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World's 1st clown fish aquarium opens in Taitung County

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The world's first clown fish aquarium opened in eastern Taiwan yesterday and will eventually exhibit nearly 1,500 clown fish from 18 species to the public, while protecting the endangered fish, a museum project planner said yesterday.

The small fish, with an orange and white-striped body, was made famous by the 2003 Hollywood blockbuster cartoon “Finding Nemo,” but its popularity since then has contributed to a depletion of the fish in its habitats worldwide.

The aquarium will allow the public to see many rare species of clown fish and learn about the progress in Taiwan's artificial fish breeding techniques, planner Ho Yuan-hsing said.

The 18 species to be showcased will consist of five native to Taiwan and 13 developed by scientists — including eight in foreign countries and five in Taiwan's research center, Ho said.

The Aquarium of Anemonefish, located in Taitung County, will also contain an ecological aquarium to showcase the lifecycle of clown fish, Ho added.

One of the many special and rare types of clown fish which the public will be able to see at the aquarium is the “skunk clown fish,” which has a long, straight white line on its back and comes from East Africa, Ho said.

Some other rare species are black in color, Ho said.

The aquarium is located in parts of the existing Aquatic Ecosystem Exhibition Museum operated by the Eastern Marine Biology Research Center in Chengkung township, Taitung County, said Ho, who is also an assistant researcher at the center.

Ho pointed out that the clown fish to be exhibited in the aquarium represents the achievements made in clown fish conservation by the research center, which started breeding the fish in 2001.

The research center's artificial breeding project is helpful in meeting the market's demand for the fish, while preventing the fish from going extinct in its natural habitats, Ho said. “By meeting market needs, we are helping to ease the crisis of clown fish species being endangered,” Ho said.

Due to the increasing number of artificially-bred clown fish, the fishing of clown fish is no longer seen in Taiwan's coastal areas because it is unnecessary, Ho said.

Also called Anemonefish, clown fish are a popular fish for people with private aquariums due to their cute looks and fascinating relationship with anemones, which keep most sea creatures away with toxic material in their tentacles.

Clown fish secrete a special mucus to protect themselves against the toxic materials of anemones, and at the same time are protected from predator fish by the stinging tentacles of anemones. They reward anemones by cleaning off their dead tissues and bringing back food for them. There are 28 species of clown fish recognized in the world, according to Ho.

Those that Taiwan do not have are species prohibited from export or those that exist in wartorn areas. Ho said the research center is still trying to legally collect the species it does not have to enrich Taiwan's aquarium contents and to artificially breed such species for conservation purposes.

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 World's 1st clown fish aquarium opens in Taitung County 
Researcher Ho Yuan-hsing at the world's first clown fish aquarium in eastern Taiwan, yesterday. The public will get to see many rare species of clown fish at the aquarium called Aquarium of Anemonefish. (CNA)

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