Taxidermy and Animal Stuffing

Art and science in reach: How to do fish taxidermy at home

Taxidermy is the academic field where science and art collide. For young professionals who are interested in both, it is a perfect place to enrich artistic skills while enhancing the scientific mind.

Taxidermy is the process of mounting the skins of dead animals, while stuffing and stitching it again to look like they’re alive again. Many of those who are interested in taxidermy are hunters, fishermen, or researchers who want to maintain a certain animal, especially if it is a rare find. It is primarily done in vertebrates, particularly mammals, birds, and even fishes.

Fish taxidermy involves the preservation of the fish’s body. However, unlike those of mammals and birds, its body is more difficult to handle. Most of the time, taxidermists encounter problems such as tearing of the fins when the stuffing is applied. However, it is not impossible to do it by yourself.

Taking a picture of the fish underwater or minutes before it dies would be advantageous. This will be the future reference of how you’d want the fish to look like. This will also help in choosing the paint colors appropriate for it.

In the process of the fish taxidermy itself, take the fish and cut through any of its lateral sides, preferably near its ventral portion using a sharp dissecting scalpel or fillet knife. This process is delicate, so it should be done with precision and care. Separate the skin and the flesh slowly, as the skin will still be needed later. This can be done from the body going to either the tail or the head. After this, remove all the meat and bones so that the ones left will only be a hollow fish but with a complete, intact head. However, it can be observed that there are remaining meat which cannot be removed from the skin, head, and tail area. But that shouldn’t be a problem, as it will be preserved by chemical agents.

Once through, the skin should now be movable and may be pulled towards the head. The eyes and the brain should then be removed. Now the skin should be injected with preserving chemicals using a syringe. It would be useful to ask a registered taxidermist regarding which solution would work. This ranges from mild preserving chemicals such as ethanol to strong and delicate ones such as formaldehyde.

Then, a primer, such as powdered Borax should be used by sprinkling it thickly and neatly around the inside of the now hollowed fish, including the head. This helps to protect the cracks of the fins.

The next important step is of course the stuffing. Start this by stitching up using a fishing line and start at the tail portion up to the middle section. This would create a pocket-like cavity where you can put the stuffing in, such as sawdust. Make sure that it reaches the tail part and that the stuffing is tight. And then, stuff sawdust up to the head portion firmly and that the fish looks like how you want it. Sew the remaining opening afterwards.

By using a small sponge or brush, gently remove all of the sawdust debris attached to the outer skin surface. This is to maintain the fish’s outer body from being ruined. The debris must be removed at this point because the slime might act as glue if left after some time.

The fish is now ready for mounting. Position the fish as you like, either curved up or lifting one side. Mount it with a thick material such as cardboard or plywood. To maintain the structure of the fins, use a mount card and pin the fins on the position desired, so that upon drying, the shape would be maintained. For the eyes, mount some fiber glass wool as foundation and insert a customized glass eye.

When all of these are done, let the fish dry for at least a month to avoid any damage to the finished product. After this period, the paint can now be applied, and the once dead fish have now come back alive!

It can be rewarding once the taxidermy process was successfully done. However, if you lack the time to do so, professional taxidermy specialists, such as the Big River Taxidermy can do the job for you or give you advice on the process.

When you hunt wild game whether on sea or land, sometimes its not about eating your catch.  Hunters often perform a process called taxidermy which allows the stuffing and preservation of an animal’s body as sort of a trophy catch.