Sunday, August 22, 2010

Goldfish Cruelty

Goldfish being tortured.

It was determined yesterday by a sanctimonious Petco employee that I was not fit to raise a goldfish and he refused to sell me the 29 cent animal on the grounds that it would be animal cruelty.

When Ethan and Jonah each won a goldfish at the Intel Family Picnic yesterday, I never imagined that the goldfish were being tortured. I was pretty sure that it was I who was being tortured as I was forced to accept responsibility for an additional mouth to feed and toilet to clean up. Thanks a lot Intel.

So, on the way home, we stopped at Petco to purchase things I didn't want to purchase for pets I didn't want to care for. Jonah and Ethan were excited and had already decided to name their fish Ned and Lucky. Since Isaac didn't win a fish and since they were only 29 cents each, and since Ned and Lucky just didn't seem like a family without a Dusty I told Isaac we would let him pick out his own fish from the tank containing no less than 300 little swimmers.

I'd already found the fish food, the perfect bag of colored rocks and the cutest little plastic plant when I found a Petco employee and told him we'd like to buy a goldfish. He'd just finished helping another woman purchase around 50 goldfish to feed her turtle, so I knew he'd be able to help us buy one goldfish for Isaac.

"What kind of goldfish do you want?" He asked.

"I don't know," I said. "Something like these." I pointed to the plastic bags Ethan and Jonah were holding.

"Where are you going to put them?" He said.

"I'm not sure." I was about to say I'd been eyeing the cute plastic bowls they had for sale for $7.99 when he got self-righteous on me.

"We don't support Carnival fish." He snapped. "These fish need a 20 gallon tank to live in."

(20 gallons!)

"They live for 30 years and if they are not cared for properly they may only live 2 or 3 years."

(I was hoping for more like 6 months.)

"They have to have (blah, blah, blah) water that is (blah, blah, blah) every 2 days and (blah, blah, blah) environment to thrive and it's not as simple as putting them in a bowl like grandma did all those years ago."


"So, I'm sorry, I can't sell you a goldfish."

I said, "Well, I guess there's no sense in buying all this stuff if they're just going to die in a few years," and I put the rocks and plastic plant back on the shelf. I wasn't about to buy a 20 gallon tank for a 29 cent fish!

When I woke up yesterday morning, I had no intention of becoming a pet owner. But by that afternoon, I was. I tried to make the best of it. I tried to be responsible. I was even considering buying the fake treasure chest to put in the bowl so the fish would have something interesting to look at.

I'd deluded myself. I was not a magnanimous benefactor. I was a goldfish torturer.

(I should have just told the Petco guy I was planning on feeding the goldfish to my turtle.)


Samurai Mom said...

At least petco is consistent.

Afton said...

How could I have forgotten your post? I even commented on it! And it seems that according to Petco Nazis, the life expectancy of a goldfish has again gone up by 10 years. Kids not being able to have a pet goldfish and "bromance" in the EOD! What is this world coming to?

Keira said...

Wow. I will be mentioning dead goldfish in my talk today and thinking of you the whole time.

Natalie said...

Ours have always been dead within a week. I'll be watching for your obituary post soon.

Anna said...

a friend gave me some sort of little fish for valentine's day once. It came in a 8 oz jar with little rocks and a plastic shrub. I kept it on my shelf and when enough water evaporated, I just put it under the sink and filled it up again. I figured it was going to die in a matter of days and I didn't want to buy anything for it. IT LIVED FOR ALMOST A YEAR!!! with no food. Who knows, if I would have taken care of it, it might still be alive today.

b said...

Good grief Hannah!! Does Petco having any idea where those puppies and cats go to live? Trust a lot of places are not pretty! I think you should have told the guy you have a pond in the front yard and the gold fish can grow to be 3 feet long!

If this were not sad it would be really, really funny.


Anonymous said...

This is kind of old, but that guy was right in everything he said. Unknowingly you would of been torturing the goldfish. They die through suffocation, chemical burning, pollution etc of the environment they are in. don't even get me started on the fact they are carnival fish.

He may of been a bit harsh in how it was said, so I do offer some sympathy.

If you were to suffocate a dog or kill it through chemical burns or make its fur fall off due to the fact it's living in its own excrements there would be outrage. Laws and such are only just coming out to help protect fish, which were previously very uncared for by most institutions, even the RSCPA, hence why they are cracked down on so much. Some gold fish (like feeder fish the turtle would be eating) are bred that way or ill anyway, so in a sense they are part of the food chain and would die relatively quickly. Slowly and painfully killing a fish for no reason is just un-called for.

sorry to post, and I don't mean it to sound harsh or anything, but people do need to realise ALL pets have certain needs and requirements and if you can;t fulfil them, don't get them, let someone who can have them. It's not too dissimilar from a baby. Except of course the species.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fish expert who happened across your "musings" about goldfish in bowls and with my 35+ years experience, I want to set this straight for you, since there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding as to why it is considered cruelty to keep goldfish in bowls.

First of all, kudos Petco, for standing up for goldfish, but the store should additionally STOP selling small aquariums and bowls, and this will even moreso help to prevent this situation.

