Fish in Schools

Aquatic hobbyists tackle native fish dilemma with school-based initiative

A little known program started by aquatic hobbyists is doing its bit to preserve native fish species by giving schools the opportunity to start their own pond with native fish in it.

Now in its third year, Fish in Schools by the Australia New Guinea Fishes Association has strong local roots having started here in 2018 through Logan City Council’s EnviroGrants program.

“That was for setting up 8 schools in Logan,” says ANGFA Secretary Peter Johnson.

Boronia Heights State School was one of those first schools to get a pond, and since then more than 30 across the state have been added to the list.

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Peter Johnson and Boronia Heights State School students apply the finishing touches to their pond

By building ponds and stocking them with native fish, such as Honey Blue-eyes and Ornate Rainbowfish – which have been lost due to habitat destruction, declining water quality, and invasive species – ANGFA hopes to create a safety net for the future.

“If you like, these are insurance populations, so this program certainly won’t stop feral fish, but one of the things a lot of the teachers pick up on is talking about the threats to the species [to students],” Mr Johnson says.

“If the creeks are ever restored, and the creeks are in good enough condition then hopefully we’ll have some there to put back.”

ANGFA currently have 6 members working on the initiative. They help breed the fish in their own backyards and get them ready for distribution to schools or residents with ponds or farm dams, thereby reducing the need for exotic species posing a biosecurity risk.

The ponds themselves are both affordable and easy to construct.

“All up, it’s reasonably affordable for us, we use a freestanding pre-fabricated pond, so no one has to dig a whole,” says Mr Johnson.

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Boronia Heights State School’s freestanding pond, granted as part of Logan City Council’s EnviroGrants program.

“The ponds themselves cost $650 and then we put in a solar pump, so it doesn’t need mains power, and the pump is $350.”

Mr Johnson says their resources are currently stretched between a handful of projects around Brisbane and Logan, but demand from further afield is increasing.

“We’ve still got half a dozen ponds to keep us going, if we’ve still got enough people willing to help us then we’ll keep applying for more grants to stretch into schools,” says Mr Johnson. 

“We’ve got a lot of interest from areas we have trouble servicing, schools that have talked to me from Gladstone, Townsville, South Australia, and NSW.”

Although ANGFA has exhausted its Logan City Council EnviroGrant, schools within the area are able to nominate themselves for a pond, although the opportunities are limited.

“We’re still getting Logan schools coming online now even though it’s exhausted the grant, just because our suppliers have been able to help us,” says Mr Johnson.