Aquarium Fish Threaten Oregon's Wild Aquatic Life
SALEM, Ore. – Oregon researchers say they’re finding an increasing number of aquarium fish living in the wild. It’s a problem that could push out natural inhabitants and destroy ecosystems.
They say that the problem is caused by people who flush unwanted goldfish down the toilet or dump them in storm drains, not realizing they can survive.
The fish work their way through sewer systems before finally ending up in small creeks and eventually, larger streams where other wild fish live.
The repercussions of flushing aquarium fish can last long beyond the water spinning down your toilet bowl.
“There’s definitely some mixed messages out there in the popular culture that releasing these things out into the wild is a good thing,” said Paul Heimowitz, Aquatic Invasive Species and Research Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Region.
He said with increasing regularity, his team finds fish normally found in aquariums thriving in the fresh waterways.
Heimowitz said that’s because many tank fish are hearty eaters, and can ingest many different foods.
It’s especially true of the Oriental weatherfish. Native to Japan and China, they’re not picky when it comes to eating.
But the Oriental weatherfish, like many aquarium fish, require warm water to thrive. Thom Whittier, a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey at Oregon State University, said in the future this could become a bigger issue.
Goldfish, the most commonly owned and flushed animal in the world, Oriental weatherfish and amur goby pose a serious threat to aquatic wildlife.
Scientists say they’ve found the amur goby, in “spawning condition.” That’s not a good sign for wild species that also use the spawning pools where the goby was found.
The message Oregon’s fish experts want to send is that flushing a pet fish, no matter what the situation, is never the right choice.
“It’s hard to think of that innocent little goldfish as something that could drive another fish to extinction,” Heimowitz said. “But we need to realize if they’re in the wrong place, they can be a lot scarier than we envisioned when they were in that little fishbowl.”
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