Researchers have discovered a growing threat to the ecology of Lake Tahoe–pet goldfish that are dumped and then grow to what one network called “monster size.”
Okay, they’re not exactly the size of monsters, but they are about 18 inches long, which is still totally not normal.
Biologists from the University of Nevada were researching a different invasive species, the large-mouth bass, when they came across super-sized goldfish.
Christine Ngai, one of the researchers, told Sacramento, Calif. news station KCRA that she had heard reports of the huge goldfish from fishing guides, but that they hadn’t been documented.
“It’s not your average-size goldfish. So, you’re like, is that real? Oh, it’s real,” she told KCRA. “It’s alive.”
Initially, researchers would find about one goldfish a day, but as the study continued, they found as many as fifteen in one day.
Goldfish, which are members of the carp family, are omnivorous and consume a large amount of nutrients. Researchers are speculating that they are eating smaller fish, which creates competition for native species like trout.
“The goldfish is exemplary because it tends to consume a lot of material and excretes lots of nutrients,” University of Nevada researcher Dr. Sudeep Chandra.
Apparently “excretes lots of nutrients” is biologist code for “poops hella tons.” All that goldfish poop is super-nutritious to algae, which could lead to a change in the composition of Lake Tahoe’s normally crystal-clear waters.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, goldfish “are among the most destructive non-indigenous species in North America,” primarily because they eat so much aquatic vegetation. Stripping the water of these oxygen-producing plants raises the water temperature and destroys the habitats of smaller native fish.
Besides the large-mouth bass and the goldfish, other invasive species causing trouble for Lake Tahoe include the bluegill, the brown bullhead catfish, and the black crappie. Yes, I just listed those because there’s a fish called a crappie.
The Forest Service says these invasive species are to blame for the decline in native species such as the Lahontan redside shiner and Lahontan tui chub.
(Photo Credits: iStockphoto, University of Nevada)
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