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Beware the Giant Goldfish

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Let’s be honest, we don’t have a great record with goldfish. We are notorious for treating the orange carp as if they’re disposable after they serve their purpose as a carnival prize or mode of child bribery. The little guys swimming around in cheap glass jars are often quickly forgotten and essentially abused by general neglect.

Unfortunately, many see their end after about two weeks without food or when their dirty tanks starve them of needed oxygen. But, goldfish in a healthy tank environment can live on average 10 to 15 years — some varieties will flip around for up to 30 years.

There’s a tendency among people who are either no longer willing or able to care for the long-lifers to do what they think is best by releasing them back into the wild, particularly in lakes and ponds. As it turns out, that’s not such a great idea.

As the city of Burnsville, Minnesota reminded us via tweet last week, released goldfish do not belong in the natural lake habitat. City officials discovered groups of large goldfish running amok in the city’s Keller Lake. 

There are several reasons that’s a bad thing, and the problem is not exclusive to land of “10,000 lakes.” 

Goldfish are not native to the U.S. — they’re traditionally bred in Asian countries as aquarium pets. When they’re released into natural lake and pond habitats, they’re considered invasive species that become predatory by feeding on other fishlife and aquatic plants. They also tend to carry and spread disease. Ecosystems are disrupted when the carp stir up muck, clouding the water and hindering plant growth. 

And, did I mention that they can get really big? Like, really big. The little swimmers that stay pretty small in the tank can grow to 15 inches and typically max out at 5 pounds in the wild; however, South Carolina park and rec workers in December caught a 9-pound behemoth in the state’s Oak Grove Lake.

The invasive carp are also a problem here locally, which got a lot of attention in 2013 when the large predators came under fire as a threat to Lake Tahoe’s water quality and iconic blue color by contributing to algae growth with their waste. 

So, here’s the deal: If you don’t want to care for a goldfish for up to three decades, just don’t get a goldfish. If you can’t care for it any longer, try and find it a good home as you would any other pet. But please, pretty please, do not free them into our lakes.

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.