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Goldfish as Bait – Why They Are Illegal and How They Affect the Ecosystem

Here at That Fish Place – That Pet Place we are doing our best to educate our customers on the dangers and risks of using goldfish as bait. In addition to offering an extreme risk to native species, anglers also face steep fines if they are caught in possession of goldfish for bait.  In Lancaster County Pennsylvania, where we are located, there are several bait and tackle shops that offer better alternatives for fishing.

 

History of Goldfish in the US

A western aquarium of the 1850s

A western aquarium of the 1850s illustration from Shirley Hibber, The Book of the Aquarium and Water Cabinet

Goldfish are freshwater members of the carp and minnow family.   While many of us admire them from the view of our tank, they are actually one of the first aquatic invasive species to reach North America.  How did the goldfish go from being the cute googly eyed fish you would feed after school, to being such a widespread risk to native plants and species?

Goldfish began to come to the America’s in the 1600s as ornamental fish for aquariums and water gardens. If the fish became too large for their surroundings, or the owner became tired of it, they simply got rid of it in the closest freshwater source.  Today, goldfish are becoming reintroduced as livebait.  Pennsylvania has stepped in, as well as many other states to make it illegal to use goldfish as live bait.

 

The Real Issues

goldfish_credit_ontario-streams

Goldfish (Carassius auratus) photo by Ontario Streams

Goldfish will typically eat their own eggs when held in captivity, so breeding is not a large issue for most hobbyists unless they are intentionally breeding their goldfish.  Given the right conditions, goldfish can spawn several times a season.  A lot of the eggs will get eaten by the adult goldfish once they are laid, but several hundred eggs are produced at each spawning.  With only a few eggs eaten, and fry hatching within 48-72 hours, you can imagine how just a few goldfish can turn into a large problem rather quickly.

Often referred to as the “little piggies” of the aquarium, goldfish are opportunistic feeders and will not stop eating of their own accord.  While goldfish typically feed off of crustaceans, insects, and various plant matter; when this food is scarce they will eat eggs from native species nests.  The native egg-laying species populations have now been disrupted, and due to that, the population has declined and disrupted other wildlife food chains.

 

Law on the Books

downloadIt is unlawful to use or possess goldfish, comets, koi and common carp as bait fish while fishing in the state of Pennsylvania. If you are caught fishing with feeder goldfish or any other illegal bait fish there is a minimum $120.50 fine, and you can be fined an additional $20.00 – $50.00 per illegal bait fish.  Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission wants you to know that you aren’t off scot-free just yet.  Law enforcement also has the authority to confiscate or seize, any fishing equipment as evidence of your violation of the law.  The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission may, upon proper notice, suspend or revoke your fishing privileges, boating privileges or other permits of any person convicted (or acknowledging guilt) of a violation of the Fish and Boat Code or Fish & Boat Commission regulations.  That would also include your naive fishing buddy.  Should multiple violations occur within a 12-month period you will be given a fine of $200 in addition to the previously mentioned summary offenses.  That $0.10 feeder fish now cost you a fishing license, a fishing rod, fishing equipment, a whole lot of cash, a boat, and a fishing buddy. The consequences per state will vary, so check with your local Fish & Boat Commission for more information.

The employees at That Fish Place – That Pet Place are all avid hobbyists, and a lot of us live in the local river towns where fishing is just a way of life.  We don’t want to ruin the sport for other enthusiasts, just as much as we don’t want others to ruin the sport for us.  We will always strive to do our best when it comes to conservation efforts, and want to encourage others to do the same.  Thank you for reading!

 

 

Keeping Tropical Fish in Outside Ponds for the Summer

Eureka red kept in pond Hey there!  This week I wanted to talk about something a little different than my usual cichlid blog. I wanted to share some tips on how you can develop spectacular color on tropical fish in a way you may have never considered.

A few years ago, we moved into a house that had a small pond in the front yard. It was one of those rigid, preformed round ponds about 15 inches deep with a  50 to 80 gallon capacity. We kept a few goldfish in there the first year. They grew and made it through the winter just fine as we expected.

