Stop Aquarium Dumping: Humanely Dispose of Your Fish
Proper Ways to Dispose of Aquarium or Pet Fish
In the last few weeks, a gigantic and strange looking fish was found in Lake Tahoe here in Nevada. This fish is not native to Lake Tahoe, so researchers needed to figure out how it got there. This monstrous fish was over 1 1/2 feet long and weighed over 4 pounds, which is a size almost unheard of for a goldfish.
When I think of goldfish, I think of a tiny fish swimming along in a bowl. Pet fish are usually acquired as companions and teach kids how to care for another living thing. At other times when I think of goldfish, I think of playing a game at a carnival when I was a kid and winning the prize of a tiny goldfish. I don't think of gigantic, gargantuan goldfish that almost take on the proportions of sea monsters. Seeing a gigantic goldfish recently pictured in the local newspaper was scary!
Researchers gathered at Lake Tahoe to try to find out if there were more goldfish in the lake. Imagine their surprise to find at least 15 of them swimming around in a corner area of the lake! The only possible explanation, since bright orange goldfish are NOT native to Lake Tahoe, is that aquarium owners and other fish owners were dumping these fish into the lake. Yes, the gathering of these goldfish proved that the fish were spawning and gathering in schools.
The problem with this is that these fish are not indigenous to lakes. When they are present in a lake, they will disrupt the entire ecosystem. So, as pet owners, we have to stop letting "goldie" go in the lake or in a river or stream when we don't want them anymore. People who do this may think they are doing a good thing . . . kind of like "Free Willy" on a smaller scale, like "Free Goldie."
They might think the fish will have a long and happy life swimming in this huge area of water with plenty to eat, other fish to play with and sunshine. The reality is, fish released into waterways are in danger from things like not being able to find something to eat, being eaten by larger fish or being exposed to diseases they would never have been exposed to if they had lived out their lives in their goldfish bowl or aquarium.
What researchers found here at Lake Tahoe is that goldfish are not the only species of fish that are not normally found in the lake. There are other more exotic types of fish as well, fish that do not belong there and are another sign that a trend called "aquarium dumping" is taking place.
In a recent study, it was found that anywhere from 20 percent to 70 percent of aquarium owners in Texas have taken part in aquarium dumping. Not only do these fish excrete some types of nutrients that can cause harmful algae, they can also consume species of fish that were there to begin with, causing a disruption in the ecosystem.
The aquarium trade throughout the world is partly responsible for this invasion of species that do not belong in these natural bodies of water. Those who own fish, as well as those who import them, have brought these non-native species of fish to these waters. The introduction of strange species can bring about problems like breeding with other fish to create a new, more destructive breed.
These invaders are not limited to goldfish. They also include snails, tropical fish and types of seaweed that do not belong in these waters. In fact, one type of seaweed known as Caulerpa was introduced. This harmful algae was able to produce compounds that were toxic and resulted in the deaths of many fish. A huge project to get rid of his harmful algae took place in the lagoons of southern California.
Why Do People Dump Their Fish?
One of the biggest questions in all of this is why do people dump fish in the first place if they don't want them any more? One of the biggest reasons is that a fish has become aggressive, attacking other fish in the aquarium and the owner wants to be rid of the fish. Another reason is that the fish have become too big for the aquarium. In this case, owners often don't know what else to do with them. A third possible reason may be that the owner has simply tired of having an aquarium or has moved to a new home or apartment and cannot have it any more in their new residence.
One more reason may be that the fish is exhibiting signs of being sick and the owner wishes to be rid of it. This is probably the most dangerous time to ever consider aquarium dumping because of the effects this ill fish could have on the population of healthy fish already present in the lake or stream.
Aquarium owners and those who keep fish as pets are advised to never dump fish for any reason. This includes flushing them down a toilet. We might have heard the jokes about flushing goldie, but that is never a good idea. A sick fish can introduce harmful elements like the disease itself that it was affected by or harmful parasites into the water and who wants to use a toilet knowing these are in the water? I know the thought of that creeps me out!
That and the fact that flushing fish could be considered inhumane. Nobody really knows if a fish is capable of feeling pain and there are some who even believe it is cruel to dispose of fish in this way.
Another Common, Incorrect Way to Dispose of Fish
The other common way to get rid of unwanted fish is to let them go in a lake, stream or river. This might seem to be a natural way, but it isn't and can be harmful to the ecosystem of the water that the fish are being released into.
Parents might be faced with kids upset that fish are being disposed of and may decide to tell them that if they are let go in a pond, lake or stream that "we can go visit them!" This would be a natural solution if the type of fish being released into the water already lived there naturally. There aren't natural goldfish and many aquarium fish are not found naturally in these freshwater places either.
If a fish is naturally a saltwater fish, it will die in fresh water. Some aquarium fish are not even indigenous to the United States, so to release them into waterways is irresponsible and potentially harmful. Not only that, but things like improper water temperature can kill them, or they can be killed by larger predatory fish.
Fish that do survive these obstacles and grow to become huge fish cause other problems. They can become destructive by killing other fish or even by killing wildlife. They can also bring with them new parasites that never would have been in the water if they hadn't been released into the body of water.
If that isn't scary enough, they can mate with other species and create a species that was never meant to exist. Kind of like fooling around with mother nature. We all know how fooling with mother nature is never a good idea.
Fooling With Mother Nature?
Correct Ways to Dispose of Aquarium or Pet Fish
If fish are healthy, chances are you will never have a problem getting rid of them if you keep these right ways to do that in mind. Here are some good, non-harmful ways to dispose of unwanted fish.
- Find a Fish Club: Sometimes you can find clubs of fish collectors who would be more than happy to help find a new home for your unwanted aquarium fish or fish you cannot have any longer.
- Pet Shops: If you contact a pet shop or a place that specializes in the sale of aquarium, exotic or pet fish, you will most likely find one that can take the fish off your hands for you. Some might even pay for the fish.
- List the Fish on a Bulletin Board or Online Forum: Places like Craigslist can be valuable for getting rid of fish. You may also be able to give the aquarium away to someone who really wants it if you need to get rid of that too.
- Offices, Nursing Homes, or Schools: Any public places where you think the atmosphere could be enriched by an aquarium full of fish may be the perfect place to donate your unwanted fish or those you cannot keep anymore. They will probably be very happy to take them off your hands and you can probably take a tax deduction as a charitable donation. It is a win-win.
If a fish is sick, the only advice I was able to find is to euthanize the fish humanely and dispose of it in a landfill. I guess a search of the Internet would be in order to find humane euthanasia methods for fish to do that. You could also try contacting an animal health professional or the fish and wildlife department to see if they have any helpful advice.
Keeping our waterways clean and safe is important for future generations. Following these guidelines for getting rid of unwanted fish will help to keep waterways cleaner and healthier.
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© 2013 KathyH