Video: Half-blind fish gets fake eye to keep bullies at bay
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A one-eyed copper rockfish at the Vancouver Aquarium is now sporting a glass eye to prevent it from being bullied by other fish.
Dr. Lesanna Lahner of the Seattle Aquarium fitted the aging rockfish with a bright yellow taxidermy eye to help protect it from being “picked on” by other fish that viewed its empty eye socket as a sign of weakness.
“It’s doing well,” Lahner told Metro. “Since it’s had the prosthetic eye, it’s been out and about and acting more like a normal rock fish.”
Lahner, who has been fine-tuning the procedure for the past few years, lent her expertise to vets at the Vancouver Aquarium last month, performing the procedure on a one-eyed copper rockfish that had developed cataracts. An aging yellowtail rockfish that was on display at the airport also received a prosthetic eye.
It was the first time the procedure had been performed at the Vancouver Aquarium, she said.
During the surgery, the fish was put under anesthesia while vets popped the prosthetic into the socket and secured it to bone using fishing line and titanium clips.
For reasons not fully understood, captive rockfish are prone to eye disease.
Scientists are still trying to determine how to prevent the fish from developing the disease, but until that happens, Lahner said prosthetic eyes prevent the animals from being attacked by other fish.
Rockfish can live for more than a century so quality of life is important for the fish, she said.
Dr. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium, said the procedure offers both cosmetic and animal welfare benefits to the fish.
“The reason we do this is we do find that when fish are blind from one eye and there’s no visible eye, other fish kind of recognize that and they’ll actually attack from that side,” he said in a video posted on the aquarium’s website.
Before the rockfish received its prosthetic, Lahner said the animal was “hiding at the bottom” of the tank trying to avoid its tank mates. Now that it has a new eye, however, Lahner said the fish appears to be much happier.
“It’s a little bit of a confidence booster,” she said.