This isn't the start of a campaign to try and outlaw big fish. We actually see nothing wrong in keeping these fish PROVIDED they are properly cared for and properly housed, it is the latter of these where most problem begin. Some people (I refrain from calling them fish keepers) have hugely inflated ideas about their own tanks and what they can put in them. Asix foot by 2ft tank is a huge aquarium for the home by any standards but it simply isn't big enough for most of the fish we now call tank busters, fish like Gars, Red tail catfish, Arapaima, Pacu, Arowana or Hydrocynus. sp all of which are freely available for sale as youngsters just a few inches long.
Having seen first hand just how quickly a tank full of baby red tailed catfish flew off the shelves so to speak ant my local fish store I began to wonder who was buying them, surely there weren't so many people with tanks big enough to house them locally was there? If not just what were these fish being housed in and what would be there eventual outcome.
Three inch babies like this soon turn in to ...
Fourteen inch fish like this, and ultimately like the fish below
Try fitting this in your four foot tank
I suspect most were being housed in a three or four foot tank, which is plenty of room for a three inch fish, right. Wrong!!! these fish grow at a phenomenal rate and they would outgrow such a tank within months. Then what?
Perhaps you think the fish now bigger is worth more and you will be able to sell it back to the shop or to another hobbyist for a profit. Sadly once the fish has grown beyond what most people can house the demand for them drops through the floor and no one will want it. The shop may take it back but they won't pay more for it, they may not even pay for it at all. Maybe you could donate it to a public aquarium? Well sorry but they are full up already from the people who got there before you. There are fish rescue societies and they will probably help but they won't pay you for it and you certainly aren't doing them a favour by landing them with a huge expense ( a donation might be in order at this point).
If you can't find anywhere to take the fish then your options become even more limited, some people release the fish in to the wild thinking they are doing it a favour or they are doing themselves a favour by getting rid of a problem. You really must not do this. The fish is doomed to a slow death as winter falls and the temperature drops. The fish will stop feeding and slowly become torpid when it may fall as prey or die a lingering death, it may pass on some disease which native fish have no defence against or in some cases where several fish have been released it may become a pest species, one thing is for certain - no good will come of it.
Euthanasia is a better option than release in to the wild!!!
All this can be avoided, do your research, don't just take the vendors word for it, there is no such thing as a special variety of red tail catfish which doesn't grow so big. And then if you are sure that you can care for and properly house the fish as an adult by all means buy it and enjoy it. But if you can't house one properly when it becomes adult then leave it where it is for someone who can.
Tank buster: A term used by fish keepers for large fish.
An active 5ft fish will need a minimum of 30ft x 10ft of floor space as a tank in order to have any life at all.