The success of the 2003 Disney-Pixar movie Finding Nemo, which featured an orange clownfish father looking for his kidnapped son, brought about a tragic irony.
Instead of grasping the film's true meaning, the demand for orange clownfish as pets increased, and as a result, it threatened the species' population.
Now, the movie franchise has just released its sequel Finding Dory, and experts are worried that history will repeat itself, even 13 years later.
"Dark And Dangerous"
Marine biologists Rene Umberger and Craig Downs say they are concerned that the new film could also boost demand for royal blue tang fish — the species of the sequel's main character Dory, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres.
Umberger and Downs, who are part of a team of scientists from the Center for Biological Diversity in the United States, warn that this demand could further devastate and deplete the species' wild population.
Nicholas Whipps, who is also part of the team, says the business has a "dark and dangerous" side that destroys coral reefs and harms tropical fish populations.
This makes the case for saving the blue tang fish's population extremely urgent.
Earlier in 2016, marine groups have petitioned President Barack Obama to stop the illegal import of tropical aquarium fish that are caught overseas through cyanide fishing.
Why You Should Not Buy A Royal Blue Tang Fish Like Dory
Unlike the orange clownfish that could be bred in captivity, Dory's species can only breed in the wild.
Scientists say they have failed to successfully produce a method of breeding blue tang fish in aquariums, despite more than a decade of trying. Indeed, in reality, only about 15 percent of about 2,000 aquarium fish species grow in captivity. Only a few number of these species are available commercially. The rest of the species are taken from the wild.
New research suggests that a majority of fish species caught in the wild, such as the blue tang fish, are exposed to cyanide poisoning.
Umberger and Downs' team say 50 percent of wild-caught aquarium fish were detected with different levels of cyanide. Add that to incidents in which more people are asking about unexplained tropical fish deaths and diseases on online forums.
High concentrations of cyanide can result to organ failure in fish and past studies have linked the presence of cyanide to "Sudden Death Syndrome," where fish die spontaneously. Unfortunately, researchers say cyanide also kills nearby non-target fish, invertebrates and coral reefs.
Taking care of a blue tang fish is expensive, and it is not for the faint-hearted as the fish can be a "beast."
According to a report from Philly.com, blue tang fish can get "more aggressive" compared to the gentle clownfish.
TerraReef Aquariums owner Jon Gordon says it's not that the blue tang fish could become as scary as a shark, but that it has a tendency to assert its dominance, especially to another fish of its kind.
"I wouldn't keep two (blue tangs) together," says Gordon.
He says the fish posture a lot to prove which is dominant, and it typically doesn't end well.
For instance, the blue tang fish stab each other with lethal, razor-shape spines located at the base of their tails. These sharp spines are the reason the species are part of a group called surgeonfish.
The spines can also get caught in nets, or even cut a person's hand open, Gordon says.
Additionally, purchasing a real-life Dory can cost $60, $100, $200, or $250, and that's just for the fish itself.
Furthermore, blue tang fish can grow almost a foot in just two years.
Gordon says the fish needs space to swim around, as well as aquarium conditions similar to the ones in the wild. This is comparable to a coral reef tank, which needs tons of fuel.
How much will it cost then? Gordon says the gear and equipment could amount to a whopping $3,000. A high-end tank could cost around $10,000, he says.
So, if you're prepared to shelve out that much money, then be my guest.
Photo: Teddy Hartanto | Flickr