Diver Spots Tiny Fish Couple Living In A Surprising Piece Of Trash

What is that? 🕵️‍♀️

Dr. Alex Mustard is a marine biologist and avid underwater photographer who loves capturing incredible photos that help make people more aware of the problems our oceans are facing. He often does collection dives to remove trash from the ocean floor, and as he dives, he’s always on the lookout for fish and other sea creatures who’ve made their homes out of pieces of trash.

“We always check anything plastic to see if [anyone] is living in or on it,” Mustard told The Dodo. “If not, we can collect it and take it up. But when an animal has made [a] home, we will leave it down there.”

Alex Mustard

In March, Mustard was diving in Indonesia when he came across a tiny fish couple who had moved into a very unusual piece of trash.

“The toothpaste tube had algae growing on it — so it must have been in the water some time,” Mustard said. “But the opening is a bit too small for most fish. These pygmy gobies are very tiny.”

fish in toothpaste tube
Alex Mustard

Pygmy gobies look for protected areas to live in with a hard surface to lay their eggs on, so it makes sense that they chose the discarded toothpaste tube. When Mustard first approached, only one of the fish was visible, and she didn’t seem fazed at all by the gigantic diver coming towards her. She retreated back into the tube for a bit before emerging with her partner, almost as if to say, “Honey, look at this!”

Mustard sees a lot of human trash being repurposed into fish homes, but he’d never seen a toothpaste tube being used before. That was a first.

fish in toothpaste tube
Alex Mustard

“Bottles, cans [and] jars are most commonly taken over by marine life,” Mustard said. “The toothpaste tube was definitely one of the more unusual [homes]. On this trip, I also saw a fish living inside a shoe and a sea slug laying eggs on a thin plastic bag billowing in the current.”

Mustard is passionate about photographing fish living in trash to remind people that the problem hasn’t been solved yet. We still have a long way to go in terms of protecting our oceans, and Mustard is doing his best to help out one dive at a time.

“Several years ago, people weren’t so aware of the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean, so I’d try and take shocking pictures to make people aware of the problem,” Mustard said. “Now most environmentally interested people are aware of the problem, so I focus more on images that will catch the eye and then remind them that the problem is still there.”

You can check out more of Alex Mustard’s ocean photography on Instagram and Facebook.