Hundreds of suckermouth catfish dumped from aquariums removed from Texas river


Hypostomus plecostomus otherwise known as suckermouth catfish are naturally found in tropical South America, Panama, and Costa Rica. The species are common in the aquarium trade, and aquarium dumping is a primary introduction pathway in the United States. The fish are also frequently released into freshwater bodies by natural resource managers to remove algae.

In the State of Texas, suckermouth catfish was first found in the headwaters of the San Antonio River in 1962, after individuals escaped the San Antonio Zoo. The spread of suckermouths in freshwater ecosystems could lead to a collapse of freshwater fisheries as local indigenous species can be out-competed and reduced.

Recently, during a dewatering event, a group of researchers from Texas A&M and Texas State universities caught and removed a total of 406 invasive suckermouth catfish from the San Marcos River at Rio Vista Park.

San Antonio River Authority environmental Sciences Manager Shaun Donovan said:

Aquarium hobbyists will purchase non-native species from pet stores for their home aquariums and then release them into local creeks and the San Antonio River when the fish outgrow their tanks. While they may be well-intentioned, these citizens are unknowingly wreaking havoc on the San Antonio River ecosystem. These invasives are significantly more common in disturbed parts of the river such as the downtown Riverwalk. This leads to unstable sections of creeks and rivers and increased turbidity.

Besides Texas, suckermouth catfish are also found in Florida, Nevada, and “possibly Wisconsin,” as per a Texas State University study.

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