It is a normal situation for an aquarium hobbyist; you have acquired an animal or plant that you no longer want to keep. What do you do with it? Many instinctively choose to release that organism into the wild. Is there a better solution?

Habitattitude is a national campaign urging everyone to adopt a conservation mentality and protect our environment by not releasing unwanted fish and aquatic plants.

Most of us would release unwanted organisms because we are kindhearted. We don’t like to kill anything. However, the unintended consequences of release are severe. A released organism can reduce the numbers of native species, degrade ecosystems, damage commercial and recreational equipment, make lakes and rivers unusable by people, increase the cost of operating drinking water and power plants, affect human health, reduce property values, and affect local economies that depend on water.

An example of this occurred right here in Duluth. Students leaving University of Minnesota Duluth often don’t want to take their fish with them; many decided to dump their goldfish in UMD’s Rock Pond. As a result, many of the native species were wiped out. The pond was eventually drained to kill off exotics, and to allow the natives to reclaim their territory.

What are the alternatives to release?

The first and most important step is to think before you buy your animal or plant; is it a good match for you? Will it grow too large, or become unwanted? If you must get rid of an exotic organism, a first step is to contact your retailer for proper handling advice, or to return it to the store. Many are able to trade with another hobbyist, or donate the organism to a local aquarium society, school, or aquatic business. If these options do not work out, you can seal aquatic plants in plastic bags and dispose of them in the trash or contact a veterinarian or pet retailer for advice about humane disposal of animals.

Remember, Habitattitude is all about adopting a conservation attitude by not releasing unwanted fish and aquatic plants.