Trying to choose a favourite fish when working in the aquarium is a bit like choosing between your children or pets. You don’t want to admit you’ve thought about it, but in reality, you’ve definitely got a favourite.
Although I’ve been working here for a while, my favourite fish changes constantly. I love the octopi (octopuses?) we have because they’re so interesting to watch and have wonderful personalities. I will always be fascinated by the way they wriggle their snake-like tentacles around the tank, searching for any leftovers of the crab lunch they eviscerated just minutes before. We can learn so much about these alien creatures, it’s hard to summarise in a blog post.
I will always have a soft spot for sharks though. The greatly misunderstood fish of the sea.
They have been evolving on this planet for 450 million years… to put that into perspective, the trees we know and love today started evolving 360 million years ago and the oldest human fossil record is just 195,000 years old. We think humans are the top of the planet pecking order but we have nothing on the amazingly diverse sharks around today. Just think of how much we can learn about what it means to be the top predator in the world’s oceans (besides the Orca but I’m going to ignore them because I’m scared of them).
However, my absolute favourite fish in the aquarium and the world is definitely…*drum roll*…The Humphead Wrasse! They have a few different names: Humphead Wrasse, Māori wrasse, Napoleon wrasse and Napoleon Fish but all of these names mean the same thing: ‘Gosh. Darn. Awesome’. The Humphead Wrasse is my favourite because it has so much going for it. They can grow to a massive 2 metres in length and an impressive 190kg in weight, making them one of the biggest reef fish on the planet. They live for a long time too, reaching maturity at 6-7 years old and reportedly living beyond 30 years.
Sadly though, their massive size, late maturity and predictable spawning sites make them easy pickings for unmanaged fisheries, so their numbers are declining fast. These animals are really special and it would be a massive shame for them to be lost as a species in our lifetimes.
It’s not all sad though, the final reason why these fish are so fab is that they learn to like humans. Humphead Wrasse have been known to form friendships with individual divers and actually seek out tactile interactions which is really unusual for fish. I think the main thing we can learn from these gentle giants is that kindness will always be the best way. These beautiful fish can exhibit intelligence and curiosity and love getting belly rubs, we just need to give them the chance to survive.
There are many fish in the sea and finding the right one for you can be a challenge for the best of us. It doesn’t help that many fish get a bad reputation for being stupid or dangerous or yummy, but hang in there and I’m sure you’ll bump into your favourite one day.