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Bathtub Mermaid

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Mermaids or other aquatic folk being kept wet in a tub, tank, or other container

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Takwin on Aug 31st 2013 at 10:54:57 PM
Last Edited By:
Synchronicity on Mar 10th 2018 at 5:39:50 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

Grabbed by Synchronicity

Indices: Instant Index: Just Add Water!, Mer Tropes, Furniture Tropes, These Tropes Are Fishy

What do you do when your mermaids/Fish People/other aquatic sentient critters can't survive out of water, but you really want to take one home with you? Simple! You stick them in a fishbowl! Or a bathtub! Or anything else that can hold water, really. This allows the aquatic character to interact with the usually human (or at least terrestrial) cast without having to come up with an elaborate new set or location.

This may or may not be a good idea, depending on the tone of the work. More precise logistics (such as the necessary salinity or chemicals present in the water) will usually be glossed over. While this can be played for comedy, more dramatic works uses of this trope will emphasize that the creatures are essentially captive in such a small space, especially if said creature was placed there unwillingly.

A sister trope to Mobile Fishbowl, distinguished by the fact that these containers are (usually, mostly) stationary. They may or may not be absolutely necessary to live, but they're at least important for the aquatic person in question's health.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In Elric: Making of a Sorcerer, the prequel comic to Michael Moorcock's Elric books, Chaos Lord Artigkern has captured the sister of King Straasha. Both Straasha and his sister being water elementals, Artigkern holds her in a container that's described in the original script as "a gigantic semi-transparent clam shell". Also, when Elric and his companions, Dyvim Mar and Queen Shyrix'x, attempt to release Straasha's sister, they break the clam shell container and haul the water elemental in another spherical one.
  • Hellboy. Abe Sapien has a large saltwater tank at the BPRD headquarters. He doesn't need to be wet to survive, but he does need to be submerged in good clean water every so often to stay healthy.
  • Superboy: College-age Clark Kent meets yet another LL, Lori Lemaris, in college. She is in a wheelchair, but secretly she's a mermaid and spends her time at home in the bathtub. Clark finds out when he peeks at her using his X-ray vision.

    Comic Strips 
  • Referenced in an old Doonesbury strip. Zonker has gone to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break, and is seeking to share an already overcrowded hotel room. The room spokesman tells him the rules, which end with "Oh yeah, and the guy in the tub thinks he's a mermaid; you cool with that?"

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl has Max relate his story about meeting Sharkboy and keeping him submerged in his shower, which had been converted into a fish tank. However, Sharkboy can walk and breathe on land, and later in the movie it's shown he can't stay underwater forever or he'd drown.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • Davy Jones can only step on land for one day every ten years. As such, when having to hold a meeting on a sandbank in At World's End, he circumvents this by standing in a tub of water.
    • In On Stranger Tides, Blackbeard and his crew initially bring Syrena the mermaid around in a makeshift tank. However, once it breaks, she develops legs.
  • In The Shape of Water, Elisa keeps the Amphibian Man in her bath, with some added table and mineral salts since he prefers brackish water.
  • She Creature: A mermaid is caught and held in a tank on land. Later she's put in a tank on a ship and taken on a sea voyage.
  • Splash. Madison, a mermaid, comes to land and her tail becomes legs & feet when she's dry. But when she relaxes in the bathtub they revert.

    Literature 
  • Vodyanoi from Perdido Street Station and other Bas-Lag novels need to keep their skins wet, so those which live out of water spend a lot of time in tubs. As it's a Crapsack World setting, the first example in the series is a slovenly old grouch whose tub is filthy and stagnant.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Charmed: The second half of the season 5 premiere had Piper and Paige hide Phoebe (who turned into a mermaid) in their bathtub because Phoebe has a television interview, and they didn't want to risk exposing her as a mermaid.
  • Inverted in H2O: Just Add Water. The mermaid characters are humans by default, and a special mermaid tail had to be made for all of Cleo's scenes that took place in the bathtub because she'd turn into a mermaid upon contact with any water.

    Music 

    Video Games 

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: Klaus the goldfish is usually seen floating in a fishbowl or lounging in a filled cup. In "1600 Candles", he becomes mobile by having a hamster ball filled with water.
  • Mermando the merman in Gravity Falls can't breathe without water, so Mabel ends up transporting him in a cooler.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Bubbles brings a baby whale home, so they flood the basement and hide her there from the Professor, who had warned Bubbles about bringing animals into the house.
  • Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock from Star Trek The Animated Series episode "The Ambergris Element" fall victim to a sur-snake while exploring the planet Argo, and are rescued by the natives, who convert them to water-breathers to make recuperating easier. Unfortunately, while this saves their lives and restores their health, Kirk and Spock must reside in a room-sized water tank aboard the Enterprise. This doesn't sit well with Captain Kirk:
    Kirk: I can't command a ship from inside an aquarium.
  • A live-action segment of Sponge Bob Squarepants showed Patchy the Pirate talking to a mermaid guest at his house party sitting in a comically small inflatable pool, stating that if she stood up, she'd die. Patchy accidentally sticks his hook hand into the pool, deflating it.

Feedback: 27 replies

Aug 31st 2013 at 11:04:32 PM

Inverted in H 2 O Just Add Water. The mermaid characters are humans by default, and a special mermaid tail had to be made for all of Cleo's scenes that took place in the bathtub because she'd turn into a mermaid upon contact with any water.

