Summerland Aquarium's Manager, Chris Woolley with some of the wonderful clown fish.
Summerland Aquarium's Manager, Chris Woolley with some of the wonderful clown fish. Cathy Adams

Tears of a clown fish

CHRIS Woolley's family has sold aquarium fish for 40 years and he doesn't remember any other fish reaching celebrity status like the clown fish, better known as Nemo.

Nemo, the lead character in the 2003 animated children's film Finding Nemo, has sparked a huge demand for clown fish and the sea anemone it lives in, with both creatures being pilfered from reefs around the world to feed demand.

Sydney Aquarium Chief Executive Kevin Bush said the clown fish's popularity after the movie Finding Nemo was now threatening its survival in the wild.

But Mr Woolley said his shop, the Summerland Aquarium at Wollongbar, only stocked captive-bred clown fish, which were healthier than those taken from the ocean.

An amazing clown fish cluster

He said aquarium fish caught in the wild were gathered either by cyanide-bombing the reef, which stuns the fish so they float to the surface and are collected, or by netting.

“Fish caught this way usually only last 12 months in the tank,” Mr Woolley said.

“We only go with captive-bred fish, and clown fish are easy to breed. Clown fish need to live in saltwater so we sell complete saltwater tank set-ups costing $300, including a pair of clown fish.

“We only started keeping them regularly in the last year.”

It comes as no surprise that kids recognise Nemo as soon as they step into the aquarium.

Coffs Harbour-based Southern Cross University scientist Dr Anna Scott's successful captive breeding of anemones may help save that species.

Dr Scott said the number of anemones harvested from the ocean was increasing.

“Out of 1000 species of sea anemones, only 10 are known to provide a home for anemone fish like the clown fish, making them highly prized for the aquarium trade,” she said.



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