Despite the potential to disrupt our native ecosystems and reduce the societal value of recreational areas, ornamental fish have consistently been disregarded by Australian researchers as a legitimate threat. This is in stark contrast to global standards where invasive ornamental fish research has a strong foundation. Recent naturalisation of ornamental Jaguar cichlids in northern QLD for the first time, stemming from release of unwanted individuals by hobbyists, highlights the need for us to address this paucity of research to be able to prepare for horizon species, as eradication of such species is much less successful than proactive prevention.
Although widespread trade of illegal and unregulated ornamental fish in Australia is acknowledged by industry professionals, direct detection of this has not yet been attempted. Without a sound understanding and clear evidence of such species at large, management programs involving targeted amnesty campaigns and education and awareness programs have no footing.
Quite unlike international literature, past ornamental research in Australia has leaned heavily towards data collection from privately owned aquariums despite the demonstrable wealth of information available in the industry itself. We took advantage of this rich source of data through directly monitoring online networking sites in Queensland, a considerable source of ornamental advertisements, to create a comprehensive list of species traded in Australia. In addition to being able to identify blacklisted (prohibited) and greylisted (neither prohibited nor acceptable, ie. unregulated) species in trade, this list will be a valuable resource to the invasive field, providing the data sorely needed to identify high-risk species capable of establishing once released. From our research and the formation of this list, we identified a diverse community of ornamental freshwater fish are in trade in Queensland, with a sizeable proportion indeed being unregulated and illegal.