THIMBLE-SIZED FISH TURN IN TO MELON-SHAPED MONSTERS

A trio of thimble-sized fish which arrived at Bristol Aquarium have ballooned to the size of melons in less than a year.

The tiny lumpsucker fish were donated to the Harbourside wildlife attraction by their sister Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay, Cornwall.

Lumpsuckers have been described as one of the marine world’s least graceful fish and they certainly look strange with their scaleless blue-green skin and deep bodies covered with bony lumps.

Bristol Aquarium’s David Waines said: “Lumpsuckers get their name from specially adapted pelvic fins on their bellies which form a suction cup which allows them to anchor on to rocks.

“This particular trio have been popular with visitors, however we have had some people asking why we’ve replaced the cute little fish with these giant balloon-like ones.

“At first they don’t believe they are the same species, and when you look at them it is incredible to think how quickly they have grown. They have probably increased in size tenfold in under a year.

“However from our point of view the fact they have now reached maturity, and we have a male and two females, is great news as we hope to set up a breeding programme for the species here,” he added.

Found from Northern Europe and Greenland to Maryland in the United States, lumpsuckers are also known as ‘sea hens’ and spend most of their time in deep water.

As the males mature they change colour from light green to a dark brown or even red.

In the spring, they come into the shallows to spawn. While the female returns to deeper waters, the male remains and protects the clump of up to 200,000 eggs from predators until they hatch.

Eighteenth century scientists, keen to find out whether the lump sucker really lived up to its name, noted that a bucket full of water could be lifted by the tail of a full grown fish clinging to its base.

Issued by Bristol Aquarium. For more information and to arrange interviews and picture/filming opportunities please contact David Waines or Tina Patel on 0117 934 0944.