SILVIO: Can Fish Cry?

© Marcie Fallek, D.V.M., C.V.A.


I do not believe that fish are anatomically able to cry, but I do know for sure now, something that I have always suspected. Let me tell you the story of Silvio.


There is a wonderful young couple, Michael and Alleli, who established what has since been called the Children’s Project in a small village in India. It is a residential school for abandoned, neglected and abused children. A safe, clean, and loving environment is provided for these youngsters, who range from the age of two to eighteen years old, enabling them to blossom into their full potential by what they term “transformational education through love in action”. I feel so blessed that I had the opportunity to meet with and interact with these beautiful young souls. Their stories are truly inspirational: from miserable hopeless beginnings, born into abject poverty, living on the streets, oftentimes victims of rape and incest, surviving by begging - these children now virtually sparkle with love and good will towards all, wanting to dedicate their lives towards helping others as they have been helped themselves. After spending my first evening with the family, Michael, Alleli, a couple of volunteer workers and the 34 children, I told Michael I would be honored to help and serve them in any way I could.


A few months later, I had my opportunity! Back home in Connecticut, I received an email from Michael, that their flower horn fish Silvio was desperately ill, his life hanging in the balance. I know virtually nothing about fish, and cannot say I was even a aficionado of them, but I melted when I saw Silvio’s picture on the attachment. He is a large fish (in fact the species often reach 30 cm and more) with a cute dish face, with full puckered lips, that practically beg to be kissed. He is sort of translucent white, with various shades of purples, reds and blues shimmering throughout. Silvio is without a doubt the most darling adorable fish I have ever seen. (words I never thought could be associated with a fish!) Michael, thinking (rightly) that I never treated fish before, thought maybe I knew someone in my profession in America that could cure the fish. He had consulted with all the local veterinarians in India, as well as the aquarium keepers, all to no avail. Silvio was dying. It was almost two weeks since the fish had eaten anything.


Michael, with the information gleaned from the vets and the pet stores, was almost certain, that the key to the diagnosis, and thereby the treatment, lay in the type of mucous stool that the fish was excreting. He even sent me a video of Silvio producing a bowel movement! He was quite certain this was indicative of a bacterial infection, although antibiotics had not improved the situation. I received a very thorough history or anamnesis. It seems that the temperature in the village had reached dangerously high levels, for the tank to remain in the room where it usually was kept. Silvio and the tank were therefore transferred to a room with air conditioning. In his new quarters, the caretaker was changing all of his water regularly, rather than in the usual manner, which was only 40% at a time. This was another factor that Michael felt could be important.


I received a sequential list of the symptoms, from the anorexia, to the sluggishness, to the loss of body color, and the white mucous stool. But it is when I read of the emotional component, that my heart skipped a beat. I understood immediately the cause of Silvio’s disastrous decline.


Michael said Silvio was a very social fish, he was very much loved and a favorite amongst the children. He was kept, ever since having acquiring him nine months ago, in the room where the children lived and slept. He told me that it seemed that Silvio missed the children, as he truly liked them to come to his tank and play with him. He would swim with them as they walked back and forth and trailed their hands along the glass.


I knew immediately that Silvio was grieving: he was sad and lonely. There was not a soul in his new air- conditioned room. His original home was full of life and laughter, which you can only imagine with 34 children. There is one homeopathic remedy par excellence for recent grief, and that is Ignatia. In fact, when Ignatia helps a condition, it is a sure fact that grief is the etiology or cause, and this can occur with a wide spectrum of diseases such as cancer, seizures, paralysis and so on. I told Michael to purchase that remedy in a relatively high potency, and sprinkle some pellets into the tank. People and animals need the pellets dissolve in their mouths in order to be effective, and I could think of no other way to administer it to a fish!


The next day I received an email, stating that Silvio was looking a bit brighter. Pressing for more information, it seemed he still wasn’t eating and still was producing mucous stool. Four anxious days passed before I received another email. Finally I reeived the happy news that “ Silvio is stable responsive, and seems to be getting better and better day by day. “ The following day, the exciting news arrived that he finally ate a guppy!


So do fish cry?


Disclaimer:  The case histories that I write about are chapters from my upcoming book, and are based on actual animals that I have treated.  The names of some clients and patients have been changed to maintain their privacy.  The facts are written as accurately as possible, based on my medical notes and phone and/or in-person interviews.  Some minor details of setting or other non-medical facts may differ slightly due to lapse of memory after so many years. I apologize in advance for any such errors.


Marcie Fallek, D.V.M., C.V.A.