Fish get the virtual pet treatment

Aquariums in the office are a great way to help you relax, but they tend to require lots of valuable desk space -- not to mention water. Leave it to an Internet entrepreneur, then, to devise a solution: virtual fish that live in your desktop PC.

The Web site of US company PetFish (http://www.petfish.com), is where fans of cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates go to "adopt" their favourite cyberfish. For $US5.95, you can download and install a fish to your Windows PC and get a year's supply of food, which the little critter needs to stay afloat.

The lifelike pets are modeled after actual fish, such as the Red Fin Moor goldfish (sorry, horror movie fans: no piranhas, eels or sharks). Each PetFish responds to more than 30 computer events (such as certain mouse clicks or user-customised keywords) by wagging its tail to show affection or doing other fishy activities. Each fish has its own personality -- some are friendly, others shy -- and performs tricks when the computer is idle.

Since its launch in January, the PetFish site has had more than two million hits and 70,000 downloads, the company says.

Buoyed by the success of its online venture, the PetFish Company is developing new varieties of fish as well as food supplies that will let PetFish owners change their fishes' personalities. The company continues to offer a "Catch-of-the-Month" fish and a large selection of trial fish that you can download for free.

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James Martin

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