This photograph of a tattooed fish went viral on social media. Facebook
Durban - Tattooed fish, which were seen at a Durban pet store, have caused a stir on social media.

Animal rights advocacy group Ban Animal Trading (BAT) said it was alerted to the incident by a resident last week. The fish was seen at Northlands Pets.

BAT’s Prathna Singh said they informed the SPCA about the fish.

“We were told the fish were dyed using food colouring. But we did our own research and found that in fact needles could have been used and the other ways of doing it are very cruel,” she said.

Artificial colouring of fish was a process of highlighting colourful fish or dyeing fish different colours than those occurring naturally, or even covering fish with symbols, and may be done using a variety of methods, Singh said.

“Almost all techniques are extremely painful and cause the fish immense stress. Artificial colouring results in high mortality rates due to the severe pain and stress, so much so that most inked fish are chosen based on their hardiness since so many fish die during the procedure,” she said.

Singh explained that fish were tattooed much like a human would be.

“Scales are scraped off and lasers are used or needles injected into the fish to administer the ink. Another method involves dumping the fish in acid to strip off their protective outer coating, and then transferring them into dye to stain them. Inking fish is not only extremely painful and causes many deaths, but increases the risk of infection and disease by removing the fish’s protective outer layer and by exposing them to potentially dirty needles,” she said.

According to one of the directors at Northlands Pets, the fish arrived at their store tattooed and the procedure had not been done at their store.

“The parrot fish which are tattooed are known as B-grade or rejected fish which are killed if not sold in the pet trade. It is rare that a supplier would offer a B-grade parrot fish and the pet trade started looking for alternative solutions rather than kill the fish.”

He said the process of tattooing was done on the fish’s scales and often the tattoo went away when the fish loses scales or grows new scales.

“People need to decide: is it cruel to tattoo a fish, sell it and you feed it in a tank for the rest of his life or rather kill it? Tattoo parrots are not illegal and people are over exaggerating,” he said.

The Mercury