CHICAGO (WLS) -- Animals at the Shedd Aquarium eat well. They eat very well. From restaurant grade fish and home-grown vegetables to nutrition packed food pellets and bugs cultured inside the aquarium, Shedd animal diets are as gourmet as they get.
The process of feeding animals - often by-hand from an animal specialist or aquarist - plays a bigger role than just providing nutrients; feeding is integral to the holistic care of animals.
"Feeding (animals) by hand is a great relationship builder," said Michele August, animal care staff.
Animals learn to engage with their caretakers and trust them through the feeding process, which ultimately translates into participatory health care and voluntary check-ups.
For some animals, caretakers help them mimic natural hunting behaviors to keep them mentally stimulated as well. Archerfish, for example, spit streams of water like arrows at bugs on branches to knock them off before devouring them.
Nickel the sea turtle is one example of an animal that actually prefers being fed by-hand, partially because caretakers brush on her shell whenever they visit. And Nickel loves getting brushed.
"She comes over here voluntarily," said fish supervisor Dan Lorbeske, as he fed and brushed Nickel. "It's very satisfying knowing that they come over here because they want to."
'What's on the Menu?' is episode three of 'An Ocean On The Lake,' the multi-part behind-the-scenes series from ABC 7 Chicago and Shedd Aquarium. Watch this third segment to learn more about the specific foods that animals eat at Shedd. Find every episode on our homepage for "An Ocean On The Lake," or watch on our ABC 7 Chicago connected TV App.
Diet, feeding plays integral role in animal health care at Shedd Aquarium