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Hippopotamus Timothy enjoys an underwater nap and ‘fish spa’ at San Antonio Zoo

And… chill! Timothy the hippo takes an underwater nap while enjoying a ‘fish spa’ at San Antonio Zoo

  • Nile Hippo Timothy, 6, seen shaking away hungry African cichlids in the clip 
  • Shot at San Antonio Zoo, Texas, the school are nibbling at dead skin on his head
  • But 3000lb Timothy suddenly rises to the surface, sending them scuttling away 
  • Hippos can sleep for up to 16 hours a day, and can bob up for air without waking


This is the moment a hippo took an underwater nap while enjoying a ‘fish spa’ treatment from his tankmates.

The six-year-old Nile hippopotamus, Timothy, is known for enjoying a cheeky snooze, and the African cichlids in his tank can’t resist going in for a nibble.

In the clip, recorded at San Antonio Zoo in Texas on November 7, the fish can be seen eating away the dead skin on the hippo’s head before he wakes up and shakes them off. 

The six-year-old Nile hippopotamus, Timothy, is known for enjoying a cheeky snooze, and the African cichlids he resides with can’t resist going in for a nibble

But suddenly, the 3,000lb beast's eyes open and he roars into life, sending the school of fish scuttling away in a hurry

But suddenly, the 3,000lb beast’s eyes open and he roars into life, sending the school of fish scuttling away in a hurry

Timothy shakes his head and quickly surfaces for air, using his protruding nostrils which barely break the top of the water

They will even sometimes swim into Timothy’s mouth to clean bits of food from his teeth. 

The video starts with a sleeping Timothy surrounded by dozens of tiny African cichlids, which appear to be picking away at his skin.

It resembles a ‘fish spa’ treatment that sees tiny ‘doctor fish’, or Garra rufa, eat dead skin off humans’ feet.

Suddenly, the 3,000lb beast’s eyes open the school of fish scuttle away in a hurry.

Timothy shakes his head and quickly surfaces for air, using his protruding nostrils which barely break the top of the water.

The hippo then sinks back to the foot of his tank, where he continues napping as the fish edge closer to him once again. 

Hippos can sleep for up to 16 hours a day and despite only being able to hold their breath for about five minutes, they have a reflex that will bob their head up for air without waking them.  

The mammals are known for maintaining mutually-beneficial relationships, with fish often known to graze on algae that hippo pick up as they swim around, while in the wild, birds can pick at parasites nesting in their skin. 

Timothy is well-known for his nap advocacy – even running a ‘presidential campaign’ in 2020 with the slogan ‘Naps For All’.

His popularity has soared to such heights that he even has a dedicated team running a Twitter account, which has more than 5,000 followers, on his behalf. 

He shakes his head and quickly surfaces for a breath of fresh air, using his protruding nostrils which barely break the top of the water

He shakes his head and quickly surfaces for a breath of fresh air, using his protruding nostrils which barely break the top of the water

Hippos can sleep for up to 16 hours a day and despite only being able to hold their breath for about five minutes, they have a reflex that will bob their head up for air without waking them

The hippo then sinks back to the foot of his tank, where he continues napping as the fish edge closer to him once again

The hippo then sinks back to the foot of his tank, where he continues napping as the fish edge closer to him once again

In 2018, Timothy first caught the attention of the public when San Antonio Zoo sent a romantic tweet on his behalf in a bid to woo his world-famous counterpart, Fiona the hippo, who resides at Cincinnati Zoo.

His cheeky tweet, which described Fiona as a ‘beautiful hippo’ and asked if they could one day become an item, was shared tens of thousands of times and prompted further media interest.

Their long-distance ‘relationship’ has seen the pair send each other gifts every year, as well as adoring messages on Twitter and Facebook.  

A physically imposing aquatic mammal, the Nile Hippopotamus – named after the Greek ‘river horse’ – can weigh up to 4,000lbs and can grow up to 12ft in length and 5ft tall. 

At the zoo, they are regularly fed a diet of alfalfa, horse chow and vegetables. 

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