Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

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Aquarium trade (pathway cause)

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Datasheet

Aquarium trade (pathway cause)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 25 September 2017
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Pathway Cause
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Aquarium trade (pathway cause)
  • Overview
  • A significant number of invasive aquatic species can be attributed to the aquarium industry and water garden trade and the associated practice of intentionally releasing unwanted pets. This includes fish, molluscs and a...

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Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Aquarium trade (pathway cause)

International Common Names

  • English: aquarium fish; aquarium industry; aquarium plants; garden ponds; ornamental fish; ornamental plants; ornamental ponds; pet fish; pets; trade, aquarium; trade, water garden; water garden industry; water garden trade

Overview

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A significant number of invasive aquatic species can be attributed to the aquarium industry and water garden trade and the associated practice of intentionally releasing unwanted pets. This includes fish, molluscs and aquatic plants but can also involve amphibians and reptiles. With the increasing growth of this industry, it is anticipated that this vector will continue to be an important source of introductions of invasive aquatic species. Future efforts should focus on prevention through increased public education and more stringent regulations.

Description

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Summary of Organism Types or Species Introduced

Species involved in the aquarium industry routinely include ornamental fishes, molluscs and aquatic plants. Organisms associated with the water garden trade can include reptiles (e.g., turtles), fish (e.g., koi carp, goldfish, etc.), amphibians and aquatic plants. Many ornamental fish are imported from tropical areas such as Africa, South America and South-East Asia. Crossman and Cudmore (1999) attributed the introduction of almost one hundred species of fish to the aquarium trade. Mackie (1999) reported that of 22 species of molluscs, which have been introduced to North America, eight may be attributed to the aquarium trade. Pickrell (2004) reported 16 species of non-native tropical fish, attributed to freed aquarium fish, at 32 different locations along the southeast Florida coast.

Principle Processes

Once imported, there are several potential means for exotic species being introduced into the wild. Escape, either from a breeding facility or during transportation, has been known to occur (Beyer, 2004).  Many introductions are believed to have been deliberate releases, however. This may involve disposal of excess unsold or unwanted organisms, release as part of a religious custom, or the 'humane' disposal of a pet that has outgrown its holding facility or is left at the onset of winter when closing a water garden. In most of these cases, there is no intention of establishing a self-sustaining population. There is also the risk of introducing exotic organisms, parasites or pathogens from water used to transport aquarium fish (Trust and Bartlett, 1974).

Geographical Routes and Corridors

Once an invasive species has gained access into a new ecosystem, there are a number of ways in which they can expand their range. Natural movements using canals, streams and rivers are common. There are several large canal systems (Erie, Trent-Severn, Welland, Rideau, etc.) in eastern North America that have been associated with the dispersal of aquatic invasive species. Many species introduced to one of the Great Lakes have used interconnected waterways to become distributed in the other lakes. Invasive species can also be spread by a number of other means including recreational boating, use of live bait and water diversions.

Species Transported by Cause

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SpeciesNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Hydrocotyle ranunculoides (floating pennywort) Yes Yes
Myriophyllum pinnatum (cutleaf watermilfoil)one of the aquatic herb species recommended for aquaria and sold by aquarium shops Yes Yes Live Aquaria, 2017

Management

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Public education is important to prevent the introduction of invasive aquatic organisms. Most introductions from this vector involve the intentional release of an unwanted pet as a humane way of disposal. Some cultures also have traditions regarding the release of a pet for social or religious reasons. To date, attempts have been made to develop programs for the elementary school curriculum (McGarry, 2004). There are also collaborative programmes, such as Adapt-a-Pet, Habitattitude and Fish Rescue, which promote awareness and strive to prevent releases by aquarium hobbyists and water garden owners (Lichtkoppler and Jensen, 2005).

Many species of tropical organisms are unable to survive over winter in a temperate climate. There are numerous instances, however, where they were able to adapt and become established. Once introduced, an exotic species can rarely be eradicated. For example, there have not been any successful eradications of any alien species in the Great Lakes basin (Dextrase, 2002).