Is keeping a goldfish in a bowl cruelty? Indeed. Why?

Goldfish are extremely filthy fish. They look very clean and sparkling, but their feces carries some of the most potent debris that a fish can produce, and instead of just dissipating as other feces do, theirs turns into microscopic fecal matter, floating in the water, which the filter cannot accommodate for. When there is no filter, the fish is breathing his own sewer water.

In order to accommodate a goldfish as a juvenile, it must have at least 10 gallons of water to itself, and as it grows, 3" or more, 25, and less than 50 PER goldfish.

This is why the bowl is not recommended. The fish can be poisoned by its own poo by a disease called Ammonia/Nitrite Poisoning. The first signs are when the fish is at the top, gulping, or breathing, and the second and third signs are skin lesions or burns (white patches sometimes or streaks of red in fins and around gills/tail) and then the fish's swim bladder becomes distorted by the poison and it can either no longer swim down, or it can no longer swim at all. Many of them lay at the bottom of the tank, because they are not able to swim anymore. The eventual course is death.

This can all be prevented, of course, by housing the fish in the proper house to begin with. Adding a good filter, water changes at the rate of 10% monthly, and moderating the feeding rituals are good fish-keeping skills for goldfish keepers.

Bowls, last but not least, are very small. One goldfish in a 3 gallon bowl is the same size as one person living in a 6'x6' cell. They can't swim far, they can't breed, they are kept alone and it's just sad that anyone would keep a fish this way, when in this world, fish tanks are given away on Craigslist just takes a few more minutes and a little more time to accommodate your pet properly.

For this reason, I suggest not using a bowl. True, they should be banned from the petstore profession, because there is no way to properly filter one, and goldfishes are not the only fishes dying in bowls. Bettas, tetra, mollies and other species often forfeit their lives because of inexperience and a small bowl. The combination is deadly, in potential.

So, to the musing mom who wrote the blog, yes, keeping fish in bowls is not only cruel, but it's usually a death sentence running a short lifespan.

Whether the animal cost 29 cents or $1000, it is still a living creature and it deserves better water quality, than living in its own poo.

Happy fish-keeping

Fish Deeva
All Experts Expert

Afton said...

Thanks for your comment. It's been about 9 months and the goldfish are doing just fine.

The purpose of my blog post was to point out that this goldfish was THRUST upon me. I didn't want it. I'm not a pet person. It was given to my children at a summer carnival.

Are carnival goldfish unethical. Sure. I don't think anyone should EVER be given an animal as a gift or prize.

My point is, the employee at PETCO made me feel like crap. There I stood with 2 goldfish, ready to spend money to take care of these pets. I was looking for help and I got a lecture instead.

My point is, I won't be shopping at PETCO again.

Anonymous said...

If you didn't want the fish, you could have just donated to any pet store. You never had to keep them in the first place. Your kids wouldn't have cared anyways. You could have just bought them a Happy Meal and they would forget about the Goldfish. You're not a pet person so I'm sure Petco will be fine without you. Quit your whining for being taught a lesson by an employee who at this point looks a lot better than you.

Samurai Mom said...

I am so rolling my eyes, How do you know that goldfish feel pain. I am confident that they don't and my fish look pretty darn happy. Just to be safe though, I goldfish will name my next goldfish after a martyr.

Afton said...

For the record, it's been one year and the Lucky and Ned are still alive and I assume happy. Thank you everyone for your advice and I'm glad to know that goldfish have so many human advocates. And I'm glad that Petco employees have an advocate too. I understand that Petco stores are tragically too small a habitat for these knowledgeable folk.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the policy that petco has created. I work there. we don't want to sound like jerks but we do care about the animals. If you don't want to spend the money on the animal then don't own one. Yes it is just a 29 cent fish but it is a living creature. Yes people can lie to us about the habitat it is going in, but the only one it is hurting is the animal that has no choice where it lives.

Afton said...

How do you justify keeping birds in cages at Petco? Isn't that cruel too?

Anonymous said...

I hate petco. Any other pet store (I've had good luck with petsmart) will sell you the fish. And to be honest with everyone, most of us will never purposely harm the fish. We'll change the water every week and feed it and put it in a nice sunny spot in our rooms. There is nothing wrong with a bowl. They have been used for years, and it's not like goldfish are endangered. And most of us, unless you're an aquarium hobbyist, prefer the bowls because they are cheaper and lets face it, fish aren't really "pets". They're more of a decoration that you feed and change the water for. Call me an animal abuser, but I can guarantee you that that's what a lot of people think about cheap fish. And you can't save them all. And if you tried to call the humane society on us, they wouldn't care. Because its a FISH.
Screw petco.

Anonymous said...

