If you’re the owner of a standard goldfish and wake up one morning and decide that pet ownership isn’t for you, you might be compelled to set your aquatic friend free in a local pond so it can live out its golden years in its natural habitat. I’m here to let you know that you absolutely should not do that.
According to a study carried out by a research team at the Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland, releasing pet goldfish into local ponds or lakes can cause a great deal of damage to those ecosystems. As far as the effect goldfish have on other pond inhabitants, researcher James Dickey told Treehugger, “our study showed a voracious appetite for live insect larvae, but they actually have a very broad diet and will eat other fishes, fish eggs, amphibians, and aquatic plants. Their very presence has been shown to affect the breeding behaviour of newts, too.” He goes on to explain that their diets affect water clarity, which in turn affects sunlight getting to aquatic plants, as well as causes algal blooms.
So what should you do if you have a goldfish that has outlived its welcome? You have a few options. Assuming you’ve already offered the pet up to any family or friends who’ve shown an interest in aquarium maintenance or aquatic pets but were unable to find any takers, look for local aquarist groups or animal sanctuaries that might take in your goldfish. Short of that, you can check out the website for Don’t Let it Loose, a group devoted to promoting responsible pet ownership, to see what re-homing options are available in your state. Additionally, many communities have local fish rescues.
If all else fails, you can always try going to the store where you bought your fish and explain to them why you can no longer take care of it, but there is no guarantee they’ll take it off your hands. And to prospective goldfish owners: Know what you’re getting into before you bring home a goldfish. It’s more work than you think, so it’s best to wait it out if you’re on the fence about taking on the responsibility.