PIJAC

Habitattitude - Water Gardeners

Do right by your pet.
Do right by our environment.

HabitattitudeTM is a proactive campaign designed to:

  • Ensure that pets are thoughtfully chosen and well cared for (Habits)
  • Protect the natural environment (Habitats) from the impacts of unwanted pets
  • Help pet owners find alternatives to the release of their pets (Attitudes)

Water gardening in the United States has blossomed in popularity recently. Water gardens add beauty and tranquility to backyards and other landscapes. However, if they are not established or maintained properly, water gardens have the potential to also become a source of environmental problems. Despite best intentions, many uninformed water gardeners unknowingly introduce harmful animals, plants, and diseases (often called invasive species) to their ponds. When these organisms find their way into natural waterways, they can cause substantial harm to native species and their habitats.

 

PLANNING YOUR WATER GARDEN

When planning your water garden, you’ll be making decisions about the aesthetics, setting, local environment (i.e.: seasonal rainfall), and budget. When creating your new water garden, make sure to follow these important guidelines:

  • Refrain from establishing your water garden near natural water bodies such as streams, ponds, or lakes. This will help prevent the unintended introduction of harmful plants and animals into the natural environment.
  • Ensure that your pond pets and plants are well-contained. This will prevent them from getting washed into local water bodies or public sewer systems, which often drain into local water bodies, during rainstorms or flood events.
  • Consider fencing or signage to prevent children or others from collecting the plants and animals in your pond and releasing them elsewhere. This is the perfect educational opportunity to discuss HabitattitudeTM.
  • Carefully evaluate the costs of establishing and maintaining a water garden. Many people are surprised at the costs involved for pond liners, pumps, stones, lights, plants, and fish. Pond maintenance requires additional money and time. You want to be sure that you can properly care for your pond pets and plants as long as you own your property. (Note: If you do move, be sure the new buyers are committed to caring for them as well).

Water gardens are places of beauty and tranquility. When you design your garden thoughtfully, you help ensure that the project doesn’t become stressful for you, your pond pets, or native fish and wildlife.

 

SELECTING POND PETS AND PLANTS

There are many pond plants and animals on the market that are invasive or have the potential to become invasive. In some states, it is illegal for these species to be bought and sold. Contact your state native plant societies, co-operative extensive agencies, or fish and game departments to find out what plants and animals are the safest for water gardens in your area.

Learn the biology and needs of the plants and animals you are considering for your water garden, such as:

  • What care do they require?
  • How large do they grow?
  • Are they likely to reproduce?
  • Are they likely to escape or be moved from your pond (by wild animals or neighborhood children)?
  • What diseases are they prone to and how are they treated?
  • What environmentally-friendly options exist (see below) if the plants, fish, or other animals get too big or too numerous?

Water gardening is both an art and a science. When it comes to water garden pets and plants, a quick decision may be a poor decision.

 

RESPONSIBLE PET PLACEMENT

If you or someone you know is faced with needing to find a new home for a pond pet please read the following Pet Placement Guidelines in order to make the best possible decision for the fish or other animal. Many of these guidelines are applicable for water garden plants as well.

 

PET PLACEMENT GUIDELINES (ALTERNATIVES TO RELEASE)

  • Contact a local pet store for suggestions on placement or for possible returns
  • Give to a responsible family member, friend, pet owner/water gardener, or school if they are ready for a new pet
  • Donate to or trade with a local hobbyist club (i.e.: reptile society)
  • Surrender through a "pet amnesty" program and check with local shelters or rescues to see if they accept the species
  • Contact veterinarian for guidance about humane euthanasia of animals as a last resort
  • Seal aquarium/terrarium plants in plastic bags and dispose of them in the trash

Releasing your pond pets into the natural environment puts them and the natural environment at risk. In many locations, it is illegal to release your water garden pets and plants into the natural environment.