Got Fish? Already tired of that holiday gift aquarium? Think before you
dump and create an even bigger problem.
Note to Editors: For downloadable images of aquarium fish, go to
http://nas.er.usgs.gov/fishes/dont_rel.htm on the World Wide Web.
If the aquarium of brightly colored exotic fish with interesting names
like angelfish, swordtail, glow-light tetra, hatchet fish and tire track
eel that Aunt Tillie gave you for Christmas is rapidly becoming a burden,
think twice before you dump the tank and destroy the evidence.
"It happens all too often," says biologist Pam Fuller of the U.S.
Geological Survey in Gainesville, Fla.
"The fish tank that the budding hobbyist wanted so much becomes an
unwanted responsibility and the nearest stream, or water source of any
kind, provides the solution."
This is not the solution.
"Each year, more than 2000 non-native fish species, representing
nearly 150 million exotic freshwater and marine fishes, are imported into
the United States for use in the aquarium trade," said Fuller. "Dumping
them into the nearest body of water when they are no longer wanted creates
a problem for the native fish species and for ecosystems in general."
When fish find themselves in a non-native habitat, they become
susceptible to parasites and diseases that they do not have a natural
ability to fiend off. The fish may also be attacked by native predators,
such as larger fish, fish-eating birds, or water snakes.
If exotic fish survive and reproduce, they are difficult, if not
impossible, to control or eradicate. Their presence may lead to changes in
the native, or local, fish population in an area through competition with
native species or by preying on them.
Just as aquarium fish that are dumped into the nearest stream may
become susceptible to unfamiliar parasites and diseases, they may also
infect native fish with exotic parasites or diseases. And, aquarium fishes
may affect the genetics of native species by hybridizing with them.
Some aquarium species may even pose a physical or public health
threat, such as piranhas and freshwater stingrays.
What is the right way to dispose of your aquarium fishes? Fuller makes
the following suggestions:
Return the fish to a local pet shop for resale or trade.
Give them away, to another hobbyist, an aquarium in a
professional office, a museum, a public aquarium or zoological park.
Donate them to a public institution, such as a school, nursing
home, hospital, or prison.
To find out more about invasive species in general, go to www.usgs.gov
and click on "Invasive Species Threaten America's Biological Heritage."
For more information on nonindigenous aquatic species, go to
As the nation's largest water, earth and biological science and
civilian mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2000
organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial, scientific
information to resource managers, planners, and other customers. This
information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the
loss of life and property from natural disasters, contribute to sound
economic and physical development of the nation's natural resources, and
enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy and
* * * USGS * * *
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