Gill - a very handsome fish

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A black, white and yellow fish

Moorish Idol fish. Image courtesy of Brocken Inaglory on Wikimedia.

The Moorish Idol (Zanclus cornutus) is a very handsome fish in my opinion. They elegantly glide through the water with their elongated dorsal fin trailing behind them. It’s believed this extended fin is to show off to potential partners about how attractive they are. If they have a short dorsal fin, which does happen as it lures some species of fish to nip at it, the fish will be seen as weaker than those with super long trailing fins, who were able to avoid being nibbled. 

In the film 'Finding Nemo', the character 'Gill' is a Moorish Idol. He has some pretty bad scarring, which he got from landing on dentist tools when he tried to escape one time. Fish do scar if they are damaged like that, though dentist tools are not usually found near fish tanks! The main causes of fish scarring are either through fighting or equipment like pumps or filtration systems in tanks. We keep all of our filtration away from the tanks the fish are in. If we have pumps in the tanks to create more water flow, all the pumps will have guards around the propellers. Fish are pretty smart when it comes to avoiding danger though, if there was an exposed pump they would avoid it. The noise and movement would be enough to irk them and put them off exploring it. We have had scarred fish in the past, this is typically from fighting that occurs amongst the same species. When fighting is observed the fish are promptly separated.

The Moorish Idol has a tubular snout, filled with long bristle like teeth, they poke their snouts into crevices to pick out small crustaceans for food, they also eat corals, sponges and tunicates whilst living amongst flat reefs in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Our Moorish Idol had to undergo an operation a few months ago as he had a tumour growing on his lip affecting his feeding. Though uncommon, tumours do happen in fish, if they’re not affecting them then it’s best not to operate, as operations come with risks, but in this case it was decided it was for the best.

Our vet came over and did the procedure, it was very short, only a couple of minutes. He was then put into a bucket filled with salt water and a small dose of aesthetic to send him to sleep, once motionless he was put on a table and his growth literally just chopped off. The vet applied a bonding agent to stop the bleeding, the fish started to stir and was placed into a quarantined tank. For the first few minutes he needed to be propped up against the glass, as he was very dozy. Then about 10 minutes later he was bumbling around! A big improvement was seen within a few hours and he was able to swim about quite happy. We kept him in quarantine for a few weeks to keep an eye on him - he fed well and now he’s back on display.

You can see him being released back into his tank in the video below. Come and visit our Moorish Idol, Clownfish and other fish from 'Finding Nemo' in the Aquarium, for free at World Museum.