The following Spring, I got hold of some Astatotilapia aneocolor from Lake Victoria, 2 males 3 females to be exact. I was told by the previous keeper that they were aggressive, so I put them in a 55 gallon. I figured that would be plenty of space, since they were only 2.5 inch fish, and that they would leave each other alone for the time being.

Boy, was I wrong. One of the males showed his dominance within 2 hours of being added to the tank, and no matter what I did he couldn’t be swayed. I moved decorations around, gave him a time out for a week in a net breeder, and  I even put him into an aquarium with four 3 inch Black Belt Cichlids hoping he would be intimidated into submission. He went nuts in that tank, too, and started beating up the Black Belts, so back into the original tank he went. He quickly went back to his old ways, dominating and terrorizing the other male. He finally ripped out male no. 2’s right eye.

The Great Outdoors

I wasn’t sure what I could do for him. Then it occurred to me that I did have another place for him to go. The temps were high enough outside, so why not? I decided to relocate One Eye to the pond outside to give him a chance to recover. I watched to make sure that the other fish (goldfish) didn’t bother him and they didn’t. In fact, by the end of the week ol’ One Eye was the sole proprietor of the pond.

For the next few weeks, he ate well and still came up to the surface to see who was around the pond when I went to feed. I only had a little internal filter system on the pond, and soon the water started turning green. Before long I could barely see One Eye to see his condition, but i knew he was still alive and growing, possibly even larger than the bully inside. He was eating well, besides my offerings he ate insects that fell into the pond, and I also noticed he was scraping algae off the sides.

Meanwhile the dominant male in the 55 was attaining his astounding breeding colors. He was red on top half of his body and yellow on the bottom half with black fins.

The nights started to get into the mid 60’s, so it was time to bring in ol’ One Eye. When I netted him out I was shocked to see that he was an inch and a half larger than my dominant male and his colors were unbelievable! He had a deep maroon upper half and the bottom half was gold…I kid you not. I mean it was so vibrant that I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to other fish from my collection if they had the same conditions. The following Spring, I upgraded the filter setup to an internal mag drive pump pushing into a Fluval 403 canister filter with the return line feeding a waterfall. I started keeping Albino Eureka Red Peacocks outside in that pond after the upgrade. You can see the results in my photo (top photo, sorry it’s a little blurry).

There is no match for the magic of natural sunlight and the varied diet tropicals can get outside. A friend of mine kept Red Terrors outside, where they bred for him through the season. Summer vacation outside isn’t just for cichlids, it can also be done with platies, swordtails, guppies and pretty much anything tropical if you have a place for them. Even small patio ponds could be populated with livebearers or tetras. Imagine a school of Cardinal Tetras soaking up those sun rays! Any pond will do as long as it doesn’t get too hot or too cold, and as long the fish have a little cover to protect them from would be predators like herons.

It’s a Jungle Out There

While the benefits are great, there are also some cautions to consider. This time I’d like to talk about some of the dangers and pests that may wreak havoc on our poor little fishies.

I was lucky not to have my pond visited by pests, but local stray cats, opossums, raccoons, snakes or predatory birds that may decide to visit your pond at any time.  Even bugs like dragonfly nymphs can prey on young and small fish. Ample water movement and surface ripples are usually enough to deter them, but more effort may be needed to deter larger predators. There are some easy ways that you can help to protect your fish while they enjoy their outdoor summer vacation. Personally, I would recommend the live plants. You can use floating foliage like water lilies, duck weed or hyacinths for cover and protection for your fish. Young fish will also hide in the roots and feed on the small bugs that live in the roots. Another solution is the use of pond netting. The netting can prevent many predators from snatching your fish out of the water. Not very aesthetic, but effective.

Pesticides and other contaminants may pose a hazard in an outdoor environment. Toxins can be washed into a pond during heavy downpours or may be blown into the Green Heronwater.  The rish is small as long as you stay aware when applying such products…something to keep in mind. Even the rain itself can be a danger to your fish. Acidic rain can drive your ph to low levels if you have a low kh. Depending on the species you’re keeping, such fluctuations can wipe fish out quickly.  I was able to keep the kh high and the ph stable with weekly buffered water changes so thi swas never a problem in my experiences.

