Fish & Game
Armored and Dangerous
Dumped from home aquariums, suckermouth catfish are unwelcome 'guests' who never leave.
Nearly every home aquarium includes a “sucker” fish slowly slurping his way across the glass wall, keeping it clear and free from algae. That seemingly natural solution becomes a nightmare when you tire of the hobby (or your sucker grows too large for his home) and you release him into a nearby creek.
In the wild, the suckermouth catfish will thrive and cause huge environmental impacts. These prehistoric-looking armored fish, growing up to 2 feet in length, destroy the base of the food web by eating aquatic plants and burrow into once-stable banks. They push out and replace native species and take over important habitats.
Two types of invasive “plecos” can be found in Texas. Hypostomus plecostomus occur in spring-influenced habitats of the San Antonio River (Bexar County), Comal Springs (Comal County), San Marcos River (Hays County) and San Felipe Creek (Val Verde County). Pterygoplichthys anisitsi have been documented throughout the bayous in Harris County.
A university research event in January removed 406 of these armored catfish from the San Marcos River. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff posted a photo of the removal on Facebook, and the event garnered the attention of national media. Unfortunately, it wasn’t surprising to TPWD fisheries biologist Alice Best, who sees these invasive fish in Houston’s bayous.
“We’re finding astronomical numbers in some areas,” Best says. “In Brays Bayou, they line up in the smallest crack where algae grows. We can’t net them fast enough — we can get 30 in five minutes if we get on top of a group.”
Dumping suckermouth catfish (or any unwanted aquatic pets) into natural waterways can have devastating consequences for Texas' natural water bodies. Instead, sell/trade your fish on a forum, find them a new home or humanely euthanize them.
Find out more in a TPWD publication, Responsible Ways to Get Rid of Unwanted Aquarium Life, here.
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