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Little fish safeguard the water of Beijing

CHINESE scientists have adopted the principle of the coal mine canary to monitor water quality by using fish to test for pollutants.

A machine containing more than 20 small fish swimming in small tubes is used to monitor water quality in Beijing, said Wang Zijian, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Research Center for Eco-Environment Sciences.

"These fish safeguard the sources of the capital's domestic water day and night," said Wang.

The machine contains eight tubes, each holding a water sample and three to four fish about 2-3 centimeters long.

"The behavior of fish will change in case of contamination, such as the speed of their movement," said Wang. The machine detects the changes.

Only fish highly sensitive to slight pollutants, such as Japanese killifish and Indian zebra fish, were chosen, said Wang.

Fish aged just three or four months are the best suited to the job. The fish are replaced every two weeks to prevent them adjusting to pollutants.


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