Teachers and pet owners should be aware that aquarium animals and plants should never be released into the wild. Releasing aquatic animals and plants is illegal, as they pose a threat to native species and ecosystems. While the environmental damage caused by invasive species throughout the United States is devastating, Alabama is especially vulnerable due to its abundant biodiversity and aquatic habitat.
When a non-native animal or plant is introduced into an ecosystem, the results are often unpredictable. The national Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force Strategic Plan indicates that “approximately 49% of imperiled species are endangered primarily because of predation or competition with exotic species.”
For example, the Island Applesnail was likely released into waters near Mobile Bay by an aquarium or ornamental pond owner. Biologists are concerned these snails will reduce the number of native aquatic plants necessary as food and habitat for birds and other aquatic organisms. The Island Applesnail can also host a parasite that affects humans.
The Oriental Weatherfish or Pond Loach is an exotic aquarium fish that has been found in Logan Martin Reservoir and tributaries of the Coosa River. This species has been found in the same waters as the native Coldwater Darter, although the threats to this protected species are currently unknown.
Once an invasive organism has become established, it is nearly impossible to eradicate. The control of invasive species is costly, so preventive measures such as properly disposing of unwanted aquarium animals and plants is a priority in preserving native ecosystems.
A pet store may be willing to take unwanted aquarium animals or plants. If a pet store will not take the aquarium animal, it will need to be euthanized. To properly dispose of aquarium animals and plants, they should be frozen, sealed in a plastic bag, and placed in the trash.
To learn more about invasive aquatic species in Alabama, visit www.outdooralabama.com.
ADCNR promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.