Little Antonio Found Dead in Tank

45 days after the loss of Little Antonio, Little Ed dies. The pair lived for months in a bowl of L.A. River water, drawing a global online fan base.
Times Staff Writer

Little Antonio, a goldfish made almost famous by living over 111 days in water from the Los Angeles River, was found dead in his tank in the newsroom at 1:58 a.m. Monday. He was believed to be about five months old.

The cause of death was undetermined, according to a website editor who made the sad but perhaps inevitable discovery.

Little Antonio burst to quasi-fame in April when he was purchased by a Times reporter along with another goldfish from a Highland Park pet store. The fish were subsequently taken to City Hall, where they took up residence in a small tank filled with water fetched from the L.A. River in Cypress Park.


Widely presumed to be polluted beyond all measure, the fish thrived in the tank. They were named for two of the politicians — Councilman Ed Reyes and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- who are pushing a massive restoration of the concrete-entombed river to make it appear more natural.

Shortly after arriving at City Hall, the fish aquarium was transferred to The Times, where the fish were available for public viewing on the paper’s website. In what can only be viewed as a testimony to a very bored workforce, the so-called “goldfish cam” received tens of thousands of visits from viewers here and abroad.

Both Little Ed and Little Antonio overcame some type of weird and disgusting skin rash in their early days in the tank together and appeared in recent weeks to be very healthy. They also became virtually impossible to distinguish from one another and a coin flip had to be held later Monday at City Hall to determine which fish had died.

Little Antonio lost.

Upon hearing the news of Little Antonio’s death, Councilman Reyes said, “I’m really bummed that Little Antonio died. His mere presence brought an international splash to our efforts to renew the city’s famous waterway — the Los Angeles River. I only hope Little Ed can swim through his grief long enough to see the results of what he and Little Antonio have worked so hard to create — the L.A. River Revitalization Master Plan.”

The mood in the newsroom was somber Monday morning as staff learned of their little friend’s death. “We’ll miss him. He brought a little joy to the otherwise intense news days,” said graphic artist Stephanie Ferrell, whose desk is near the fish tank.

“A gimmick like Little Antonio is hard to find,” said executive editor Joel Sappell as he reviewed the site’s traffic numbers. “We’ll miss him.”

Funeral arrangements have not yet been made, but the fish is expected to receive a burial at sea early this week by way of the Los Angeles sanitation system. The will remain open for condolences and remembrances.

The timing of the death left some City Hall observers thinking about the nature of things. On Saturday, city officials announced the five sites on which they intend to focus their river revival efforts.