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Freakishly large goldfish found in Lake Tahoe; Researchers worry about impact on native species

A gigantic goldfish has been found in Lake Tahoe, according to LiveScience. Deep down in the depths of Lake Tahoe, researchers trawling the freshwater lake discovered a goldfish that was approximately 1.5 feet long and 4.2 pounds. The discovery has biologists in the area concerned about the goldfish population’s impact on native species of plants and animals in the lake.

“These fish are competing with the native fish, and that’s a big part of the problem,” Heather Segale, spokeswoman for the Tahoe Environmental Research Center at the University of California at Davis, told Reuters.

Reuters reports that researchers from the University of California at Davis and the University of Nevada at Reno, along with the fish and wildlife departments of both California and Nevada began an annual survey of goldfish in Lake Tahoe in 2006.

According to Reuters, the group of biologists started a project to decrease the number of goldfish in the lake in 2011. They used a technique called “electrofishing,” in which metal wires are dangled from the bottom of a boat to stun fish with electrical current. After capturing the fish, the researchers sort through the fish and remove the non-native species from the lake.

The U.S. Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit notes that Lake Tahoe has experienced a number of plant and animal invasions over the last decade. Some of these invasions have been extremely damaging to the food web within the lake. The unit adds that most of these fish were introduced in the vicinity of the Tahoe Keys.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, goldfish impacts on the aquatic community include increased turbidity, predation upon native fish and helping to facilitate algal blooms. They are among the most harmful non-indigenous species in North America, mainly due to their diet of aquatic vegetation.

Environmental scientist Sudeep Chandra of the University of Nevada at Reno told LiveScience that researchers found an area in Lake Tahoe with approximately 15 other goldfish. “It’s an indication that they were schooling and spawning,” she said.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit warns that if the goldfish population grows large enough, visitors will see a further decline in the shorezone clarity of Lake Tahoe.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States and the tenth deepest in the world, with a maximum depth measured at 1,645 feet. In the United States, Lake Tahoe is second only to Crater Lake in Oregon. The Lake Tahoe Basin was formed by geologic block faulting about 2 to 3 million years ago.

Have you ever had goldfish as pets? What’s the biggest goldfish you’ve ever seen? Share your experiences with goldfish in the comments section.