Are you a well-intentioned aquarium terrorist?

Author: Chris Read   Date Posted: 28 February 2018 

Why you should never release aquarium fish or plants into the wild. Aquarium fish & plants have been released into waterways by well intended but ill-informed aquarium owners. This has created serious ongoing issues. Aquarium fish & plants should only be disposed of responsibly, away from natural waterways.

Did you know that aquarium fish are the most numerous pets in Australia, more than even dogs and cats combined. It is increasingly easy for the 14% of Australian's who own live aquarium fish & plants to purchase even buying online with delivery to home. 

For many Australian’s their live planted aquarium is the most outstanding feature in their homes and each of their fish has a unique personality and is loved as part of the family. Keeping fish has even been proven to have positive health effects, including reducing stress.

Most Australian’s are very familiar with the extensive damage that many introduced animals & plants have caused to the “Land Down Under”:

  • rabbits have stripped every last piece of vegetation in parts of Australia causing extensive erosion to our farm lands;
  • according to scientists more than a million native birds and animals are killed each night by introduced feral cats & foxes;
  • lush introduced Camphor Laurel trees dominate many creek-sides in Eastern Australia.

What is less known is that Australian’s love of their pet fish has led to serious unintended consequences also:

  • The once crystal-clear Murray River is now a brown muddy mess. Millions of introduced European carp constantly vacuum the river bed and banks, unsettling native plants and forcing endless tonnes of sediment into the water. Not only were common carp purposely released as game fish, some species of carp were accidentally released through the escape of aquaculture & ornamental fish;
  • Introduced Mosquito Fish (Gambusia) now out compete native fish species such as Pacific Blue Eye and Rainbow Fish in many waterways in Australia;
  • Magnificent waterways in Kakadu National Park & across Australia have become clogged with introduced Salvinia stripping the dissolved oxygen levels to dangerously low levels. Salvinia is an aquatic plant originally from Brazil. It is believed that it was first introduced into Australia as an aquarium plant and accidently released.
  • It has been calculated that over 30 types of aquarium and ornamental fish have established wild populations in Australian waterways after being released, including goldfish, platys, many species of cichlid, green terror, guppies, swordtails, mollys, gourami, whiteclouds, oscar, barbs and even silver dollars.

Once aquarium fish and aquarium plants become established in a waterway, it is almost impossible to eradicate them, permanently compromising Australia’s environment. Australia’s Department of Environment and Energy has stated that the spread of alien species including aquarium plants and fish is seen “as a major threat to global biodiversity and hence ecological sustainability”.

The risk of aquarium fish diseases being introduced into the wild is also a real and significant concern.

As a way of minimising the risk of further issues caused by irresponsible aquarium owners, people found releasing aquarium contents into Australia’s waterways risk a fine of up to $250,000, it must be serious!

Possibly worse for future aquarium owners is that state governments continue to restrict the importing and sale of many types of amazing aquarium plants and fish. This is an understandable reaction but a real loss in limiting the choices that aquairium owners have.

So Why Do People Purposefully Release Aquarium Fish & Plants into the Wild?

A number of well-intended but ill-informed reasons include:

  • their pet fish have outgrown their tank and they falsely think it is less cruel to release them;
  • they move houses and can no longer take care of their pets and think they are being kind hearted;
  • they get bored with their fish and haven’t got the heart to euthanize them;
  • they used their aquarium fish as “live bait” which have either escaped or the left-over bait fish have been released;
  • their fish are of ill health so they let them be free rather than watch them suffer; and/or
  • they don’t realise that their old aquarium water may contain plant parts, seeds, fish eggs, parasites, bacteria and diseases

The stark reality is that live aquarium fish released into a natural environment are likely to be exposed to serious harm including starving to death or being eaten by predators, a much crueller way to solve a problem.

What are the responsible options if I no longer want my pet fish or plants?

For live aquarium fish and plants we suggest that you try to sell them or give them away to other aquarium owners. If you are unable to find anyone to take the aquarium fish humanely enthuse them yourself or take them to your vet. These options are far more responsible than releasing them into the wild.

Dead aquarium fish should be buried or disposed of in a garbage bin, never near a waterway.

Aquarium plants should be sealed in a plastic bag & disposed of in a garbage bin.

Aquarium water should be drained somewhere where there is no chance of the water or its contents finding its way into a waterway (not near storm water drain, not down the toilet, sink, etc).

Where possible, buy Australian native plants including Ambulia, Bacopa, Banana Lily, Duckweed, Fontinalis, Hairgrass, Hornwort, Hydrilla, Hygrophila, Vallisneria & Wisteria & Australian native fish such as Rainbow Fish, Blue Eyes & Barramundi.

PetWave is an online supplier of premium pet products including aquarium plants, fish, food and accessories reliably delivered to your door. Go to www.petwave.com.au to check out our range.


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