Changes in an exotic fish community assemblage of a thermal spring in Central Idaho.
Barney Hot Springs is a thermal spring in the headwaters of the Little Lost River drainage in central Idaho. Tropical fish have been released into Barney Hot Springs, and several species have established self-sustaining populations. The objectives of this study were to determine the current community assemblage of tropical fish in Barney Hot Springs and to assess species composition and extent of downstream distribution of tropical fish in Barney Creek. The composition in 2017 consisted of Amelanic Convict Cichlids Amatitlania nigrofasciata, Mozambique Tilapia Oreochromis mossambicus, Zebra Mbuna Maylandia zebra, and Green Swordtails Xiphophorus hellerii. Total abundance of all fish species was estimated at 12,043 fish (95% CI 9807-15,600), with Green Swordtails making up 68% of the population, Zebra Mbuna 20%, Convict Cichlids 9%, and Mozambique Tilapia 3%. In Barney Creek, fish were collected within 800 m of Barney Hot Springs. In March 2018, a rain-on-snow event occurred that resulted in a fish kill. In fall 2018 after this event, Convict Cichlids, Green Swordtails, and Goldfish Carassius auratus were collected. Overall abundance was estimated at 1972 fish (95% CI 1757-2227), with Green Swordtails and Goldfish each composing 50% of the population; no Convict Cichlids were recaptured, so abundance could not be estimated. In Barney Creek, fish were collected within 400 m of Barney Hot Springs. We documented current changes to the fish community assemblage of Barney Hot Springs and Barney Creek that were driven by colonization (i.e., introduction of aquarium fish) and by local extinction through species interactions and stochastic events. Currently, we do not know the impact that the introduced fish fauna of Barney Hot Springs may have on native species or ecosystem function.