Closing Time

Cool temps are the other concern. It’s important to know when to bring them in. For me, when night temperatures start dipping below 75 F, I know it’s time to bring them back to the tank. You may notice the fish becoming lethargic, and some may even die if you don’t pay close attention at the end of summer. I recommend acclimating them slowly back to indoor temperatures. If the filter running the pond is a canister filter, I would recommend keeping it running on the main tank. Clean it out before bringing it inside, but you’ll be supplying an established filter/biological for your indoor tank, and you don’t have to wait for the whole cycling process. We drain the pond each year and look for babies. You can then either store it till the following year or couple of set it back up in the house for the winter.

I hope this inspires someone else to try some tropicals outside. You wont regret it. Let me know if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to help you out.

Until next time,

Jose

Backyard Ponds: A Quick Springtime Maintenance And Care Guide

Spring Pond Care

Garden PondSpring is finally here in the northeast, and it is time to give your pond some attention after a long cold winter.  Here is a quick to-do list to help you make sure that your pond is in good shape, and will give you a summer of trouble free enjoyment.

Inspect Your Pond

Freezing, thawing, heavy snow (and pets and kids) can cause rocks and landscape to shift.  Check the perimeter of your pond for any changes to your pond boundary, looking for any potential hazards or areas that may have weakened that could cause a leak.  This is especially important if your pond has a stream or waterfall.

Prepare Your Equipment

Whether you bring your equipment inside, or leave it outdoors, make sure that you look over all your plumbing and filter equipment.  Check for cracks or other damage, worn parts, pull everything apart and make sure that nothing is hiding inside your pumps or filters that could cause a problem on start-up, replace Filter Media as necessary.  Inspect your nets and maintenance equipment, so that everything is ready when you need it.

If your pond includes an Ultraviolet Sterilizer or Clarifier, check the quarts sleeve, make sure it is in good shape and clean.  Make sure that all the seals are in good shape, so there are no leaks.  Replace your U.V. Sterilizer Bulb.  Even if your U.V. is still functional, it may not be producing quality good light.  Bulbs degrade over time, light spectrums shift, and efficiency is reduced.  Replacing your U.V. bulb every spring will ensure that it is working at peak performance when the hot weather comes, and your need it most.

Clean Out The Mess

Evaluate how much cleaning really needs to be done, Don’t overdo it!  Especially if you have fish, you don’t want to do too much, it will completely disrupt the biological system in your pond.  In most cases netting out as much debris as possible, cleaning out the filters and stirring up and pumping out some of the dirty water is all that is needed.  If there is a considerable amount of debris, and the water is dark and organic laden, more extreme cleaning may be warranted.  In these cases it is advisable to use a kiddie pool, or some other safe container to temporarily house your fish during cleaning.   Pump water from your pond into the pool, and then transfer the fish once the water level is low enough to easily catch them.  Drain the pond as much as needed (completely drain id needed), and use a hose to wash the pond from the top down, pumping the dirty waste out with a submersible pump and large diameter Flexible Tubing.

pond lillyThis is a good time to do some maintenance on your pond plants if you have any.  Trim off any remaining dead or damaged foliage, evaluate whether you need to split or move anything to a larger pot, it is much easier to do this now with a lower water level.  Using a 5 gallon bucket will make it much easier to gather plant debris or potting material.

Refill the pond and use a conditioner if you are using a chlorinated water source.  Make sure that you slowly acclimate your fish back into your pond if you did a very large or complete water change.  Do this by adding some of the new pond water to the pool that has your fish, and putting some of the water from the pool back into the pond.  Do this slowly over a period of time until the pool water has been completely mixed with the new pond water, do this slowly, especially if there is a big temperature difference.  Once acclimated, put your fish back into pond.

