To all the people who have seen Finding Dory,
A lot of people love animals, but I like to think of myself as a rare breed. I love dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, lizards, birds - the list goes on. But what most people consider most unique about me is not my love of animals in general. What people consider most interesting about me (or weird, depending on who you ask), is my love for the little creatures you only just became aware of again. The creatures we often gawk at in aquariums. The creatures we kill with little thought, and flush them down the toilet after a few short weeks.
I adore fish.
Yes, you read that right. The creatures you cannot cuddle at night. The creatures you cannot go on long walks with. The creature you cannot speak to, or train, or have any deep meaningful interaction with. But you forget: they're still creatures. They're still animals. Virtually everyone has owned a pet fish at some point, and odds are, they don't consider them very memorable. They only lived for a few days. They sat at the bottom of the tank or bowl. They fought and killed each other. I want you to know I was a fish cheerleader before Finding Nemo or Finding Dory. I have always loved fish, well before the release of Finding Nemo.
I have always had a fish tank since I was three years old. The "Finding" series was just a means of fueling my obsession, not potentially introducing me to it. My dad bought a 40 gallon fish tank from a friend and put it in our living room. I became captivated by the little animals which required water to live. I was sad I couldn't learn more about them (the internet wasn't big yet), and I was even sadder I couldn't see underneath the ocean because I loved these little creatures so damn much. Even though I had a pet cat and volunteered with dogs when I was older, my fish fanaticism continued.
I was dismayed to find out that people wanted to buy a "Dory" and a "Nemo" after the release of Finding Nemo as a kid, before the days when the internet was popular. Me and dad always tried to get small, freshwater fish; why did they want Marlin? You may very well know by now to not buy a Dory. From a fish nerd perspective, Dory needs 150 gallons of water
and an experienced fish keeper to even keep her alive and all specimens for sale are wild caught, which ruins the environment and coral reefs. Dory might not get along
with other fish and the species tends to be extremely skittish, and thus will
become stressed out easily. Clownfish aren't doing much better, and are nearing becoming endangered. Clownfish can actually be extremely
aggressive because they are considered damselfish, and if you get two
Clownfish of the same sex, one of them is going to change sex so they
You know by now, that these fish in this movie have some serious requirements as pets, and they aren't easy. But all of these crazy requirements are only for these exotic saltwater fish, right? After all, they're so exotic, and from all areas of the ocean!
I have fish tanks. More specifically, I have three fish tanks, all of which are freshwater. Yes, three. I have one ten gallon tank with a betta, a 90 gallon tank, and a hospital tank, specifically for new fish or sick fish. But nobody ever told you about Dory's cousins, the freshwater fish, like the fish you won at a carnival and it suddenly died after a few days.
This is my fish. I bought him at a pet store when he was less than an inch long. He's shown here a few months after I got him. Cute, right? He's so tiny. How big could he get? Here's what the guy selling him to me had to say: This fish will only grow to 4 inches long, is community friendly, and will only live about five years.
Except, that's not true.
The reality is, this fish is a Featherfin catfish. He will grow to 8 inches long and will be several inches wide, he is extremely aggressive to other fish, and he will live past 20 years of age. No, that is not a typo: This species has been known to live up to 25 years in captivity. That is longer than most, if not all, breeds of dogs and cats. But that isn't all: He requires a special diet, his behavior is often unpredictable, he doesn't have scales and can be burned by the heater, and he requires special dosing if he ever gets medication (yes, there are fish medicines). In addition, he has knife-like pectoral fins and is capable of stabbing me, and he has even been known to bite other fish and make them bleed (he has teeth), or he kills them if they give him trouble. I am using my Featherfin catfish as the poster child for the little fish you see in the pet store. Sure, they aren't a saltwater fish or a Blue Hippo Tang, but who knows what they can become or how big they can get. This is him now, not yet fully grown:
Many of the fish that were in the tank with him when I bought him are probably long dead due to inadequate care. I got this fish about three years ago, and he has tripled in size. The point is, regardless if the fish is Dory or not, please do your research when buying any fish. Google the type of fish you want to buy. Ask people on a forum - fish forums are a real thing. If a fish is kept in a tank that's too small, such as a betta or goldfish bowl, their gills get burned and they quite literally drown in their own fecal matter. They die a long death of ammonia poisoning. Their growth gets stunted. In other words, all things that you wouldn't want to happen to any living creature (like goldfish) - even ones you think aren't all that smart.
Featherfins are by no means a special case. Featherfins are actually fairly popular. An even more popular aquarium fish, the endangered Bala shark, grows up to 14 inches and has been known to crack tanks because of ramming into them by accident. Kissing gouramis, another popular fish, grows up to 12 inches, and are only kissing because they're fighting. The point is, many popular fish are also the most ill-suited ones for inexperienced people. Before you buy a goldfish, please learn they need a fairly large tank and need to be in cold water, and can live 20 years or more. Before you buy a betta, please learn they need a heater, a filter, and anything bigger than a bowl. Fish need a tank, decent food, a filter, a heater, water changes, and water conditioner to be healthy.
Before you just pick any old fish, please know what they need. Before you buy any fish, please, Google them. Learn about them. It's much less depressing to have one fish for 3 years, than 12 fish in 3 years. No less, nobody likes to know they killed an animal - most people feel guilty. If Finding Dory taught you anything, it should be to respect all life - even the ones not featured in cute Disney movies, and to be a responsible pet owner.
That little fish in the pet store tank very well may be like a Featherfin catfish, and you will only know if you research it first. Some good beginner fish include small tetras, platies, swordtails, and mollies, which have a much shorter lifespan of about five years. Please, take care of them, whether they're tetras or a Featherfin or a Blue Hippo Tang. You might not be buying Dory, but you still have an obligation to care for any fish properly. They're aquatic, and can't communicate with us, but they're still animals - just like Dory, and just like your cat or dog.
They may be all sorts of things, but they're not disposable.