Salmon at the Arboretum





Bringing Salmon to the Virtual Classroom

A "Salmon in the Classroom" program partnership between

Yakima Area Arboretum (YAA),

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), &

Yakima Basin Environmental Education Program (YBEEP)

We are hosting these chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in a year where many classrooms will not be partaking in the very popular “Salmon in the Classroom” curriculum due to staffing and time constraints. We will be supporting our local schools in a time when traditional field trips and unique learning opportunities are not available due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. We will be posting updates on the chinook salmon eggs/young in the form of written observations, pictures, videos, and more on this page. As the weeks go on, we will also be creating and sharing different lessons and learning opportunities below that talk and teach about salmon and their development, which can be used for free in any classrooms by any students in any setting.


Schools, classrooms, and youth groups can also request “virtual fieldtrips” to view and see eggs/salmon live and to be able to talk with Arboretum staff and volunteers working on the project over Zoom. Requests for specific curriculum or information is also encouraged to be able to meet the needs of our local students and families. Please contact Education and Outreach Coordinator Garrett Brenden for more information.

Continue Below for Observations, Lessons, Information, and More!

Salmon Tank Observations & Reports

General Information for the Salmon Aquarium

Start Date: January 5, 2021

Salmon Species: Chinook/King (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Number of Eggs/Salmon: 212 eggs to start (1/5), currently at 201 alevin (2/9)

Aquarium Size: 55 Gallons

Aquarium Temperature: 45F - 52F (7C to 11C)

  • January 5th, 2021- Approximately 200 chinook salmon eggs (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) were delivered to the Arboretum.
  • The eggs came with black spots and a dull white line toward the outside of the egg. The spots were the developing eyes of the baby salmon and the white line was the spine forming for the fish.
  • Of the eggs received, two (2) dead eggs were removed immediately (right photo), all other eggs looked healthy and many were even wiggling around to get settled. The dead eggs were orange and not as see-through as the pink, live eggs. Most tanks lose a few eggs in the first few weeks so everything is still in order for now.
  • January 6th & 7th, 2021- Nothing new to report, the eggs look healthy.
  • January 8th, 2021- One (1) dead/unfertilized egg was removed, the rest looked healthy and happy.
  • January 9th & 10th, 2021- Nothing new to report, the eggs look healthy.
  • January 11th, 2021- Another one (1) dead/unfertilized egg was removed after the weekend, the rest looked ok.
  • January 12th through 14th, 2021- Nothing new to report, the eggs look healthy.
  • January 15th, 2021- One (1) egg was removed due to a bacterial infection, the rest looked alright (top left and right photos). Most tanks lose a few eggs and young in the first few weeks so everything is still in order for now.
  • It was important to remove this egg as soon as possible to keep the infection from spreading to other eggs. We do not know exactly how it became infected, but it might've been scratched at some point or it might not have been born with a strong immune system to fight off the bacteria.
  • When we removed the egg, we decided to look at the young up close to see what we could find!
  • The egg had a white substance coming from the egg near the head of the salmon, and unfortunately the developing salmon was not alive anymore (top left and right photos).
  • We pulled the egg from the tank and placed it on a slide to view it under the microscope (middle left photo). We then carefully removed the dead salmon and it's yolk from the egg case (middle right photo). Notice the black dots, those are their eyes, and the white strip coming from the head is their developing spine. Also, it was interesting to look at the egg case. The egg case was stiff and leathery, while still being soft and bendable.
  • While our microscope was not able to pick up many details that we could speak to, we were able to get a close up of the eye (bottom left photo) and some of the yolk fluid (bottom right photo). You can see the eye with the lens forming (white spot). For the yolk, you can see the orange circles of lipids (fats/oils) that make up the nutritious yolk sac that feed the young salmon as they develop.
  • January 18th, 2021- One (1) dead/unfertilized egg was removed, the rest looked well.
  • January 19th, 20th & 21st, 2021- Nothing new to report, the eggs look healthy.
  • January 22nd, 2021- During our daily check, we removed one (1) dead/unfertilized egg, while the rest looked healthy and happy.
  • We then noticed an empty egg case and wondered where it came from. After almost 3 weeks of incubation here at the Arboretum, we have our first two (2) chinook egg hatches!
  • The salmon are called 'Alevin' at this stage and still have their large yolk sacs attached to their bellies. They will absorb their yolk sacs over the next few weeks as they continue to develop and grow since they are too small at this time to start eating. These two will be even more wiggly and will start to maneuver through the gravel, and over the next week or two be joined by their 200+ brothers and sisters!
  • January 23rd through February 2nd, 2021- Eggs have been hatching and more and more alevin are wiggling around.
  • February 3rd, 2021- All alevin that would hatch have hatched. 1 dead egg was removed.

Salmon Lessons and Discussion Topics


Big Plans for Small Eggs

A look at the salmon lifecycle from egg to kelt! This activity pairs nicely with Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group and YBEEP's Salmon Lifecycle video.


And More To Come!

Posters & Signage at the Salmon Tank

2021 SitC Forest Poster.png
Salmon ID.png
salmon cycle 8x12 _1_.jpg

External Links and More Information

Mid-Columbia Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group Salmon Videos Page

Franklin Conservation District Salmon in the Classroom Updates

Yakama Nation Fisheries Resources for Educators

Washington's State of Salmon 2020 Report

Seattle Aquarium Salmon Resources

Making an Impact for an Iconic Species

We will be working with WDFW and YBEEP, following their guidelines and timelines to ensure a successful first year with raising salmon. Here is a look at their general timeline.

These chinook salmon will be raised at the Arboretum until they are fry (young salmon) and will be released into the Yakima River in late May/early June so they may swim downstream to make it out to the ocean to grow up and eventually return to the Yakima River to spawn and continue the salmon cycle.

The aim of the program isn't just raising fish to help their species recover, it also raises awareness about fish, water quality, habitat, and so much more!

Thank You for Your Support

A huge, tail-swishing, dam jumping thank you to our partner organizations and our Arboretum supporters that made this all happen!

Yakima Basin Environmental Education Program (YBEEP)

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)

SeedMoney Garden Grants

Bruce Whitmore

Bonnie Hughes and Patrick Feller

Pete and Becky Nissen

Ron Sell

Kat Strathmann and Tom Elliott

Shane Smith and Sandy Tobin