 

Spring Pond Treatments

There are a few things that you can do for your pond during your spring start-up to ensure that your ponds biological system gets a good start.  Use of biological supplements like Microbe Lift Sludge Away, will help to break down organic waste and muck that has accumulated in your pond over the winter, and get your pond headed in the right direction.  Using a live nitrifying bacteria like Microbe-Lift PL will help re-establish your biological filter, this is especially beneficial if you have completely shut down your pond for the winter and stored your filter indoors.

This is also a good time to start Barley Straw Treatments for algae control, these take time to establish, so adding them now will make sure they are active for warmer weather.

 

Spring Fish Care

You need to be careful with your fish as they become active in the spring.  Your fishes metabolism is controlled by the water temperature, and you should not feed your fish until water temperatures have stabilized above 40 degrees, your fish will have trouble digesting food in cold temperatures.  Use a Spring and Fall Formula fish food that is easily digested until your ponds temperatures have stabilized above 60 degrees.

 

Hopefully this will get your pond headed in the right direction, and all you have to do this summer is sit back and enjoy!

Until next blog.

Dave

 

 

Winter is Coming – Cold Weather Pond Prep

Pond in winterSay what you will about the changing of seasons, getting to watch the leaves turn from green to shades of red and yellow, and partaking in what are arguably the best holidays of the year (Halloween, Thanksgiving, and that one where we all go shopping), but going into winter is a pain in the pond! Well, this blogger is here to help you overcome your winter-time woes with some helpful reminders of how to get your outdoor pond ready for the winter.

Now, obviously we don’t all live in the same climate; so this blog will likely only be helpful for folks who actually get to experience a winter and all the glorious tribulations it has to offer: freezing weather, snow showers, etc. Those of you lucky enough to only need a light jacket through winter months can move right along with your “lows in the 60’s” weather! If, on the other hand, you actually own a snow shovel, then let’s work on getting that pond ready for the winter with 4 easy-to-follow steps:

Ice is bad, m’kay?

One of the worst things you can let your pond do is completely freeze over when the temperatures drop. If there is no opening in the ice, then there is no gas exchange going on. Your fish might be hibernating, but they still need oxygen to breathe and your pond still needs to release carbon dioxide. Does the whole pond need to be ice free? Of course not! A little hole in the ice would be satisfactory. This can be accomplished two ways: by using an air pump or a de-icer.

Air pumps pump air into the pond, creating bubbles to disrupt the surface of the water and preventing ice from forming. Air pumps are also a nice investment because they are useful in the summer for extra oxygenation when the temperatures rise. Read More »

Tadpoles in Aquariums – Watching the Miracle of Metamorphosis

Frog EggsI can remember foraging in ponds and puddles as a kid, especially once it got warm enough in Spring  that the ground was thawed and everything would reappear after a long winter dormancy. How could I not be fascinated by the frogs hidden at the water’s edge and the newts and salamanders I’d find under moist rocks and rotting wood? But what would really grab my curiosity and attention would be the various jelly-like egg masses that would appear along the water’s edge, speckled with black dots and begging to be observed. It was on more than one occasion that my siblings and I gathered a cluster of eggs in a jar to take home for observation. If you have a small spare aquarium and a few other simple pieces of equipment, you can raise amphibian eggs, too, and watch them change from a speck in an egg to a fully developed frog or salamander. Watching tadpoles in aquariums is a great educational project for kids and adults!

If you have a spare 5 or 10 gallon tank lying around or a small garden or patio pond, prepare to be amazed! Start by filling the tank or pond with clean water. Ideally you’ll let the water cure for at least a day or two, particularly if you have chlorinated municipal water, but you can also use a dechlorinator to make the water safe. Your tadpoles absolutely depend on having fresh, clean water for proper health and development. You’ll be bringing a small amount of source water with you from wherever it is you collect your eggs, but chances are you won’t be carrying several 5 gallon buckets of it back with you. Take care to have an environment prepared for your egg cluster before you bring it home.  Don’t put eggs into an occupied aquarium, keep them safe in a separate vessel.  Read More »