Monster Goldfish in Lake Tahoe Probably Came From Aquarium

Friday, 22 Feb 2013 12:14 PM

By Dale Eisinger

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The discovery in Lake Tahoe of a monster goldfish weighing more than 4 pounds has scientists both thrilled about their find and concerned that aquarium dumping could be affecting the alpine waters straddling the California-Nevada border.

Researchers were trolling the lake for invasive species that could harm its ecosystem when they netted the nearly foot-and-a-half-long fish, and it wasn't the only one of its kind.

"During these surveys, we've found a nice corner [of the lake] where there's about 15 other goldfish," Sudeep Chandra, an environmental researcher with the University of Nevada in Reno told LiveScience. "It's an indication that they were schooling and spawning."

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Invasive species are non-native strains of flora or fauna that adversely affect the environments in which they're introduced.

"The invasion is resulting in the consumption of native species," Chandra said. The fish are also excreting nutrients that cause algal blossoms, which pose a threat to the famously clear waters of Lake Tahoe.

Chandra told LiveScience that the fish, scientifically remarkable for its size, was likely introduced to the lake by humans dumping an aquarium, but it wasn't known if the fish was introduced to the lake while it was small or had already reached monster size.

Aquarium dumping is an increasingly common practice harmful to the environments the non-native fish end up in. Aquarium species are incredibly hardy compared to those in the delicate ecosystems to which they are introduced. As a result, they end up taking over their environments with the same kinds of threats the monster goldfish now poses to Lake Tahoe.

According to a new report out of the Bodega Marine Laboratory at the University of California Davis, aquarium dumping is the lead culprit of invasive species in waterways.

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"Globally, the aquarium trade has contributed a third of the world's worst aquatic and invasive species," Sue Williams, the author of the report told Our Amazing Planet in January.

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