Also, I don't understand how they act all high and mighty about the appropriate tank size for a fish, then keep the bettas in little containers the size of coffee cups and leave dead fish in community tanks for the living ones to feed off of. Sounds a little cruel, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Hi! So we just got studi with two goldfish which My sono won at a baseball fun day. They were each packaged in a bag from.....PETCO!!! Talk about a money making ploy! We got a small tank with a filter, but I have a feeling we will be changing it regularly. I've already had to change the water daily because of the horrible pooping they do....seriously- if they want to make money and want people to buy acquiriums, etc, why don't they give away fish that don't require as much space???? Sounds like Petco is the criminal here, not the moms who get stuck with fish....that they know nothing about until, by the end of their research, the children are completely attached...and it's too late to donate them...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but for once, Petco was right. Goldfish can live 30+ years and due to the fact that they're high-bioload fish, they do in fact require at least 20 each to start with. After several months, you need 50+ gallons. Goldfish's bodies do grow to the size of their tank, but their internal organs do not. They then die a slow, painful death because their internal organs push against them inside until they eventually burst or die. Get rid of the fish or get a bigger tank. The kids will understand if you explain it to them.

Tessa said...

So if it is so cruel to have no less than 10 gallons of water per goldfish....why are 500 fish in a tank at the store. shouldn't each glorious little life have it's own tank! Shame on you Petco. This really does need to be a Portlandia episode!!! Ridiculous!

Kyle Eckert said...


       I am a research assistant in Professor Terry Regier's Language and Cognition Lab at UC Berkeley, studying the relation of language and thought. We are currently working on a project regarding language and cognition relevant to spatial relationships. Our research group, like many others in the field, uses line drawings of everyday scenes as stimuli in our experiments, but we are currently in the process of transitioning to more naturalistic stimuli by recreating the scenes with photographs of real-life objects. We have been able to recreate most of the scenes we use with our own original photography; however, some scenes are particularly difficult to capture. 

We feel that your photo of a goldfish, found at would be an excellent resource for recreating one of the images which has proved to be difficult to reproduce. We would like to modify and use it in our stimulus set, and would be extremely grateful for your contribution to our research, which has the potential to improve the understanding of spatial language and cognition. However, we've been unable to find information on the license this image is been published under, so we're contacting you to inquire about any relevant licensing information and ask your permission to include it in our research stimulus set. We'd be happy to attribute the original image to you in future publications of these stimuli, so please let us know if we have your permission to use your work in this way, and how you would like it to be attributed. 

If you are not the original author or do not own the rights to the photograph, we would be grateful if you would be so kind as to direct us to the person who does. Please feel free to contact us with any further questions or concerns, or if you would like more information on the research we are conducting.

Kyle Eckert
Regier Language and Cognition Lab
University of California, Berkeley

Anonymous said...

“My point is, the employee at PETCO made me feel like crap. There I stood with 2 goldfish, ready to spend money to take care of these pets. I was looking for help and I got a lecture instead.”

Boo-hoo. If I planned to adopt a cat from Petco and told them I would be keeping it in my closet its entire life I’d hope they’d give me a “lecture” on proper pet care.

Sad so many parents think it’s okay to teach their children that pets are disposable. You remind me of my neighbor who kept his German shepherd outside in a 10’ x 10’ kennel pretty much its entire life. He got the dog for free though, so that’s okay, right? I mean why should he have to spend any money on caring for a free pet, that would just be ridiculous. And it lived to be around 13, so it must have been “happy.”

“I am so rolling my eyes, How do you know that goldfish feel pain. I am confident that they don't and my fish look pretty darn happy. Just to be safe though, I goldfish will name my next goldfish after a martyr.”

There was a time when people who were thought of as intelligent did not believe dogs could feel pain. Many people today don’t even think they are self-aware, as they cannot pass self-awareness tests. Guess dog abuse is fine.

Also, how can you believe fish can feel "happy," yet cannot feel pain? If an animal is capable of happiness, then surely it can feel pain, being that pain is a much more primitive capability.

“So if it is so cruel to have no less than 10 gallons of water per goldfish....why are 500 fish in a tank at the store. shouldn't each glorious little life have it's own tank! Shame on you Petco. This really does need to be a Portlandia episode!!! Ridiculous!”

Maybe because they’re temporary enclosures? Ever seen how dogs and cats are kept at animal shelters?

Anonymous said...

I have goldfish in my tank- my extremely large, well filtered tank- and let me tell you something.
I won my first goldfish at a carnival. I had a bowl at home and put him in and went to petco the next day and bought a battery operated aerator.
I then saved and saved and saved and bought him a 5 gallon, filtered tank because I knew he couldn't be in a bowl.
But I also new the 5 gallon was temporary.
I now have them (yes, I bought more) in a 59 gallon (largest I can fit in my home) with a canister filter rated to 180 gallons.
When I walk past my tank, my fish follow me. When I look into it, they all huddle around me. When I put my finger in, they come up and nibble at it.
When I had my 5 gallon I accidentally over fed my carnival fish (Francis) and he got very ill. It was ammonia poisoning. I had another goldfish with him (I was in the middle of cycling a 20g loaned from a friend) and she literally stayed next to him the entire time, even going so far as to nudge him when he wouldn't move for a length of time.
Don't tell me goldfish don't feel pain, aren't smart or don't have emotions.
They deserve better than that.