What to do with unwanted aquatic plants and animals and how to prevent their escape, without causing harm to the environment

As hobbyists who appreciate the challenge of managing artificial micro-environments, it is important to understand the larger, potential consequences of our hobbies and how we can minimize them.

If you have acquired an undesirable aquatic plant or fish species for your aquarium or water garden, it is important not to release these plants or animals into the environment. While most of these organisms will die, some may be able to survive. And a smaller number of those that do survive have the potential to create negative impacts on our natural environment as well as misperceptions about our hobbies.

So, if you are faced with the situation of having an undesirable species, what can you do? By choosing between several alternatives, you can properly dispose of these unwanted aquatic plants or fish.

Myriophyllum aquaticum

© Photo : Ben Legler - WTU Herbarium Image Collection - Burke Museum

Eichhornia crassipes

© Photo : Andreas Kay - Flickr

It’s all about Prevention!

Educate yourself about your hobby's potential environmental consequences

Like any hobby or activity that shares resources, there is an implicit, yet often unrealized responsibility to conserve these resources. In the case of aquarists, pond owners or water gardeners, our shared resources are water (our aquatic systems) and the live species we keep. By engaging in these activities, we assume certain responsibilities:

Water garden and gold fish

© Photo : Dennis Pederson

  • To care for the species well-being;
  • To maintain the "closed" aspect of their artificial environment;
  • To properly dispose of these species (fish or plants) if they do not fit into our artificial aquatic system;
  • To be informed of and to follow laws (federal, provincial or municipal) regarding acquisition, collection, possession, purchase, sale and release.
If we fail to embrace these responsibilities, our hobbies and sources of enjoyment will continue to face greater scrutiny with respect to what we are allowed to do, and will continue to add to negative public misperceptions about these activities. For more information about your hobby's potential impact on the environment, visit the "Habitats" section of this web site.

Adopt alternatives to release
  • Contact a retailer for proper handling advice or for possible returns;
  • Give or trade them with another aquarist, pond owner or water gardener;
  • Donate them to a pet store, school, museum, zoo, or advertise to give them away free;
  • Over-winter your exotic plants indoors or dispose of them in the garbage at the end of the season;
  • Seal aquatic plants in plastic bags and dispose in trash;
  • Contact a veterinarian or pet retailer for guidance about humane disposal of animals;
  • Find a home for an unwanted aquarium pet through the Fish Rescue Program - contact the Canadian Association of Aquarium Clubs, at (905) 839-6764 or on the Internet at to ask about unwanted aquarium pets;
  • Drain aquarium water on dry land.

Trachemys scripta elegan

© Photo : Kelly Riccetti -

For more information on contacts and organizations in your region, visit the "Attitudes" section of this web site.

Promote these alternatives with fellow hobbyists

Carassius auratus

© Photo : Adrian Angelov -

  • Spread the word about Habitattitude;
  • Join with partner organizations to promote the environmental values associated with your hobby;
  • Develop a list of contacts and resources in your region to facilitate trades and proper disposal and share them with fellow hobbyists.