Penis Fish

A few weeks ago on the show “Grey’s Anatomy”, a patient was admitted with extremely swollen testicles and an inability to urinate. The man had recently been on a trip to South America and had been swimming in the Amazon River. He admitted in a subtle manner that he may have had sex while in the area and was afraid he might have contracted some sort of sexually transmitted disease. Many tests were performed to determine the cause of his painful condition, but an Xray discovered a small skeleton shaped like a fish in his urethra. “I don’t believe it – it’s a penis fish!” shouted one of the interns.

The man on the program had a parasite called the candiru or “toothpick fish”, one of the tiniest vertebrates on the planet. It is a small catfish that swims around at the bottom of the river stalking its prey (other fish). Humans are not usually hosts. The candiru can taste traces of urea and ammonia that are expelled from the gills of its prey.

As it turned out in the the show, the man had not only been swimming in the Amazon, he had also peed in the water. Guess what – urine is composed largely of urea and ammonia. The urine attracted the candiru and it swam to the source (his penis) and entered his urinary system, making its way to the bladder. It is a carnivorous fish so it eats its way up, gets bloated, and can’t be pulled out. It also has backwards-facing barbs that prevent the host from pulling it out without significant pain and damage to the host.

So was this story merely a fabrication for a medical show plot. No!

Check this out for more info:

The moral of the story: do not pee while swimming in the Amazon.

photo credit



Filed under Life

8 responses to “Penis Fish

  1. glorious

    I learned about the little fish in the movie Anaconda.

  2. Ouch & interesting! That is amazing… Gosh I bet that’s painful!

  3. P.S. I would love to see a video of Gizmo hopping.

  4. seb

    I saw something about this creature a while back! Sounds like a terrible terrible creature… I wonder how they get rid of it (well, I kinda don’t). Wasn’t there something in Vietnam like that, you weren’t supposed to pee in the rivers because some sort of creature went into your urethra… makes me shudder.

  5. Yeah, I’ve heard about these guys and they freak me out. Hence, that I why I have yet to swim in Amazon. Well, that and the fact I have nevere been farther south than Cancun.

  6. Crosses my legs and makes reminder to self never to take a pee in the Amazon river.

  7. I’d rather have an unfortunate zipper incident any day 🙂 There was a story in the news this past week about a kid who went to the hospital complaining about an ear ache. Turns out two spiders had taken up residence. ugh.

  8. Travis

    I had a penis fish and suprisingly it felt really good

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