A serious threat to both the environment and the aquarium hobby is the
irresponsible release of unwanted pets. The establishment of exotic species
of plants, fish and herptiles is of great concern to ecologists because
many indigenous ecosystems are being overrun and indigenous species are
either being displaced or exposed to diseases against which they have no
natural immunity. Indeed just prior to writing this piece I read about a
strange viral disease wiping out native frog populations in Britain which
authorities believe originated from North American Slider Turtles released
during the Ninja Turtle craze that swept the country in the 1980s.
This and other situations like it around the world are prompting many
nations and quite a few U.S. states to impose draconian restrictions on the
importation and posession of exotic wildlife. If these trends continue, it
is likely that legislation will grow so strict that it could very well mean
the end of the aquarium and herpetoculture hobbies as we know them!
What can we do about it ?
First of all, we must conduct our activities conscientiously. We should
ensure that whatever we are keeping is securely contained and resist the
temptation to release any surplus livestock, no matter how desperate we are
to part with it.
Perhaps the best thing that a hobbyist faced with the issue of surplus fish
populating his or her tank(s) is to find another home for them (other than
dumping them into a local lake or stream). Try to sell or trade them to a
local pet shop or fellow hobbyist. There are many groups out there that
specialize in various types of fish and other aquatic life that can put you
in touch with others who may desire the species that you are looking to
If that option fails , then the hobbyist is faced with the not so pretty
issue of euthanasia. Either smash it, freeze it or feed it to something
else. Now I know this sounds cruel and inhumane. But it is more cruel and
inhumane to release a creature into a strange environment and cause either
it or the native inhabitants or both to die horrible and lingering deaths.
Just think of those poor little frogs in England stricken with viral ulcers
and future generations of Brits who may never again hear the voices of
their native amphibians in what may truly become a Silent Spring.
If you are not too squeemish, surplus fish are easily dispatched by
crushing the head between the thumb and fore finger. This method is a bit
grizzly, but it's quick and relatively humane. And no worse than what
natural predators are going to do to them in the wild!
Probably the most humane method is freezing. An unwanted specimen is placed
in a plastic bag or container of water and simply set in the freezer or
placed outdoors in sub-freezing weather. As temperatures drop, the fish
gets sluggish and eventually goes comatose by the time ice begins to form
around it. Once frozen solid, the fish will be dead and unless you are
keeping some Antarctic species with anti-freeze for blood or the Alaskan
Blackfish there is little danger of revival upon thawing.
Now if you happen to have some kind of predatory fish like a gar or pirahna
or keep turtles or other piscivorous critters, or know someone else who
does, you are in luck! And so are the fish eaters who will greatly
appreciate your generostity! Or if you happen to have something really big
you want to get rid of, say the Pacu or Giant Gourami that outgrew its
tank, there is as some Email exchanges on the NANFA mailing list have
eluded to: a whole new frontier in culinary arts.
Fillet of Oscar anyone?
-- Jay DeLong Olympia, WA
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