Fish go to college

May 18, 2012, 07:24 IST | Hemal Ashar

A mammoth fish exhibition to be held at Matunga's Ruia College, aims to foster a love for fish and encourage people to keep these creatures as pets at home

Matunga, that predominant South Indian hub in Mumbai is the epicenter for all things Southern — like fluffy idlis that remind you of soft, cotton clouds, crisp dosai tempting you to pick them up from the waiter’s plate and chuck around like a frisbee , the aroma of sambar that suffuses the area and a dash of fiery malgapudi, so evocatively called ‘gunpowder’. So, where does fish fit in here? Not on your plate, but, in bowls and tanks. The Ruia College in Matunga is all set to host an exhibition called, AquaLife 2012, where 200 species of fish will be on display at the College premises from May 24 to May 28.

Clown Fish 

The AquaLife 2012 is to be held over a 16,000 sq-feet space in the College quadrangle, where the venue would house approximately 120 tanks. The exhibition is open to the public with an entry fee of Rs 40 per person. Organizer Laukik Soman, who is based in Pune and is bringing the exhibition to Mumbai says, “I was scouting around for a place in Dadar, I could not find a venue. Finally, I approached the College, which graciously gave me the premises.”

Enterprising: Laukik Soman says it is time to bring the fish home and keep them as pets as it can be a rewarding experience   

The event has been held earlier in Pune, at the Ganesh Kala Krida Hall on December 22, 2011 and May 3 this year at the Nashik Kalidas Kala Mandir. “I want Mumbaikars to experience the wonders of marine life,” says Soman. The aim of the exhibition is, “To inculcate a love and understanding of these creatures in people. Those who visit the exhibition must go back with a feeling that they need to have a fish in their home. Having a fish as a pet transforms people’s lives in a certain way. With a pet, one becomes less focused on oneself, as you now have someone else to care for. It can certainly change your outlook in profound and very happy ways,” says Soman who has several species of fish in his home at Pune.

Koi Angel

The organizers claim that the response in both Pune and Nashik was “tremendous”. Tangibly, that ‘tremendous’ translates to: in Pune there were approximately 25,000 visitors and in Nashik approximately 15,000 came in to view the exhibition. Soman claims the timing is apt as, “School and college vacation time gives people the opportunity to visit the exhibition and learn about fish at leisure.” The fish is being in by fish lovers who keep and collect fish as a hobby. Most of them are from Mumbai. Besides them, and there are others who deal in pet fish commercially, like selling aquarium tanks and related paraphernalia, who will also be bringing in the fish from their shops for display. “Though the exhibition begins on May 24, preparations start by May 21, with a mandap (closed enclosure) being built at the venue, tanks and other accessories coming in,” says Soman.

Fighter Fish

While some of this may sound like gobbledygook to non-fish followers, those in the know may identify some of the species on display which would include the Red Chili Arvana, RTG Arvana, Silver Arvana, Flowerhorn, Aligator Gar, African Cichlid, Diamond Angel, Platinum Angel, Gold Fish and the Angel Fish. The Clown Fish may bring a smile to the faces of visitors while the Lion Fish is sure to earn something like a roar of approval. Arvana, is an endangered species found in the Amazon, says the organizers and needs a certificate declaring it to be bred in captivity. The exhibition will put up certain birth certificates of the fish on the display. The Feng Sui or Flower Horn fish too, draws a lot of curious crowds, say organizers. Only 20 per cent of the Flower Horn fish grow a head and that leads to terming it a rare species. Fish folklore says, ‘the bigger the head, the more the prosperity it brings to the owner’. The fish range from those that may cost as less as Rs 20 to the swish fish in the bracket of Rs 4 lakh. Though the fish form the focal point of the exhibition, the organizers says they will disseminate information on, “Species of various herbs and flora besides how to display tanks and even landscaped aquariums.” Since the goal is to foster a love for fish and actually encourage people to keep fish as pets in their homes, the exhibition would also focus on home aquariums and their maintenance.

Giant Gurami

Oranda Goldfish

Diamond Angel

Says Dr Suhas Pednekar, principal, Ruia College, “Since the College is closed for vacation, not everybody would be able to witness the exhibition. Yet, I am hoping it would draw in students not just from our college but other colleges too. It is hugely educative not only for youngsters but teachers too, as it is a chance for us to see marine life, live. We teach from books, but, here is an opportunity for both students and teachers to learn from real life.” The sheer scale of the task seems daunting—120 fish tanks, 200 species and the crowds that are expected in that 16,000 sq feet of space, make this a formidable venture. It began Soman says, “When, I, along with other fish lovers started communicating on the social media network, and decided to bring what I hope is an eye opener about fish to experts and ordinary people,” says Soman, who, knows it is going to be a whirl from May 21 onwards. A lesser lover of fish may seem fazed by the enormity of the effort, but Soman knows, where there’s a gill, there’s a way.

At a glance
>> Aqualife 2012 exhibition on fish to be held at Ruia College, Matunga
>> From May 24 to May 28
>> Timings: 10 am to 10 pm
>> Entry: Open to Public
>> Fee: Rs 40 per person
>> Numbers: 120 tanks, 200 species, 16,000 sq feet of space

Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo is a 2003 American computer-animated, comedy-drama film written and directed by Andrew Stanton, produced by Pixar Animation Studios, and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It tells the story of the overly protective clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) who, along with a regal tang called Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), searches for his abducted son Nemo (Alexander Gould). Along the way, Marlin learns to take risks and to let Nemo take care of himself. The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It was the second highest-grossing film of 2003, behind The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, earning a total of $868 million worldwide. Finding Nemo is also the best-selling DVD of all time, with over 40 million copies sold as of 2006. It is also the fifth highest-grossing animated film of all time and the 27th highest-grossing film of all time. In 2008, the American Film Institute named it the 10th greatest animated film ever made during their Top 10.

The film's prominent use of clownfish prompted mass purchase of the animal as pets in the United States, even though the movie portrayed the use of fish as pets negatively and suggested that saltwater aquariums are notably tricky and expensive to maintain. The demand for clownfish was supplied by large-scale harvesting of tropical fish in regions like Vanuatu. The reaction to the film by the general public had led to environmental devastation for the clownfish and had provoked an outcry from several environmental protection agencies, including Marine Aquarium Council, Australia. Apparently, the demand for tropical fish skyrocketed after the film's release. This caused reef species decimation in Vanuatu and many other reef areas.  

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