We really need to stop buying pet clownfish and try these 5 fish instead

May 18, 2016 at 4:17 p.m. ET

The world fell in love with clownfish back in 2003, when Disney released a little film called Finding Nemoand brought the fish species' beauty to the world's attention. Soon after its release, pet stores were flooded with families asking how they could get their hands on their very own Nemo to add to their saltwater tank. With Finding Nemo's sequel, Finding Dory, hitting theaters in June, there may be an influx in demand for Blue Tang fish as well.

It's easy to see why clownfish had such a huge spike in popularity — they're beautiful, exotic and relatively easy to care for. But their popularity also had a pretty devastating effect on the clownfish population.

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Most animals found in pet stores come from breeding facilities, but exotic pet fish are usually taken directly from the ocean. It's a well-known fact that breeding facilities are outrageously cruel to animals, but snatching wild animals from their natural habitat isn't a great alternative, either. The clownfish population took a serious hit when families started demanding clownfish be plucked from their cozy homes in the coral reef and made available in pet stores. Some research has shown that wild clownfish numbers have dropped by as much as 75 percent since the film's release.

Researchers from Flinders University and the University of Queensland are not going to let our fishy friends go down without a fight; they have teamed up to create The Saving Nemo Conservation Fund, which will bring some much-needed education and awareness to the issue. They are even trying to snag the attention of the Finding Nemo star, Ellen DeGeneres, in hopes that she can help promote the conservation fund and prevent another surge in clownfish adoptions when Finding Dory, the Finding Nemo sequel, is released this summer.

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Come on pet owners, let's not leave all the hard work up to the researchers. What can you do to help save Nemo? It's simple — don't buy him. There are several fish species you can buy to stock your tank without harming the environment. Here are five equally gorgeous fish with a healthy population that will not dwindle when you want to bring a fish home as a pet.

1. Betta fish

Image: Marilyn James/Flickr

If it's the bold color of the clownfish that you love, try an eye-catching betta instead. They come in a wide variety of colors and make an excellent, easy-to-care-for family pet.

2. Loaches

Image: Deborah Stacey/Flickr

Love Nemo's dashing stripes? Try the freshwater version of the clownfish — a loach — instead.

3. Discus

Image: G&DStewart/Flickr

If you loved Dory just as much as Nemo, try this blue tang fish look-a-like.

4. Fantail guppies

Image: aussie kiwi/Flickr

Fantail guppies make excellent family pets. They don't require a huge tank, are relatively low-maintenance and, let's be honest — they're so gorgeous, you'll be gawking at them for hours.

5. Flowerhorn cichlid

Image: sysylvester/Flickr

You wanted an exotic looking pet? You got it. Bright, colorful and a distinctive 'flower horn' will add all the of the wow factor you need in your fish tank.

Let's leave Nemo where he belongs now, shall we?

Don't forget to pin this list before you go shopping for your next pet!

Image: Karen Cox/SheKnows

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