Aug 31st 2013 at 11:18:24 PM

Sep 1st 2013 at 3:40:10 AM

The Other Wiki article on Mermaids in popular culture has many examples that may include this trope.

One that definitely does:

Film

  • She Creature. A mermaid is caught and held in a tank on land. Later she's put in a tank on a ship and taken on a sea voyage.

Sep 1st 2013 at 5:54:11 AM

On The Powerpuff Girls, Bubbles brings a baby whale home, so they flood the basement and hide her there from the Professor, who had warned Bubbles about bringing animals into the house.

Sep 1st 2013 at 8:38:06 AM

I cut the redundant "Exactly What It Says On The Tin" part from the laconic.

Sep 1st 2013 at 8:47:41 AM

The Adventures Of Sharkboy And Lavagirl has Max relate his story about meeting Sharkboy and keeping him submerged in his shower, which had been converted into a fish tank. However, Sharkboy can walk and breathe on land, and later in the movie it's shown he can't stay underwater forever or he'd drown.

Sep 1st 2013 at 7:56:28 PM

  • Vodyanoi from Perdido Street Station and other Bas-Lag novels need to keep their skins wet, so those which live out of water spend a lot of time in tubs. As it's a Crapsack World setting, the first example in the series is a slovenly old grouch whose tub is filthy and stagnant.

Sep 1st 2013 at 9:58:28 PM

  • Superboy: College-age Clark Kent meets yet another LL, Lori Lemaris, in college. She is in a wheelchair, but secretly she's a mermaid and spends her time at home in the bathtub. Clark finds out when he peeks at her using his X-ray vision.
  • Splash: Madison, a mermaid, comes to land and her tail becomes legs & feet when she's dry. But when she relaxes in the bathtub they revert.

Jan 29th 2014 at 1:09:44 PM

  • Pirates Of The Caribbean: Davy Jones can only step on land for one day every ten years. As such, when having to hold a meeting on a sandbank in At World's End, he circumvents this by standing in a tub of water.

Jan 29th 2014 at 1:55:22 PM

I just find the description funny because it says this is a stationary version of Mobile Fishbowl... which would normally just be, you know, a fishbowl.

Jan 29th 2014 at 10:59:16 PM

^ So I guess this isn't really related to Mobile Fishbowl?

Jan 29th 2014 at 11:10:36 PM

^ Sure it is. If someone who needs to live in the water comes on land, they have two options: this or Mobile Fishbowl. In many cases, resources and technology might not allow for the Mobile Fishbowl, so this is what's available.

  • Played with in an old Doonesbury strip. Zonker has gone to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break, and is seeking to share an already overcrowded hotel room. The room spokesman tells him the rules, which end with "Oh yeah, and the guy in the tub thinks he's a mermaid; you cool with that?"

Jan 30th 2014 at 2:50:01 AM

Jan 30th 2014 at 3:01:49 AM

Namespaced and italicized a work name and de-Pot Holed a work title as per How To Write An Example - State the source.

Jan 30th 2014 at 5:19:01 AM

Comic Books

  • In Elric: Making of a Sorcerer, the prequel comic to Michael Moorcock's Elric books, Chaos Lord Artigkern has captured the sister of King Straasha. Both Straasha and his sister being water elementals, Artigkern holds her in a container that's described in the original script as "a gigantic semi-transparent clam shell". Also, when Elric and his companions, Dyvim Mar and Queen Shyrix'x, attempt to release Straasha's sister, they break the clam shell container and haul the water elemental in another spherical one.

Jan 30th 2014 at 8:13:32 AM

Mar 6th 2018 at 1:43:47 PM

  • Pocket Princesses: Ariel the mermaid is often seen in bathtubs or large fishbowls so she can interact with the other characters.

Mar 6th 2018 at 2:00:06 PM

In The Shape Of Water, Elisa keeps the Amphibian Man in her bath, with some added mineral salts since he prefers brackish water.

Mar 6th 2018 at 2:32:54 PM

Charmed: The second half of the season 5 premiere had Piper and Paige hide Phoebe (who turned into a mermaid) in their bathtub because Phoebe has a television interview, because m they didn't want to risk exposing Phoebe as a mermaid.

Mar 6th 2018 at 2:53:21 PM

  • American Dad: Klaus is usually seen floating in a fishbowl or lounging in a filled cup. In "1600 Candles", he becomes mobile by having a hamster ball filled with water.

Mar 7th 2018 at 5:32:40 PM

Is OP still around? Examples need adding.

Mar 7th 2018 at 11:11:07 PM

^ The OP Takwin last edited this in January 2014 and left TV Tropes soon thereafter.

Mar 8th 2018 at 2:18:36 AM

Added and alphabetized examples, removed redlink to The Splash Method

Mar 8th 2018 at 3:24:41 AM

In Vitas' music video for Opera #2, he appears to be some kind of Apparently Human Merfolk who spends a lot of time in a bathtub.

Mar 9th 2018 at 1:42:31 AM

Officially grabbing this. Fleshed out the description a bit. Will launch in a couple days if there are no objections.

Mar 9th 2018 at 10:44:05 AM

Western Animation

  • Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock from Star Trek The Animated Series episode "The Ambergris Element" fall victim to a sur-snake while exploring the planet Argo, and are rescued by the natives, who convert them to water-breathers to make recuperating easier. Unfortunately, while this saves their lives and restores their health, Kirk and Spock must reside in a room-sized water tank aboard the Enterprise. This doesn't sit well with Captain Kirk: "I can't command a ship from inside an aquarium."

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