Clownfish have life-saving surgery to remove huge growths

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A clownfish couple have had life-saving surgery to remove huge tumorous growths from their mouths that prevented them from eating.

The unusual procedure took surgeons in Brazil just 15 minutes per fish but cost around £700 ($990) for both patients.


The exotic clownfish cost £1,350 ($1,900) each, but developed the growths a year ago before the tumours ballooned in size over several months.

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A clownfish couple have had life-saving surgery to remove huge tumorous growths from their mouths that prevented them from eating

A clownfish couple have had life-saving surgery to remove huge tumorous growths from their mouths that prevented them from eating

Amphiprion Ocellaris clownfish are bred locally in saltwater tanks, and are a popular addition to aquariums for those who can afford them.

Performed at an exotic pets clinic in Sao Paulo last month, the surgery marked the first time vets in Brazil have carried out the delicate procedure.

Veterinary surgeon Alessandro Bijjeni said that handling his fragile subjects was ‘tricky’ and admitted he had ‘butterflies in his stomach’ during the surgery.

He said: ‘The owner reported the animals had developed an unidentified mass in the mouth about a year ago which had been gradually growing.

‘Initially, the pets fed well, but over time, they developed difficulty eating because of the obstruction.

‘The female begun consuming less and weighed approximately 10g (35oz) by the time she arrived at the clinic. She was affected in the upper portion of her jaw.

‘The male, which is naturally smaller, weighed around 3.1g (11oz). He had stopped feeding for one week and the mutation affected the lower part of his mouth.’ 

The unusual procedure took surgeons in Brazil just 15 minutes per fish but cost around £700 ($990) for both patients. Pictured is the tumour as it was removed from the mouth of one of the clownfish

Performed at an exotic pets clinic in Sao Paulo last month, the surgery marked the first time vets in Brazil have carried out the delicate procedure. Pictured is one of the clownfish after the surgery

Performed at an exotic pets clinic in Sao Paulo last month, the surgery marked the first time vets in Brazil have carried out the delicate procedure. Pictured is one of the clownfish after the surgery

Performed at an exotic pets clinic in Sao Paulo last month, the surgery marked the first time vets in Brazil have carried out the delicate procedure. Pictured is one of the clownfish after the surgery

The exotic clownfish cost £1,350 ($1,900) each, but developed the growths a year ago before the tumours ballooned in size over several months. Pictured are the clownfish after the unusual procedures

The exotic clownfish cost £1,350 ($1,900) each, but developed the growths a year ago before the tumours ballooned in size over several months. Pictured are the clownfish after the unusual procedures

The exotic clownfish cost £1,350 ($1,900) each, but developed the growths a year ago before the tumours ballooned in size over several months. Pictured are the clownfish after the unusual procedures

During the surgery, the fish – one male and one female – were put to sleep via a general anaesthetic injected into their gills.

While under, the animals received a continuous flow of water via a tube fed through the mouth and out of the gills to keep them oxygenated and hydrated. 

To tackle the abnormal formation, Mr Bijjeni said: ‘It was necessary to remove a portion of what is called “the margin of safety” which resulted in the loss of a piece of the lip from both fish.

‘This did not harm or damage the creature’s ability to function in its environment.’

During the surgery, fish were put to sleep via a general anaesthetic injected into their gills

During the surgery, fish were put to sleep via a general anaesthetic injected into their gills

While under, the animals received a continuous flow of water via a tube fed through the mouth and out of the gills to keep them oxygenated and hydrated

While under, the animals received a continuous flow of water via a tube fed through the mouth and out of the gills to keep them oxygenated and hydrated

During the surgery, fish were put to sleep via a general anaesthetic injected into their gills. While under, the animals received a continuous flow of water via a tube fed through the mouth and out of the gills to keep them oxygenated and hydrated

Amphiprion Ocellaris clownfish are bred locally in saltwater tanks, and are a popular addition to aquariums for those who can afford them. The life-threatening tumours were so big they stopped the fish from eating

Amphiprion Ocellaris clownfish are bred locally in saltwater tanks, and are a popular addition to aquariums for those who can afford them. The life-threatening tumours were so big they stopped the fish from eating

Amphiprion Ocellaris clownfish are bred locally in saltwater tanks, and are a popular addition to aquariums for those who can afford them. The life-threatening tumours were so big they stopped the fish from eating

The substance cut away from the clownfish has been sent to a lab for analysis and vets are still awaiting diagnostic results.

Mr Bijjeni said: ‘Our suspicion is that the growth is an Odontoma, a kind of tumour. It is a rare mutation in this country but not uncommon to the species.’

After the procedure the patients were placed in a small ‘tank hospital’ and kept under observation for two days to monitor their recovery. 

Mr Bijjeni said: ‘We kept our two internees with us for approximately 36 hours then they were discharged and taken home by their owner.’

The substance cut away from the clownfish has been sent to a lab for analysis and vets are still awaiting diagnostic results

The substance cut away from the clownfish has been sent to a lab for analysis and vets are still awaiting diagnostic results

The substance cut away from the clownfish has been sent to a lab for analysis and vets are still awaiting diagnostic results

To tackle the abnormal formation, surgeons said it was necessary to remove a portion of what is called 'the margin of safety' which resulted in the loss of a piece of the lip from both fish

To tackle the abnormal formation, surgeons said it was necessary to remove a portion of what is called 'the margin of safety' which resulted in the loss of a piece of the lip from both fish

To tackle the abnormal formation, surgeons said it was necessary to remove a portion of what is called ‘the margin of safety’ which resulted in the loss of a piece of the lip from both fish

Owner Luciano Tadashi reported his pets are now feeding well and looking healthy.

He said: ‘Some people will say spending this sort of money on these tiny creatures was exorbitant.

‘I totally disagree because I firmly believe that when you have animals like this, it’s your responsibility to look after them so the procedure was worth every [penny]. 

After the procedure the patients were placed in a small 'tank hospital' and kept under observation for two days to monitor their recovery

After the procedure the patients were placed in a small 'tank hospital' and kept under observation for two days to monitor their recovery

After the procedure the patients were placed in a small ‘tank hospital’ and kept under observation for two days to monitor their recovery

At the time of the 2003 release of Disney's Finding Nemo, demand for clownfish increased so much that experts warned the species was locally extinct in some regions of Southeast Asia and Thailand

At the time of the 2003 release of Disney's Finding Nemo, demand for clownfish increased so much that experts warned the species was locally extinct in some regions of Southeast Asia and Thailand

At the time of the 2003 release of Disney’s Finding Nemo, demand for clownfish increased so much that experts warned the species was locally extinct in some regions of Southeast Asia and Thailand





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