Updated August 13 2016
Most aquarium fish, plants, crayfish, snails, frogs, salamanders and turtles are not native to Ontario. Releasing them into a lake, river, pond or wetland could establish a new population which has environmental and economic impacts. Awareness and common sense will help prevent the introduction of these non-native species into Ontario's waters.
Most Aquarium Pets Are From
Most aquarium plants and animals sold in pet stores are imported from Florida, Central and South America, Africa, and south-east Asia. However, some of the species used in aquariums are tolerant of colder climates and can survive over winter in Ontario.
Release Of Aquarium Pets
Is A Problem
Numerous discoveries of aquarium pets and plants in Ontario waters are reported each year. Many more sightings or releases go unreported. Most aquarium owners are not aware that releasing aquarium pets and plants could have serious impacts on our environment. The following are examples of some of the more common aquarium species that have been reported in Ontario. Fanwort (Cabomba caroliniana) is an aquarium plant that was discovered in Kasshabog Lake near Peterborough in July 1999. It can form dense stands, crowding out other native plants, clogging drainage canals and streams, interfering with recreational uses (eg. swimming or boating) and the appearance of the lake. It also has the potential to displace other native aquatic plant species, alter fish communities and disrupt the natural processes in shallow lakes and bays.
Aquarium fish such as the pacu, oscar or piranha are discovered in Ontario's waters each year. Contrary to popular belief, several species of aquarium fish are tolerant of cooler waters and could become established in Ontario. In 1999, four pacu caught by anglers were reported. One of these was found in a warm water outflow where they have an increased chance of surviving winters and becoming established. The red-eared slider is the most common turtle sold in pet stores. It has been reported to carry Salmonella bacteria and to compete with native turtles for food and nesting areas. They do consume large quantities of aquatic vegetation. Although native to the Gulf of Mexico region, they have been found in Ontario waters and wetlands.
It Isn't Good For Your Pet
Although you may think you are doing them a favour, releasing aquarium animals into Ontario waters is NOT a humane way to dispose of an unwanted pet. Aquarium pets may die soon after release due to predation, or temperature extremes, or may die slowly due to starvation, parasites and diseases. Either way you have certainly not done your pet a favour!
It Isn't Good For The
Non-native species introduced to a new environment often do not have predators or competitors for food and habitat. Therefore, they can grow rapidly, establish large populations, disrupt the natural food chain and out-compete and displace native species. When this happens, our natural ecosystems can be over-taken by these less desirable species. Aquarium pets can also transmit bacteria, parasites or diseases to native species that can result in a decline in their population. They have also been known to hybridize with native species, which could lead to the loss of native species. Aquarium water may contain fertilized eggs, pieces of aquatic plants, parasites or organisms that are not visible to the eye. Dumping aquarium water into a stream, lake, wetland, pond, drainage ditch or storm sewer could result in a new species becoming established in the wild.
It Isn't Good For Us or Our
Introduced aquarium plants or animals can spread quickly, be persistent, and can become a nuisance if they are overabundant in a lake, river, or wetland. This can impair swimming, fishing, boating, wildlife viewing opportunities and businesses that support these activities. Once established, introduced species are almost impossible to eradicate. The desire to maintain recreational benefits can result in long-term, expensive control programs. Increased communication and awareness programs, regulations and enforcement may be required to control their spread.
You Can Help!
The release of aquarium pets is illegal and harmful. You can help by doing the following. Know your fish before you buy! Some species, such as the Pacu, will require a large aquarium when they grow to full size. Fish size is not restricted by tank size. Drain aquarium water on dry land. Never release or flush unwanted aquarium pets or aquarium water into natural waters, drainage ditches or sewers. Dispose of aquarium plants simply by drying or burning them. Donate unwanted aquarium fish, snails or plants to a pet store, school or aquarium hobbyist. Advertise to give them away for free.
Find a home for an unwanted aquarium pet through the Fish Rescue Program. This includes reptiles, amphibians, arachnids, molluscs, aquatic plants and such as well as fish, from the aquarium hobby. Contact the Canadian Association of Aquarium Clubs (CAOAC) at 519-771-3474 or call the toll-free Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711. For information on exotic species and how to prevent their spread or to report a new sighting of an exotic species, call the toll-free Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711. If you must give up your aquarium pets and plants, please consider their well being as well as their potential impact on the environment.
Spread the word and take action to prevent the introduction and spread of aquarium species in the wild. This will help protect the environment and sustain the recreational and economic benefits that result from healthy fisheries and clean waters. Contact an executive member of your club, they will first find out what type of fish or amphibian it is. Once identified, arrangements are made to have the fish picked up. The Canadian Association of Aquarium Clubs (CAOAC) has a network in place with a Chairman, Jerry Draper e-mail, or Ann Marie Towell email for our western provinces, who will work at finding a home for the fish or amphibian. If no home can be found, the animal will be euthanized.