Nemo may have faked his death to escape the clutches of an overzealous new owner in "Finding Nemo," but Seascape Studio owner Joe Faszl said the release of the movie nearly 10 years ago inadvertently triggered the real death of thousands of clownfish.
The movie's popularity caused sales for the fish to surge, but Faszl says a lack of knowledge about proper care quickly killed of many of these new pets. Some died from being dropped into freshwater bowls, or because levels in saltwater tanks weren’t yet ready to support life.
Now that Disney has resurrected the film in 3D, Faszl expects another boom in clownfish demand—and said he’s already seen an increase in sales over the past week. (“Finding Nemo 3D” hit theaters Sept. 14.) Faszl and his employees are taking a “proactive” approach in assisting customers with creating the right home for their new sea creatures—and will be discussing some tips for proper clownfish care Thursday afternoon on “Show Me St. Louis.”
Catch the show at 12:30 p.m., or check Patch next week for a link to Seascape Studio's YouTube channel.
Looking to buy a clownfish or other sea creature?
Faszl believes fish tanks, particularly saltwater tanks, act as a science project for kids. He said growing up with fish helped his two children excel in the sciences.
“They don’t’ see a fish tank, they see an ecosystem,” he said.
Initial set-up takes some time, which many clownfish owners 10 years ago didn’t necessarily know at purchase. Faszl’s store will outfit new owners with a pamphlet on the basics of fish care and spend some time ensuring they’ve created the right environment for their new pet.
Owners of new tanks can expect to spend anywhere from a week to 10 days waiting for water levels to stabilize before they can add snails or fish. Seascape Studio asks customers to bring in water samples during this period to ensure they’re not introducing life into the tank too soon.
When the water’s ready, “You set up the ecosystem and walk away,” Faszl said.
While the initial cost of a saltwater aquarium is more expensive than freshwater models—a small aquarium, or “fishbowl on steroids,” goes for upwards of $300—Faszl said a well-planned variety of marine animals and plants can keep daily maintenance to a minimum. Live rocks host bacteria that clean the water; shrimp and other cleaner fish help sanitize the sand, or remove parasites from other fish.
Faszl recommends new clownfish owners buy the fish in couples.
“Clownfish like two things. Each other, they pair up,” he said, “The other thing they like are anemones.”
The store expects to have 30-50 clownfish on hand at any time, which is made possible by local breeders. This week Faszl’s longtime pair of clownfish is watching over a new batch of eggs, which will be collected and hatched by a breeder. A single batch can yield up to a couple hundred fish.
Many of the species found in Seascape Studio are cultivated either in the store or by his customers, which Faszl feels is an eco-friendly way to do business. He trades store credit for fish that have outgrown owner’s tanks, or fragments of coral and plants, which he can then re-sell.
“People are gonna have fish tanks no matter what,” Faszl explained. By encouraging customers to bring in their 'extras,' it allows the store to sell a variety of marine plants without having to commission too many fresh from the ocean.
Faszl recommends clownfish and Blue Tang, or "Dory" fish, to advanced hobbyists. Blue Tang actually get much larger than depicted in "Finding Nemo," Faszl said, and require roomier tanks.