Once an invasive species is detected in the wild, a rapid response is required. In some cases, existing barriers, such as dams, waterfalls, etc. can be used to control the spread of exotic species. In other instances control measures need to be implemented. There are several types of potential control measures. Mechanical control involves manual measures, such as constructing wetland exclusions for carp, use of mechanical harvesters to control Eurasian water milfoil, placement of matting to control aquatic vegetation and uprooting stands of purple loosestrife. While there have been some successes with mechanical controls, many of these techniques are costly and time consuming and prove ineffective. For example, despite mechanical harvesting programmes to prevent its spread northward, water chestnut successfully colonized the Richelieu River system (Gratton, 1998).

Chemical controls usually involve the use of herbicides or pesticides which target a particular species and have minimal impact on other non-target species. The use of TFM (trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol) to control sea lamprey in the Great Lakes is an example of chemical control. The difficulty is having a selective chemical control agent for each of many different invasive species. Several new products are currently under development but require longer term testing.

Biocontrol involves the introduction of predators or pathogens of an alien species. This type of control has been attempted in several situations including the use of weevils for aquatic plant control (Shaw, 2004) and releasing European beetles to control purple loosestrife (Malecki et al., 1993). Unfortunately, biocontrol agents are not always species-specific and may become pests themselves with impacts on non-target species (Dextrase, 2002).

Undoubtedly, more regulatory measures are required to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive aquatic species. Specifically, restrictions, regarding the importation, sale or culture of high risk species are required. High risk species would be those which have potential to establish populations, are voracious and aggressive, have a proven capacity for environmental damage or are known to carry ecologically important diseases or parasites.

References

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Andrews C, 1990. The ornamental fish trade and fish conservation. Journal of Fish Biology, No. 37:53-59.

Arthington AH, 1991. Ecological and genetic impacts of introduced and translocated freshwater fishes in Australia. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 48(1):33-43.

Belshe JF, 1961. M.Sc. Thesis. Coral Gabler, Florida, USA: University of Miami.

Benson AJ, 1999. Documenting over a century of aquatic introductions in the United States. In: Nonindigenous freshwater organisms - Vectors, Biology and Impacts [ed. by Claudi R, Leach JH] Boca Raton, Florida, USA: Lewis Publishers, 1-31.

Beyer K, 2004. Escapees of potentially invasive fishes from an ornamental aquaculture facility: The case of the topmouth gudgeon (Pseudorasbora parva). Journal of Fish Biology, 65(A):326-327.

Brittan MR, 1979. A pacu (Colossoma) caught in the Sacramento River. California Fish and Game, 65(3):170-173.

Chapman FA; Fitz-Coy SA; Thunberg EM; Adams CM, 1997. United States of America trade in ornamental fish. Journal of the World Aquaculture Society, 28(1):1-10.

Contreras S; Escalante C, 1984. Distribution and known impacts of exotic fishes in Mexico. In: Distribution, Biology and Management of Exotic Fishes [ed. by Courtenay WR, Stauffer JR] Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Johns Hopkins University Press, 102-130.

Contreras-Balderas S, 1999. Annotated checklist of introduced invasive fishes in Mexico with examples of some recent introductions. In: Nonindigenous freshwater organisms - Vectors, Biology and Impacts [ed. by Claudi R, Leach JH] Boca Raton, Florida, USA: Lewis Publishers, 33-56.

Courtenay WR, 1999. Aquariums and water gardens as vectors of introduction. In: Nonindigenous freshwater organisms - Vectors, Biology and Impacts [ed. by Claudi R, Leach JH] Boca Raton, Florida, USA: Lewis Publishers, 127-128.

Courtenay WR; Robins CR, 1973. Exotic aquatic organisms in Florida with emphasis on fishes: A review and recommendations. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 102(1):1-12.

Crossman EJ, 1991. Introduced freshwater fishes: A review of the North American perspective with emphasis on Canada. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 48(1):46-57.

Crossman EJ; Cudmore BC, 1999. Summary of North American fish introductions through the aquarium/horticulture trade. In: Nonindigenous freshwater organisms - Vectors, Biology and Impacts [ed. by Claudi R, Leach JH] Boca Raton, Florida, USA: Lewis Publishers, 129-133.

