sad goldfishWhether it’s taking a dog or cat to the vet to be put down, seeing a horse go down during a race and knowing it will be destroyed or making the judgement that your goldfish is on its last fins; euthanizing animals is a difficult decision for most of us.

For many of us taking a goldfish to a vet to be put down isn’t an option and often it’s more of an emotional struggle to watch your goldfish slowly deteriorate then it is to put it down.

Thankfully for just a few bucks there’s a painless and humane method to say goodbye to your fishy friend.

To kill your goldfish guaranteeing no pain or further suffering to it you will need the following;

  • A bucket or small container
  • Clove oil
  • A jar or similar sealable container to mix clove oil in (100-150ml)
  • A timer or stopwatch


Fill the bucket or small container with one gallon (3.84 litres) or less of either dechlorinated tap water or old tank water and place your sick goldfish into it.

Measure out one teaspoon of clove oil and mix it with a small amount of water in your mixing container. Shake well until the water goes white and the clove oil has dissolved. Clove oil isn’t the most water soluble oil so it might take a bit of shaking but eventually it will mix.

Once mixed then pour this solution into the bucket or container containing your goldfish and after a few minutes it should stop breathing (gill movement). Once you have observed a period of ten minutes between gill movement you can then remove your goldfish from the solution and bury/dispose however you wish.

Please don’t flush the goldfish down the toilet to dispose of the body as it can pollute the local water system or get stuck in your plumbing which won’t be much fun to repair. Instead either bury it outside or seal it in a plastic bag and throw it out into your outside rubbish bin.



Where to get clove oil?

Clove oil (or oil of clove) is readily available from most pharmacies or chemists. Here in Australia I couldn’t find any in the local supermarket but it was available from the local chemist for a few dollars; it’s also available online.



How not to kill your goldfish

There is a ton of conflicting information on the internet about how to euthanize goldfish, here are some of the common methods floating around and why not to use them.


1. The freezer

Whilst it is true goldfish are cold blooded animals and if the temperature drops low enough they become biologically dormant and shut down, there will be a very painful period as this happens for your fish.

Ice crystals will begin to form in the tissue and blood as the temperature drops which as you can imagine will be quite painful for your goldfish before its body shuts down and it dies.


2. Stamping on it’s head / hitting it with a hammer

These options obviously have the ability to kill your goldfish instantly but there’s no guarantee they will. Can you live with yourself knowing you might not kill your goldfish first go or if you are slightly off target?

Think of the pain you’ll cause.


3. Cutting a goldfish’s spine just behind the head

I understand this is widely done in the fish for consumption trade and if you’ve got the nerves to do it then by all means but personally I could never do this to a living animal let alone one of my pets.

I’ll happily cut up meats for dinner to cook but something about cutting the spine of one of my pets doesn’t sit right mentally with me given the cheap painless alternative.


4. Flushing it down the toilet alive

Out of sight out of mind? Probably but spare a moment to think of the excruciating pain your goldfish is going to go through as it’s exposed to non-treated chlorine filled water. Human waste contains ammonia so the longer your fish survives the worse it’s going to get. If your toilet has a refresher detergent tablet then it’s going to be even more painful for your goldfish as detergents are natually poison to them.

Dying from suffocation because your gills are being chemically burnt is no way for any living animal to die.


5. Just take it out of water

Have you ever tried to hold your breath under water until your lungs feel like they’re going to burst? This is essentially what you’re putting your goldfish through.

Goldfish can extract a tiny amount of oxygen from the air to keep themselves alive for a short time but eventually will die from suffocation. Suffocation is an extremely painful way to die.


6. Dumping your goldfish in a public pond

Outside water is full of parasites, bacteria and chemicals. Dumping your goldfish who’s lived most of their life in a healthy aquarium into a pond is guaranteeing it a disease riddled painful death. That’s if the local wildlife don’t get to it first.

Unless you know the person who owns the pond and it is specifically set up for goldfish, please don’t just pick a random pond to dump your goldfish into.



Do the right thing

Given the ready availability and cheapness of clove oil and the minimal time it takes to put down your goldfish humanely there isn’t really any excuse to use any of the above methods.

Whether your a parent having to deal with a sick family friend or a goldfish keeper who’s at their wits end after trying everything to imrpove the health of a sick goldfish, please do the right thing and put your goldfish down properly and painlessly.