A POPULAR tropical aquarium fish referred to as a potential “aquatic cane toad” appears to have made a permanent home in parts of the Tweed River system immediately below the Clarrie Hall Dam.
Fish experts say even cool winter temperatures fatal to most pet tropical fish have failed to dent its numbers, and a breeding population has established itself in warmer-than-usual water at the base of the dam.
The fish, known as the pearl cichlid or pearl earth eater (Geophagus braziliensis), was first reported in the areas around the dam, then nearer Murwillumbah and Uki in late 2008.
The fish is regarded as a menace for its habit of digging up creek beds and competing with native fish.
Southern Cross University senior lecturer in Fisheries Biology Dr Daniel Bucher, who with students has studied the feral population since it was discovered, yesterday said it appeared more tolerant than most tropical fish to cold weather over winter.
“We had a student who caught two and was breeding them up to see what their temperature tolerance is.” Dr Bucher said.
Anyone catching a cichlid is asked by the department to take a photo, freeze it and record exactly where it was caught, then call the department on (02) 4916 3877.