Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

Modular Research Aquarium Systems  

“Thanks to Tenji, our scientists can quickly create an ideal environment to collect data and test theories across a wide range of species and environments. Whenever new research partnerships are formed, grants are awarded, or inspiration strikes, we are ready.”  


A private, nonprofit center for global oceanographic research, education, and technology development, the Bigelow Laboratory in East Boothbay, ME works to gather knowledge and develop technological solutions to protect and preserve the world’s oceans during a time of rapid climate change. From microbial oceanography to large-scale dynamics, Bigelow scientists study every aspect of our seas and make meaningful contributions to our environment.

Research this advanced and wide-ranging requires a state-of-the-art aquarium system to fully support it, and Bigelow trusted Tenji to design and build a flexible, customizable, open seawater solution that would set a new standard for aquatic studies.


  • Bigelow asked Tenji to find the most flexible solutions possible for their new research system. The range of their interests—fresh and saltwater, warm and coldwater—meant the system would need to be frequently reconfigured to replicate different experiment conditions, from temperature to light to acidity. Staff needed a robust system able to meet the needs of many different research priorities in a small footprint.
  • Bigelow’s breathtaking, Platinum level LEED buildings sit right on one of Maine’s most beautiful harbors—but well above it. The open seawater system needed to draw ocean water up a steep hill to reach the lab and, as an added challenge, the pumps needed to react to constantly changing tidal levels.
  • Discharging the oceanwater in the flow-through system would demand a sophisticated exotic species treatment system to prevent any foreign animals or organisms from entering Maine’s pristine waters.
  • And like all high-profile projects for nonprofit institutions of this caliber, the exhibit needed to be completed to the highest quality both on time and on budget.


Our experienced in-house design and engineering teams designed the Tenji proprietary Rapid Design Process (RDP) to solve problems, share our vision, save time and resources, and ensure successful outcomes—fast. No one can take a project from dream to reality as quickly without sacrificing quality as seamlessly as Tenji, and for this project in particular, the time and cost savings were significant.

Our aquatic engineers developed cutting edge and custom ideas into practical solutions.   Tenji’s in-house draftsman turned these concepts into detailed drawings, schematics, and fully realized 3D models within months. Once they were approved, each element was pre-constructed offsite by our team of fabricators and builders before being brought to Bigelow to be completed and installed. We also developed easy to understand usage and maintenance documentation to support research teams.

Tenji designed and built:

  • unique innovations, like a modular algae culture lab. Scientists can quickly access tubes of various algae cultures, from green to red to brown, and inoculate them into pasteurized seawater.
  • light control options, from windows in tanks to custom canvas covers that can be carefully calibrated to the perfect level of incoming light.
  • an oceanwater pumping solution that draws water up from the ocean to a midway waystation before continuing the remaining distance to the lab. This system features a dock-based pump capable of adjusting to varying water height, as well as an exotic species treatment protocol to chlorinate, ozonate, and neutralize all water discharged back into the bay.
  • The LSS features tanks, biofilters, mechanical filters, UV sterilizers, and other components carefully constructed using corrosion-resistant plastics and stainless steel. The equipment can be configured into an almost limitless variety of functional spaces that always feel clean, well designed, and welcoming for humans and animals alike.
  • energy savings into every aspect of the system’s construction, reflecting Bigelow’s core commitment to environmental sustainability.

The knowledge and technology cultivated in our cutting-edge research aquarium system demonstrates the power of tenji to find clarity in complexity. The Tenji team is proud to create a work environment that helps Bigelow Laboratory preserve our own environment—and the wonders of the ocean.