Kiwi, a 7-year-old saltwater fish, developed a cataract and was getting bullied by his tank mates, owner Julie Morgan said.
“They figured out which eye was not working,” Morgan said. “They’d go up behind him, biting his tail. He had chunks of his tail taken out.”
Kiwi’s veterinarian, Dr. Megan Baebler of Kersting Veterinary Hospital in Chesterfield, removed the cataract and eventually the eye, leaving the socket open.
Baebler came up with an idea to keep Kiwi from being picked on: a prosthetic eye.
“I actually hand-painted the eye myself,” she said. “I used a mixture of some nail polish and some eye shadow pigments, actually, to give it some iridescence.”
The 9mm solution is an acrylic eye Baebler ordered online.
She placed Kiwi under general anesthesia and performed the 30-minute surgery to insert and sew the eye.
“It’s going to be the best chance for him to lead a normal life in his tank,” Baebler said.
Morgan said she is pleased with the result.
“A lot of other people would say ‘Yes, put him down. Go ahead, it’s just a fish.’ Well, my opinion is nothing is just a something. And, if I could give him quality of life, why not?”
Morgan said she hopes to reunite Kiwi with his former tank mates.
For now, he remains in his own holding tank.
“I think he’s doing great,” Morgan said. “He’s eating, he’s swimming. He’s happy.”
Baebler’s clinic specializes in treating exotic pets.
The procedure, she said, is the second procedure of its kind and the first on a privately owned fish.