#37: Many People Ask - Do fish go to the doctor?

There's no questioning that the Giant Ocean Tank (GOT) is home to a lot of animals. Ever wonder what happens when one of them gets sick or injured? Is that why we have a nurse shark?

Enter the New England Aquarium's Animal Health Department (AHD) - also known as the 'Wet Vets'.

Yes, the Aquarium has an entire department dedicated to the health and well-being of all the creatures that call the New England Aquarium home. Comprised of veterinarians, medical technicians, interns, and volunteers, the AHD staff attend to any medical issue that crops up - from a tiny fish with a gas problem, to a 240 lb. shark with spine issues. The department is supported by a state-of-the-art medical facility that allows the vets to perform everything from radiographs (x-rays) to complex surgeries.

Here's a few pictures of the AHD facility:

AHD staff are always rolling up their sleeves (quite literally) and getting right into the thick of things - even to the point of making house calls into the GOT.

Every week, members of the veterinary staff meet with senior GOT staff in what's called 'rounds' to discuss and address any health issues regarding the inhabitants of the GOT.

Sometimes, as a result of rounds, we decide to do an animal extraction so the vets can get a closer look. This was recently the case with one of our green moray eels.

In the above video, Sherrie and I tease the eel out of its coral home and into a specially made eel catch bag.

Once out the tank the eel is carefully anesthetized (a great idea for both the eel's AND the humans' sake!) so the vets can obtain radiographs, blood samples and scan her insides with ultrasound.

Here's the ultrasound video:

Of course our wet vets wouldn't live up to their name without sometimes gearing up and going in. Here you can see Keiko, a Veterinary Fellow, and Deana, the AHD Lab Manager, getting a closer look at Retread's eyes to see if she should be pulled for a more detailed examination. Retread, one of our two loggerhead turtles, is a rescued turtle that had sustained damage to her eyesight when she was cold stunned and stranded off Cape Cod years ago.

It was determined that further examination wasn't necessary, so she could be left where she was. However the vets wanted a routine blood draw from her loggerhead friend, Carolina, so up she came - all 160 lbs. of her.

When restraining a large, powerful, and uncooperative turtle, some creative thought needs to be called for. Carolina is secured in a custom made sling and then suspended from a hoist. This prevents her powerful flippers from getting a purchase on anything.

Then there's our littlest turtle, Scute, a Kemp's ridley. She puts up no fuss at all as veterinarian Charlie conducts an untrasound examination.

As you can see, there's a small army of Aquarium medical staff digilently working toward maintaining the health of the Aquarium's aquatic residents, and they even make house calls.

So no, a sick fish definitely does not visit our nurse shark. That would be like Little Red Riding Hood visiting the wolf dressed up as Grandmother...

Happy diving.


  1. Very cool post. I like the videos. Great to see what goes on behind the scenes!

    And Bimini looks super cute with the nurse hat on!

  2. Speaking of sick fish, I'm notincing one of the sharks has some apparant wounds on its side. Is this shark a new arrivial or was someone in the GOT a bit...bitey??


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