Release of pet goldfish could lead to ‘catastrophic results’ for the ecosystem

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Pet goldfish can pose a ‘triple threat’ to native biodiversity and their release could lead to ‘catastrophic results’, a new study from Northern Ireland has shown.

The study, led by James Dickey from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, looked at the potential threat of pet fish to the ecosystem.

According to the report, invasive species are known to be one of the main causes of global biodiversity loss, and the pet trade is responsible for around a third of all aquatic invasive species.

One of the ways this can happen is when pet owners release their unwanted fish into the wild, often in a misguided attempt to save the animal’s life.

To better understand this, Dickey and his fellow researchers focused on the two most commonly traded fish species in Northern Ireland: goldfish and white mountain minnow.

To do this, they developed a new method for assessing the ecological impacts and risks of potential invaders of the pet trade, based on availability, feeding rates and behavior. Through this, they showed that goldfish consumed significantly more than white cloud mountain chub or native species.

In terms of behaviors, goldfish have also been shown to be much braver, a trait linked to invasive propagation.

“Our research suggests that goldfish pose a triple threat. Not only are they readily available, but they combine insatiable appetites with bold behavior,” Mr Dickey said.

The research also revealed that while northern European climates are often a barrier to the survival of non-native species in the wild, goldfish are known to survive in such conditions and could pose a real threat to the native biodiversity of rivers and lakes, consuming the resources. on which native species depend.

“Our research highlights that goldfish are at high risk, but we hope the methods developed here can be used to assess others in the pet trade in Ireland and beyond. Readily available species are most likely to be released, so limiting the availability of potentially impactful ones, alongside better education of pet owners, is one solution to preventing harmful invaders from establishing themselves in the environment. future,” Mr. Dickey added.

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