Sunfish recovers after taking wrong turning

A TROPICAL sunfish washed up in North Wales is being nursed back to health yesterday in a warm indoor pool on a diet of supermarket mussels.

Chances of survival for Solero, blown off course in the Gulf Stream into a tidal pool at Beaumaris, Anglesey, 10 days ago, had looked grim. But the 2ft-long endearing creature - which looks like a giant head, and has a parrot beak, no tail and two giant dorsal fins - is in the Blue Planet Aquarium in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. Solero is on 100gm of fresh mussels a day for a few weeks, then cockles, sprats and spinach will be added, more upmarket fare than its usual jellyfish.

The species, an intelligent fish that shows emotion and enjoys company, usually found in tropical and sub-tropical waters, can grow up to three metres long and weigh a ton.

Aquarium staff will try to release Solero next year. It is in an isolation tank, on antibiotics and after it is cleared of infection, will be moved into the 750,000-gallon main tank with the sand tiger sharks.

The sunfish, normally grey like all its species, changes colour when it becomes stressed or excited, with blue and green spots and stripes appearing on its body in herringbone patterns. "In the wild, it floats on its side as if it is sunbathing," said the curator, Colin Grist. "It's also sometimes called a headfish, because it looks just like one big head. Its fins let it drift in ocean currents.

"It's an incredible fish, certainly one of the most bizarre you will come across in appearance or habits," he added. "The way it drifts around idly in the ocean sunbathing and its attraction to large objects and people give the impression of an emotional fish. It appears very affectionate and comes up and rubs itself against you."