A man fishing at North Montpelier Pond last week found something very unusual -- an exotic fish known as a Clown Knifefish. It is native to Southeast Asia. It was 17 inches long -- and dead.
Shawn Good is a fisheries biologist for the Vermont Fish and WIldlife Department. He has a good idea how this fish got into the pond. Someone intentionally emptied their home aquarium into the pond. "The fact that it was discovered in a natural pond here in Vermont is alarming to us because that means that somebody made the decision and choice to release this into the wild, into Vermont," Good said.
The Clown Knifefish can be ordered through a pet store or on line and can grow to nearly 40 inches. It has the potential to feed heavily on other fish, but because it cannot survive in water colder than 55 degrees, Good figures this fish did not survive very long in the wild.
Back in 2005 another tropical fish was caught in the Otter Creek still alive -- it was a Packu, which is a vegetarian cousin to the Piranah. Officials say the danger when non-native fish are dumped into Vermont's waterways is not only do they consume native species and compete for their food, they can also spread disease. Good says aquarium dumps have large and wide ranging ecological repercussions. "The problem of invasive species in the aquatic environment is not restricted to us by any means, it is a national and worldwide problem and a lot of those introductions are human influenced, they are a directly do to people moving things around -- that's either accidental or purposeful like in this case," he said.
Good recommends rather than releasing unwanted tropical fish and plants into the wild, give them away to another aquarium owner or pet shop.
Releasing aquarium fish and other species into Vermont waters is illegal -- violators can be fined up to $500.
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