

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STRESS RELIEF

Mentally, taking care of my fish is kind of relaxing. Just taking the time to do some manual work with the fish tanks and carrying around all the water is an unlikely stress reliever.

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EXTRA CREDIT

Right now I’m doing some outside research at the Stanford Biogeochemistry Lab about how changing conditions will affect phytoplankton populations in Antarctica. I'm also studying how those populations will affect how well the Antarctic Ocean will be able to take down carbon. It has some significance in terms of climate modeling and the future of our planet in general.

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FUTURE STUDIES

For college I'm planning on doing environmental science or something related to that. Clearly, I like the ocean a lot. I like water.

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