Goldfish with custom-made 'wheelchair' gets back in the swim

Swim bladder disease makes it impossible for a fish to stay buoyant, but some ingenuity and a few aquarium supplies make for a fin-tastic solution.

A "wheelchair" made from aquarium supplies keeps the goldfish upright.

Taylor Dean

Wheelchair users will tell you it isn't always easy to get around in one on earth, so propelling one underwater would seem impossible. But a lucky little goldfish is doing just that.

Taylor Dean of San Antonio has a YouTube channel of educational animal videos, and last week, her friend Derek (he prefers his last name not be used) shared an ingenious invention with her. Derek, who works at San Antonio's Aquarium Designs, recently helped a goldfish who was suffering from swim bladder disease, a common ailment that prevents aquarium fish from staying right-side up.

The client could no longer care for the fish because of its condition, Dean says.

"Derek didn't want the goldfish to wither away, so he adopted him and built him the chair," she said.

Derek ran some plastic tubing around the fish's body and added some valves, weights and styrofoam, tinkering with the contraption until the fish was able to swim easily. It's not exactly what we humans would call a "wheelchair," but Aquaman would be proud.

Derek later adjusted the device to improve it further, Dean said.

"The fish doesn't have a name yet, but he's doing great," she said. "His wheelchair has been upgraded and Derek added some mesh to it, this way the wheelchair doesn't rub on the fish."

While the device seems novel to many, Dean says it's not unheard of for fish to get back in the swim with some human help.

"This isn't the first time I've seen a do-it yourself fix for injured fish," she said. "I've been working with fish for quite some time and there's all sorts of cute ideas we come up with to help the ones that are injured. Mostly they are just modifications to the tank, though. It's pretty rare that we get to make devices for a fish to use to swim around in like this."

The internet was predictably goldfish-bowled over, and Dean says she'll be adding a video about the fish and its "chair" to her YouTube channel on Sunday.

"The response has been all-over positive, I don't think I've seen a negative comment yet," Dean said. "That's the great thing about animals: they can unite us all and bring us all together. No matter who you are, a cute animal story brightens everyone's day."

Some are interested in trying Derek's method on their own finny friends.

"People have reached out to us wanting their own 'wheelchair' for their fish," Dean said. "But I've been urging them to try methods to cure the problem first ... since the wheelchair is a last resort."

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