commonpleco Aquarium fish survives seven months alone in vacant houseAn aquarium fish has survived seven months in a fish tank without being fed or cared for, since its owner is in police custody after being accused of killing two Chilean students and wounding three others.

When employees from Contractor’s Choice and members of the Summer Lake Homeowners Association walked into the vacant town house at Miramar Beach, Florida, they discovered what appears to be a plecostomus.

The fish was apparently overlooked when lawmen removed the other pets – fish and birds – from the home after the arrest of the pet owner Dannie Baker. The fish went unnoticed for so long because Baker’s home was closed to the homeowners association after the arrest.

I was very upset because I thought the police had taken everything after Dannie’s arrest,” said Dianne Richmond, vice president of the homeowners association. “This poor fish has been in that boiling house with no air conditioning and nothing to eat for about seven months.”

The pleco was discovered by the fiancée of Contractor’s Choice owner, who noticed something moving in the tank and sprinkled some fish food in the water. This caused the pleco to swim out into the open to feed.

When the pleco was discovered, much of the water in its tank had evaporated and the remaining water had turned dark.

Josh Olis, an account manager at Contractor’s Choice, said he didn’t believe it when his boss told him a fish was still alive in the tank. After seeing it for himself, he and the owner refilled the tank with about 50 gallons of water. He said he will make sure the fish is fed for as long as the company is working in the home. The contractors have even given the fish a name – Theo.

I think we’re going to accept him into the cleaning family for now,” Olis said. “He’s been living in that tank for so long, surviving off algae. I have so much respect for him, I had to name him.”

The employees at Contractor’s Choice are now looking for a permanent home for Theo.

This poor fish has really worked for a new home,” Richmond said. “It’s a wonder he’s survived this.”

AC Comment

Although I certainly don’t recommend neglecting your plecos for seven months, I’m not very surprised that Theo was alive and kicking when they found him. Many of the catfish species commonly referred to as plecos are algae-eaters (especially when young), so if there was any light coming into the room, Theo probably had some food to eat since nobody was there scrubbing away the algae. It all comes down to how large the tank is; a big tank may generate enough algae to keep a pleco alive (albeit hungry and malnourished) for several months.

Also, the natural habitat of plecos is Central and South America, so living without air conditioning in Florida is probably not something that bothered Theo much, especially if the aquarium was placed in a location where it was sheltered from sunlight during the harshest hours of the day.

Evaporation on the other hand, that is a real threat. The build up of waste in the water was probably tolerated by Theo since the progress was slow and gradual, but eventually ending up with hardly any water due to evaporation would naturally have killed him.

Last but not least, a word of caution. Although the employees of Contractor’s Choice acted admirably and should be applauded for taking such an interested in an abandoned fish, giving Theo 50 gallons of new water was actually quite risky since such a rapid change of water quality (and probably also temperature) can be lethal to fish – especially if the tap water is also heavily chlorinated. (But this is naturally impossible to know unless you’re an aquarist so I don’t mean to sound condescending here.) If you find a neglected fish, the safest method is to gradually change water quality and temperature until conditions are ideal for that particular species.