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Great Lakes Article:

Make sure you canhandle large pet fish
Nashua Telegraph
Published August 10, 2005

LLetís say a compassionate heart is what led someone to dump a tropical fish into Tate Pond in Hudson. The person(s) may have felt guilty about killing a fish that had grown too large or was unwanted for other reasons so it was released into the pond.

But the fish, a pacu that is native to South America, doesnít belong in New Hampshire waters and ďfreeingĒ such fish by releasing them into local ponds and streams can create big problems. Itís also illegal.

And itís illegal for good cause: Releasing non-native aquatic life can mess up the stateís natural ecological system. In this instance, pacu are vegetarians but other non-native fish can upset the balance of life in the aquatic world.

The Great Lakes, for instance, have a zebra mussel problem. The mussel, native to the Caspian Sea, is believed to have been released in ballast water discharged by a transoceanic ship in Lake St. Clair near Detroit in 1988.

Since then the sharp-edged mollusks have become a major nuisance in the Great Lakes and major rivers in that area. They have damaged the balance of native aquatic life, and masses of them can clog filters and piping.

Recently, some of the mussels recently were detected clinging to a boat that had been transported from Ohio and was about to be launched in Lake Winnipesaukee. Thankfully, they were removed from the boat before harm was done.

And itís not only exotic fish that can damage the ecological system. Plants can pose big problems, too.

For example, milfoil, a non-native plant, has invaded major ponds and lakes in New Hampshire and getting rid of this tenacious weed poses a major headache. The best way to prevent its spread is to faithfully check boats, trailers and other equipment for bits and pieces of the weed before watercraft are slipped into a lake or pond.

Every boater, fishing enthusiast and scuba diver should assume the responsibility of becoming informed about milfoil and other non-native aquatic hazards and take precautions to prevent their proliferation across the state. Prevention of a milfoil invasion is that basic. Lack of attention can lead to milfoil choking the waters of a favorite body of water.

(For more information on preventing the spread of non-native aquatic plants and fish, check or

When a fish becomes too big to keep at home or its novelty has simply worn off, the worst thing to do is to slip it into a pond, a lake, river or drain. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department has tips for people wanting to get rid of an aquatic pet.

The owners of such a fish should check to see whether another fish owner may want to accept it. Or the owner can ask the shop where they bought the fish to take it back for resale. Other places that may be interested are schools or public aquariums that display larger-sized fish.

But when a new home canít be found for the fish, the aquatic creature thatís no longer wanted may be frozen to death in a freezer. That may sound cruel, but itís better than releasing the fish in the wild where it may not survive, or if it does, may cause big problems for years to come. The Fish and Game department says the unwanted fish can be anesthetized with rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol before freezing.

But the best rule of thumb for people who are attracted to unusual fish as pets is to ask how big they will grow.

Those cute little fish from foreign places can grow into big creatures that overwhelm a standard-sized home aquarium. The pacu that was caught in Tate Pond was about 15 inches long and weighed about 2.5 pounds.

Unless a person is willing to keep investing in larger tanks, he or she should leave the exotic fish with great growth potential at the aquatic store.


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