Public aquariums across the UK are jointly running a project to raise awareness of the need to think carefully before buying potentially giant-sized fish as pets.
The Big Fish Project, which is based on research undertaken by Practical Fishkeeping contributor Dr Peter Burgess, surveyed the UK's public aquaria and found that they were regularly being offered oversized fish from fishkeepers who had mistakenly purchased fish that they could not accommodate when fully grown.
The results of the survey were presented at the National Aquarium Workshop in November 2005 and showed that Pacu, Piranha and the Common plec topped the list of fish that fishkeepers tried to dump on public aquaria when they outgrew their tanks.
The Big Fish Project is summarised in the October 2006 issue of Practical Fishkeeping in an article by Tim Hayes which looks at the results of the study. "It is a myth that fish never outgrow the tank they live in..."Hull-based aquarium, The Deep, told Practical Fishkeeping that it was frequently being asked by "frantic" fishkeepers to rehouse their fish after they had outgrown their tanks.
It says that it is rarely possible to take in fish from the public as the tanks and filtration systems are designed for specific numbers of fish, and displays are themed to include only those from particular geographic regions.
Assistant Curator, Kate Rigby said: "The National Aquarium Workshop community, which is made up of professional aquarists from aquariums and zoos around the UK, last year jointly decided to tackle the problem of big fish. Many people buy fish inappropriate for their tank size and have no idea how large their fish will eventually become.
"Aquariums are frequently approached by owners of big fish, which have outgrown tanks in their homes and are desperate to give them to an aquarium. We are rarely able to take them on. There would also be a risk of introducing health problems to our displays and a very high chance of the donated fish getting bullied by an established group.
"As interest in home fishkeeping is increasing, and pet shops are importing fish of all shapes and sizes, it was time to help the public make sensible choices when stocking their tanks. It is a myth that fish never outgrow the tank they live in - a fish will always grow to the size nature intended. A fish kept in a tank that is too small is likely to have health problems and die prematurely. The aim of this campaign is to ask people to think and research before buying a pet fish, find out what size it will reach as an adult and if it's too big for your tank - don't buy it!"
The Deep is running a display featuring a video from BBC wildlife presenter Steve Leonard and is giving away big fish rulers, which indicate exactly how large some popular aquarium fish can grow.
You can read more about the Big Fish Project on pages 52-54 of the October 2006 issue of Practical Fishkeeping. To see what other fishkeepers think about this project check The big fish problem on the PFK Blog.