Man Crafts "Wheelchair" For Adorable Disabled Fish
For most fish, the inability to swim spells a death sentence—except on Derek Burnett's watch.
When a woman brought a tiny goldfish with a swim bladder disorder into Aquarium Designs, the San Antonio pet store he manages, Burnett saw past the little guy's disability. Watching the fish spend his days laying on his side at the bottom of the tank inspired him to intervene. So, using aquarium-safe materials and a bit of ingenuity, Burnett—who studied marine biology—crafted a device that would help the fish get around and stay buoyant.
"I just knew I had to try something," he tells Today.com. "Next thing you know, I had the goldfish wheelchair."
"I got some airline tubing that people usually use in their tank and just placed it around the goldfish. I added some valves to the bottom of it, which acted as a ‘chair' to prop him up," Burnett tells Buzzfeed. "I added weights to the bottom of the ‘chair' and something to keep him afloat on top (styrofoam), and slowly removed pieces until I achieved just the right buoyancy to make it easy for him to swim around without feeling like he's dragging around a chair."
The fish, Burnett says, was "so happy" with his custom rig.
Burnett's friend and fellow San Antonio-based animal-lover, Taylor Nicole Dean, was so struck by the fish's story, that she shared it on Twitter.
Not surprisingly, the Internet ate it up.
A few days later, Burnett reworked the "wheelchair" to make it even more comfortable for the yet-to-be-named fish. "To see a fish suffer, it just hits me in the heart," he told Today. "There's not many things I wouldn't do for a fish."
"It's been life changing for him and me both," he added. "He's a pet to me. He's a family member."