Tropical fish survives night out of water after pet store robbery in Fall River

Big Blue swimming.
Big Blue swimming.Contributed photo

An 18-year-old tropical fish named Big Blue miraculously survived a night out of water after a robber broke into Animal Instincts Aquarium & Pet Center in Fall River early Wednesday morning and smashed its 180-gallon reef tank.

“She made it, somehow. I don’t know how, she’s still alive,” said Robert Schenck, who owns the pet store with his wife, Paula. “Every once in a while she swims kinda funny, but we still love her.”

At about 12:04 a.m., said Schenck, a group of men broke through the front doors of the store. The store’s alarms did not sound, he said, because no doors were opened. The men proceeded to steal all the registers and the computer system, said Schenck, as well as a display of prepackaged reptile habitats.

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Schenck, describing what he saw on a surveillance video, said one of the men walked into the fish room in the back of the store. Using a pipe wrapped in a plastic bag, he tried and failed to break one tank, and then moved to the reef tank. After cracking it, he pulled a large piece of glass out so that the water would spill out faster, said Schenck.

“Heck of a nice guy,” he said.

Twenty-five tropical fish and 40 corals from all over the world died, said Schenck. But Big Blue, a Hippo Tang who Schenck said is “exactly like Dory from Nemo,” survived in about a half-inch of water. The next morning at around 6:15 a.m., police spotted it moving on top of a rock.

“She must have taken her last flop and landed on top of the live rock on the tank,” said Schenck.

A manager grabbed Big Blue, said Schenck, and dropped the fish into another tank, where it sunk to the bottom. Schenck said they all figured the fish would die.

“At the end of the day, we looked over, and son of a gun, if she wasn’t swimming around,” he said. “The fish with the eye cloud, covered in ick and scrapes and bruieses—she’s healing well and she started to eat. It’s quite unbelievable to imagine that she’s still alive.”

Schenck has been dipping Big Blue into a special solution to clean the fish and regenerate its slime coat. Big Blue isn’t altogether out of the woods, but the staff is hopeful.

Now, Schenck said, he wants the perpetrator brought to justice.

“I want to know what this guy’s problem is. To kill all these living things, you have to have some type of a mental issue,” said Schenck. “He had to be a sick individual.”

Schenck, with the help of a customer, is offering a $750 reward for information leading to an arrest. Anyone with information can call his cell phone, he said, at 774-201-1478.

“All the materialistic things, it’s whatever,” he said. “But the thing that will never be the same is that reef tank... It was a mini living reef, and everything in there cohabitated together... I don’t think it will ever get back.”

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