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Skeletonizing and displaying fish?

5681 Views 13 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Betta132
It may sound weird. My betta just died today and I disposed of it. Then I thought what it might be used for, and skeletonizing & displaying came up to mind. But just how do i do it? Well I can't retrieve that betta and I don't plan to murder a fish. But just wanted to know now before a fish dies so I might skeletonize it and display it. Or I might just ask my LFS for a dead one, heheh.

(I don't know where to put this subject in, so feel free to move it mods.)
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You want to do some research on diaphanisation. There's a guy in my club that is more familiar work it than I (he works with the local natural history museum.)
Thanks for the recommendation, that's really cool. But I would just have the skeleton displayed only without any sort of liquid. :p
Insects like flies and beetle larvae will strip away the flesh but you'd have to glue the bones together. You need really small hands and good eyes.
How big is this fish? Generally you don't want to beetle-clean a skeleton that small, you'll need to mascerate the body to remove the flesh. Beetles are great, but teeny bones tend to lost when using beetles.

I remember seeing this in Berlin. I don't know if the process is a secret or not but they are able to display all different types of tissues, including the skeleton, in open air after the process is complete. It may be worth looking into

As a side note, while at the museum, I was witness to this conversation in German:

Ma'am, please, you cannot take pictures in here, this is a museum!

It does not matter to them, they are dead!
Fish have incredibly tiny bones. I've tried.
If you can get something reasonably large, dermestid beetles should be able to clean it off without taking it apart too much. You could also try carefully rotting it down in water.
I think you would have a lot of trouble with something like this, mostly due to the fish being so small, and them having such tiny bones (and a lot of them...).

You'd probably have much better luck trying to preserve the entire fish either in a preservative, by drying it, or possibly embedding it in resin or something (would need to dry/stabilize first).

The bodyworlds type stuff is fairly complex, from what I remember. I think it involved acetone baths, vacuum chambers, and some sort of epoxy-resin type stuff. Really interesting exhibit if you get a chance to see it.
This would be interesting if it was another fish. Couldn't see bones of a lil guy I raised. Sad!
I agree with the resin post. I had a buddy at school preserve fish in acrylic resin (without the use of a vacuum pump) and they came out really cool.

Basically you preserve the fish in buffered 10% formalin (it preserves the pigments in the fish unlike isopropyl alcohol or ethanol, good luck finding it), then placed the fish in a plastic container in a bed of acrylic resin, then filled the container the rest of the way. On a few he used a micropipette to pull out any extra air bubbles. Then he let them harden and polished them up. Never as good as the professional made castings, but they worked for educational purposes.

You would need a watch makers tools and patience to put the bones back together from a betta. Start with something easy like a large largemouth bass or carp, the bones will be bigger and easier to work with.
Well, if i am able to get one from my LFS then I plan on getting a fairly large(possibly 6"+) marine fish; just because a lot of them are odd-shaped:p. If possible, am I able to manually remove the meat rather than dermestid beetles, I don't think I know exactly where to get it. If I am able to get myself to rip out the meat then what do I do from there? Like how do disinfect and clean the bones, any specific procedures needed?

"Rotting down in water" hahaha no thanks. It's gonna stink up my whole room.

I've done the ethanol preservation in my science class before on a bala shark and yea the colors seems to fade.
Trust me. Maceration "rotting in water" or beetles are the best options for removing flesh.

You then need to degrease the bones. Low (not boiling) water for hours. No bleach. For hours. Then you can start putting it back together.

There is nothing about this that won't smell. Trust me, I'm working on a fisher cat currently.

Ripping out the meat is a great way to destroy bones and cartilage.

If you really want to pursue this, I would suggest heading over to where there are plenty of people that are even more into the hobby than I am.
I've used boiling to remove flesh from a bear head before.

The process isn't really all that different from throwing a chicken in a soup pot. Eventually the meat falls off the bones.

Do need to degrease it though, borax works okay for this, and as 0live said, don't use bleach.

Even on large animal bones, the bleach keeps reacting with them, and they get a powdery chalky texture. I imagine a smaller critter would just corrode away completely.

I still think looking to preserve the entire carcass for something that small is the easiest way to go. Even messing with a mouse or rat skeleton is pretty tedious and difficult, and they are much larger, with fewer, bigger bones then a fish.

You can get epoxy resin in most craft stores, or at hardware stores (they use it to make counter/bar/table tops with clippings, coins, trinkets, etc. embedded in them.)
The stuff in craft stores specifically designed for making paperweights, etc. is probably better for casting.
A quick dip in hydrogen peroxide will kill germs for you.
You could just buy an X-ray tetra or two!
I tried boiling a trout to clean it... Worked, but it didn't get all the connective tissue off and the skeleton was kind of loose. Then the skull disintegrated. Fish skulls are a couple dozen pieces, at least.
I have a dwarf gourami skeleton that's complete aside from missing ribs, but that's just luck... Found it in the back of the tank. I'd say maybe get a skeleton mostly cleaned (gentle boiling should work) and then put a couple of dermestids on it. Dermestids work on small things... I have a gecko skeleton that's complete, intact, and perfectly clean thanks to them.
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