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This Is What Happens When You Release Goldfish Into the Wild

Surprise! Goldfish can grow up to 4 pounds and travel more than a hundred miles a year.


As if you needed another reason not to dump your pet fish into an outdoor waterway, new research from Australia finds that the humble goldfish can actually be a destructive force when released in the wild.

Researchers have been struggling for more than a decade to control goldfish in the Vasse River, southeast of Perth. So Stephen Beatty and colleagues from the Centre of Fish and Fisheries at Murdoch University spent a year tracking the invasive fish. The recently released study found that goldfish — yes, the little guys that kids win at fairs by tossing a ring around a milk bottle — can grow up to 4 pounds and travel more than a hundred miles a year.

 

Photo Credit: Murdoch University Freshwater Fish Group and Fish Health Unit, Department of Fisheries

 

They're also causing harm in the Vasse River by digging up vegetation, stirring up sediment and eating almost anything they see, including the eggs of native fish species.

It's not clear how the goldfish made it to the river in the first place, but Beatty says a major factor is probably pet owners "releasing" the fish into the wild. The researchers are now investigating ways to control this species, including nets and electrofishing (which run the risk of harming desired species as well) or by constructing "some sort of trap" to catch the fish when they travel to a nearby wetland to breed.

 

Photo Credit: Murdoch University Freshwater Fish Group and Fish Health Unit, Department of Fisheries

 

But really, the best solution to keeping invasive fish out of waterways is to not put them there in the first place. Goldfish can be surprisingly long-lived; one was said to be 45 years old when it passed. So keeping one as a pet could be a big commitment!

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While we're at it, quick reminder that goldfish shouldn't be kept in those tiny bowls: even the common goldfish needs at least 4 feet of space, a bowl doesn't have as good oxygenation as a tank and the exposed sides can make a fish feel stressed out. If you do choose to keep a goldfish (or two), please keep them in the tank — not in the river.

 

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