"Finding Nemo" in your home


Movie sparks wave of respect for fish as pets

A clown fish who stars in the new Disney film "Finding Nemo" has sparked a new pet craze.  

"Finding Nemo" might be the beginning of a sea change for the Rodney Dangerfield of pets. Like the comedian Dangerfield, fish get no respect, according to Bert Vescolani, the Shedd Aquarium’s vice president of collection and education. "Let’s face it, fish are many times seen as the expendable pets--if it doesn’t work out, you just go and get another one," he says. "Fish are cool."

"They may not be as sexy as a dolphin, but these are neat little animals," he says. "And what I love about this movie is, hopefully, it will give people a bigger appreciation for fish."

It’s not hard to believe if you have seen the Disney-Pixar computer-animated film with its dazzling visuals and interesting characters: Nemo, a clown fish; his father, Marlin; Crush, the green sea turtle surfer dude and Dory, the forgetful blue tang whose constant patter makes the movie.

Vescolani says he has heard the change in what the children visiting the Shedd are saying. "I hear them talking about clown fish and blue tangs. We wouldn’t have heard that before Nemo," he says.

And for the Living Sea Aquarium store in Park Ridge, the search for Nemo has meant sales.

"Forget the sharks, forget everything else," says owner Mike Sergey. "Everyone wants Nemo."

Some families do walk out with their own Nemo, Sergey says. But many wait--because a salt water fish is no small undertaking. You need at least a 55-gallon tank, along with the pumps, filters and paraphernalia, he says.

So, if you have never owned a salt water tank, the start-up costs for bringing home a Nemo or a Dory will range between $750 and $1,000. "We recommend that it is done as a family project," Sergey says. "Fish teach a certain amount of responsibility to children and they are beautiful to watch."

All good stuff for the image of fishes. But is there a down side to the Hollywoodization of the undersea world? Vescolani, who took his three children to the movie, says that, as a father, he had a problem with the opening scene--a bit scary for young children.

And as Mr. Shedd fish guy, he was scared by the film’s notion that a fish’s freedom is a toilet flush away. "A fish can’t get to the ocean through a water filtration plant," says Vescolani. "I hope parents make that clear to kids."


-- Susy Schultz


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