Deacon JE; Hubbs C; Zahuranec BJ, 1964. Some effects of introduced fishes on the native fish fauna of southern Nevada. Copeia, 1964(NO. 2):384-388.

deLafontaine Y; Costan G, 2002. Introduction and transfer of alien aquatic species in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence drainage basin. In: Alien invaders in Canada's waters, wetlands and forests [ed. by Claudi R, Nantel P, Muckle-Jeffs E] Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Canadian Forest Service.

Dextrase A, 2002. Preventing the introduction and spread of alien aquatic species in the Great Lakes. In: Alien invaders in Canada's waters, wetlands and forests [ed. by Claudi R, Nantel P, Muckle-Jeffs E] Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Canadian Forest Service.

Fuller PL; Nico LG; Williams JD, 1999. Nonindigenous fishes introduced into inland waters of the United States. American Fisheries Society Publication, No. 27.

Gratton L, 1998. Exotic invasive plants in a river environment. (Espèces végétales exotiques envahissantes du milieu riverain) Compte rendu atelier sur les espèces exotiques envahissantes Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. 23 novembre 1988.

Haber E, 2002. Spread and impact of alien plants across Canadian landscapes.In: Claudi R, Nantel P, Muckle-Jeffs E. Canadian Forest Service. In: Alien invaders in Canada's waters, wetlands and forests [ed. by Claudi R, Nantel P, Muckle-Jeffs E] Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Canadian Forest Service.

Hogsden KL; Sager EPS; Hutchinson TC, 2007. The impacts of the non-native macrophyte Cabomba caroliniana on littoral biota of Kasshabog Lake, Ontario. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 33(2):497-504. http://www.iaglr.org/jglr/db/view_contents.php?pub_id=2525&mode=view&table=yes&topic_id=&mode=toc&volume=33&issue=2

Hubbs C; Deacon JE, 1964. Additional introductions of tropical fishes into southern Nevada. Southwestern Naturalist, 9(4):249-251.

Jensen DA, 2004. Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species. Ennis, Ireland. September 20-24, 2004.

Kerr SJ; Brousseau CS; Muschett M, 2005. Invasive aquatic species in Ontario: a review and analysis of potential pathways for introduction. Fisheries (Bethesda), 30(7):21-30.

Kohler CC; Courtenay WR, 1986. Regulating introduced aquatic species: A review of past initiatives. Fisheries, 11(2):34-38.

Lichtkoppler FR; Jensen DA, 2005. .

Linder AD, 1964. The guppy (Lebistes reticulates) from a hot spring, Idaho. Copeia, 1964:708-709.

Lumsden McLachin HGDJ, 1988. European frog-bit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae) in Lake Ontario marshes. Canadian Field Naturalist, 102:261-263.

Mackie GL, 1999. Mollusc introductions through aquarium trade. In: Nonindigenous freshwater organisms - Vectors, Biology and Impacts [ed. by Claudi R, Leach JH] Boca Raton, Florida., USA: Lewis Publishers, 135-149.

Maki K; Galatowitsch S, 2004. Movement of invasive aquatic plants into Minnesota (USA) through horticultural trade. Biological Conservation, 118(3):389-396.

Malecki RA; Blassey B; Hight SD; Schroeder D; Kok LT; Coulson JR, 1993. Biological control of purple loosestrife. Bioscience, No. 43:680-686.

McDowall RM, 1968. Interactions of the native and alien faunas of New Zealand and the problems of fish introductions. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 97(1):1-11.

McDowall RM, 1984. Exotic fishes:The New Zealand experience. In: Distribution, Biology and Management of Exotic Fishes [ed. by Courtenay WR, Stauffer JR] Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Johns Hopkins University Press, 200-214.

McDowall RM, 2004. Shoot first and then ask questions: A look at aquarium fish imports and invasiveness in New Zealand. Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 38(3):503-510.

