Hundreds of armored suckermouth catfish, also known as “plecos”, have been pulled from a Texas river in recent weeks. Officials said it would provide information on how best to control the population of invasive species, which are most commonly found in waterways after being dumped from a person’s home aquarium.
According to a Facebook post by Texas Rivers and Streams, a branch of Texas Parks and Wildlife, researchers from Texas A&M University and Texas State University removed 406 invasive suckermouth armored catfish from the San Marcos River during of a dewatering event. These types of events help maintain the river’s infrastructure.
Monica McGarrity, Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife senior scientist for aquatic invasive species, said Newsweek both universities are working on research regarding the armored sucker catfish and its population.
The Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife helps fund this research, and McGarrity said the agency supports these projects.
Texas parks and wildlife officials said these aquarium fish compete with native fish and burrow into the banks, which can cause bank destabilization.
The removed fish were humanely euthanized, and McGarrity said researchers will look at methods of effective population control.
“They want to look at the age and growth rate of individuals in the river to get information about population dynamics,” she explained.
McGarrity also said researchers are monitoring suckermouth armored catfish to get an idea of the size of the area they occupy.
The Texas Invasive Species Institute has noted that these fish may outnumber native species of fish, posing a threat to the population.
“This could lead to a collapse of freshwater fisheries on top of the obvious ecological dangers,” the institute said.
Primarily found in South America, Panama, and Costa Rica, the armored suckermouth catfish has made its way to the United States. Officials from the Texas Invasive Species Institute said they entered the waterways of Florida, Nevada, Texas and possibly Wisconsin.
In order to combat the population of armored catfish and other invasive species, the “Never Dump Your Tank” initiative was launched. This movement has urged people to avoid throwing anything – including fish, animals and plants – out of an aquarium and into Texas waterways or down toilets.
The initiative pointed out that if an invasive species is introduced into the wild, it can bring disease with it or kill native species.
There may come a time when someone cannot keep their fish, plants or aquarium animals, but they are advised to find a more “responsible” way to dispose of them.
Some of the suggestions included finding a new home for the fish if it is healthy by giving it to a friend with an aquarium or to the store it was purchased from.
People can also sell or trade their fish to someone who is interested in adding to their aquarium.
The “Never Dump Your Tank” initiative noted that there are ways to humanely euthanize fish if the owner has no other option. However, he urged not to rinse the fish.
“It’s inhumane because conditions in sewers can cause fish to suffer,” the initiative’s website said. “The septic system is filled with gases and chemicals that will eventually poison your fish.”
McGarrity said Newsweek that before purchasing an aquarium pet, such as the armored sucker catfish, it is essential that people do their research thoroughly and consider whether they will be able to care for it.