One of the highlights of visiting uShaka Marine World is watching Deon and Stanley, the biggest fish in the aquarium, swimming amongst the sharks in the large shark exhibit. Deon and Stanley are both brindle bass, also known as giant groupers, the largest members of the rock cod family, and weigh in at about 200kg.
They have been part of the aquarium family since 2005. Over the last few weeks Deon has not been interested in his food, something that we have experienced in the past, but this time he continued to lose condition. Out of concern for his general health and well-being our aquarists and veterinarians devised a treatment plan.
There is nothing straightforward about treating such a large fish, especially one residing in a shark exhibit, but the team administered vitamins and antibiotics hoping he would bounce back to his usual self. When he continued ignoring his food (and we tried all sorts of options to entice him back to feeding) we decided that the best action would be to get him into our hospital for closer monitoring, and a revised treatment plan.
Moving a huge grouper is a giant task indeed, requiring divers, veterinarians, a full support team of aquarists, special transport, and the like. Since the day these two fish arrived at uShaka, we have never had cause to move either of them, so we had to devise new, bespoke plans and procedures.
Deon was moved into our hospital on Friday morning, and he has since been monitored around the clock. As the sedation needed for the move tired him out, the team devised a very innovative, in-water stretcher, in which he rests while we supply him with additional oxygen and monitor his breathing rate.
He has swum around his hospital tank a few times, but generally spends most of the time in his stretcher. We are keeping him on antibiotic treatment and vitamin supplements and we hope to see some improvement in his health over the next few days.
We do have to bear in mind that Deon could very well be at an advanced age, and that his loss in body condition and appetite are due to natural aging. For now, the team is keeping him as comfortable as possible, day and night.
uShaka Sea World’s Aquarium Curator, Dr Justin Hart said: “Deon is a legend of a fish, and our team is doing everything possible to make sure he is comfortable and has the best possible chance of recovery. It is an enormous undertaking, managing an ill fish of this size and age, and we are all hoping for a positive outcome.“
Stanley, who we believe is quite a bit younger than Deon, is doing well and does not seem to be too perturbed about not having his friend around, at the moment. We are all hoping that Deon will turn a corner very soon and join Stanley back in the aquarium.