McKay RJ, 1977. he Australian aquarium fish industry and the possibility of the introduction of exotic fish species and diseases. Fisheries Paper. Canberra, Australia: Fisheries Division. Department of Primary Industry, 36.

McKay RJ, 1984. Introduction of exotic fishes in Australia. In: Distribution, Biology and Management of Exotic Fishes [ed. by Courtenay WR, Stauffer JR] Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Johns Hopkins University Press, 177-199.

Mearns AJ, 1975. Poeciliopsis gracilis a newly introduced Poecilid fish in California. California Fish and Game, 6(4):251-253.

Metzger RJ; Shafland PL, 1984. Possible establishment of Geophagus surinamensis in Florida. Florida Scientist, 47(3):201-203.

Mills EL; Leach JH; Carlton JT; Secor CL, 1993. Exotic species in the Great Lakes: A history of biotic crises and anthropogenic introductions. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 19(1):1-54.

Mouton A; Basson L; Impson D, 2001. Health status of ornamental freshwater fishes imported to South Africa : A pilot study. Aquarium Sciences and Conservation, 3(4):313-319.

Myers GS, 1925. Introduction of the European bitterling (Rhodeus) in New York and of the rudd (Scardinius) in New Jersey. Copeia, 140(1925):20-21.

Naiman RJ, 1974. Occurrence of the tiger barb (Barbus tetrazona) in the Owens Valley, California. California Fish and Game, No. 60:100-101.

Noel J, 2005. M.Sc. Thesis. Peterborough, Ontario, Canada: Trent University.

Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, 2005. A guide for water gardeners and aquarium owners. Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

Raquel PF, 1992. Record of alligator gar (Lepisosteus spatula) from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. California Fish and Game, 78(4):169-171.

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Shaw RH; Reeder RH; Bacon E; Oduro C, 2004. Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species. Ennis, Ireland. September 20-24, 2004.

Shotts EB; Gratzek JB, 1984. Bacteria, parasites and viruses of aquarium fish and their shipping waters. In: Distribution, Biology and Management of Exotic Fishes [ed. by Courtenay WR, Stauffer JR] Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Johns Hopkins University Press, 215-232.

StAmant JA; Sharp I, 1971. Addition of Xiphophorus variatus to the California fauna. California Fish and Game, No. 51:128-129.

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Trust TJ; Bartlett KH, 1974. Occurrence of potential pathogens in water containing ornamental fishes. Applied Microbiology, 28(No.1):35-40.

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Wright D, 2002. Intentional introductions of alien species of fish: Have we learned from our mistakes? In: Alien invaders in Canada's waters, wetlands and forests [ed. by Claudi R, Nantel P, Muckle-Jeffs E] Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Canadian Forest Service.

Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Forcehttp://www.anstaskforce.gov/default.phpThe Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Task Force is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to preventing and controlling aquatic nuisance species, and implementing the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act (NANPCA) of 1990. The
Canadian Association of Aquarium Clubshttp://www.caoac.ca/FramesetMain.htmlCAOAC stands for The Canadian Association of Aquarium Clubs. It is a non-profit corporation and is composed of member aquarium, reptile & amphibian, pond & water garden, and similar clubs or societies from across Canada and the Northeast United State
DIAS, Database on Introductions of Aquatic Specieshttp://www.fao.org/figis/servlet/static?dom=collection&xml=dias.xmlThe database includes records of species introduced or transferred from one country to another. Some example maps demonstrate the extent of introductions.
Habitattitudehttp://www.habitattitude.net/Habitattitude is a national initiative developed by the ANS Task Force and its partner organizations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service serves the lead federal agency for Habitattitude; however, there are some very distinct differences between this
Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canadahttp://www.pijaccanada.com/en/The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada is the voice of the Canadian pet industry. As a not for profit, member based organization, PIJAC Canada advocates on behalf of the Canadian pet industry, while acting as a credible source of informat
Sea Grant National Aquatic Nuisance Species Clearinghousehttp://aquaticinvaders.org

Contributors

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5/21/2008 Original text by:

Steve Kerr, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Branch, 300 Water Street, Peterborough, Ontario, K9J 8M5, Canada