Fish are perhaps one of the most delicate animals used in film production. They are one of the few animals so affected by stress that they can perish. Some examples of stress put on fish and aquatic invertebrates are handling, water conditions, containment, and aeration.
The use of professional handlers for all fish and aquatic species is strongly encouraged. Caring for fish, even for a short amount of time, requires specialized equipment, knowledge about water chemistry, and awareness of the particular species' needs. Assigning the props or art department to buy fish from a pet store frequently results in death. It is a common misconception that goldfish live short lives. Usually, their death is a result of improper care. Hiring a professional handler greatly reduces the risk of unnecessary suffering and helps ensure that fish used on-camera are healthy.
It is a myth or wishful thinking that fish do not feel pain or stress. Studies confirm that fish feel pain. Fish stress is usually caused by improper environment provided by those in charge of their care. Signs of acute stress are gasping for breath at the surface or lying at the bottom of the tank. Most likely, the water has been poisoned and needs to be addressed immediately.
If you do not hire a professional handler, it is production’s responsibility to meet the needs of fish. All fish are not the same and all circumstances are not the same. To keep fish healthy, research their needs or seek out the advice of an expert.
It is most important that we remember fish are not “just fish” they are living, breathing creatures. MAP believes that every animal actor deserves humane treatment, even the ones inside an aquarium.