Don’t Dump Your Fish Tank in Texas Waters

What happens when well meaning citizens release the “sucker fish” (Plecostomus) from their aquarium into the wild?…they grow and multiply! Picture from Lake Dunlap, TX.

This is Passport to Texas

Remember this?

He’s gonna get out of here. He’s going to get flushed. What a smart little guy!

We love how in the Pixar animation, Finding Nemo, the aquarium fish escape into the wild. The problem is most fish in Texas aquariums aren’t from here.

Luci Cook-Hildreth is a fisheries biologist, formerly with Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Inland Fisheries Division.

Even really smart people sometimes don’t understand that a fish is not just a fish and water is not just water. They go, “I have a creek in my backyard, and I have a fish that’s too big for my tank. Well, why don’t I just set him free?” And they don’t understand that there’s a lot of biological and ecological ramifications to that decision.

When these fish thrive in Texas waters, they out-compete native fish populations.

Moreover, it’s nearly impossible to control what species of fish people own because of the Internet. Despite state laws, there seems to be a constant supply—and demand—for illegal species. For good reason.

Folks that are interested in selling illegal fish have the potential to make thousands of dollars on these fish. And we can slap a fine on them, for 200 or 300 dollars, and it’s really just the cost of doing business for these folks.

Releasing one fish into the wild might endanger many more.

The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

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