you canhandle large pet fish
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
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
(For more information on preventing the spread of non-native
aquatic plants and fish, check www.ProtectYourWaters.net/nh
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
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
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.