How to Dispose of Dead Fish in a Respectful Way

We have all seen it in the movies where the family goldfish dies, and they all stand around the toilet as “Goldy” swirls away into the great beyond.

This method, all be it an effective way to dispose of the remains, may not be the most respectful or the most environmentally friendly.

Burying your fish’s remains is a much more respectful way to go about disposal. It may not be the most convenient means of disposal and may require a little effort on your part, but it is certainly worth doing to give your pet a proper farewell.

How do you dispose of a dead fish properly and in a respectful way – Freezing the remains in a Ziploc bag and then burying them is one of the most respectful ways to honor your beloved aquatic companion. Using this method also helps contain some of the pungent odor that can be associated with a decomposing fish carcass. After freezing you can remove the plastic bag surrounding the ice cube, and then bury it accordingly.

How deep should I bury my fish?

You can bury the whole cube bag and all, but plastic bags take a very long time to decompose and hurt the environment. Something to keep in mind when disposing of things properly.

If you do plan on burying your fish, be sure to check with your city’s ordinance for the burial of animals on your property. Most cities require that you bury them a certain depth and may have other requirements.

Is it environmentally wrong to flush a fish down the toilet?

It is not recommended flushing your fish down the toilet or releasing the fish in a nearby body of water since the exact cause of death is usually unknown.

There is potential for whatever affliction may have killed your fish is something that could be harmful to local wildlife and other aquatic animals.

Diseases like ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis) are extremely contagious among freshwater fish and can kill an entire ecosystem without intervention.

Ich (white spot disease) is actually a microscopic protozoan that spreads like wildfire under the right conditions, and usually presents looking something like a grain of salt on your fish’s fins or body.

Ich is only one of many diseases that can be introduced to wildlife by flushing your fish’s remains down the toilet.

For a complete guide on Tropical fish disease read our article on the most common fish disease.

What could be the effects of flushing a goldfish down the toilet?

Other diseases such as pseudomonas which is a bacterial infection known to cause dropsy, fungal infections such as cotton fin,so-named because it causes a fluffy white growth on the fins and mouth, or copepods such as Lernaeocera branchialis of the Siphonostomatoida order are extremely contagious and can be spread by just introducing your fish’s remains to the environment.

Swim bladder is all too common especially in coldwater fish like goldfish.

Is my fish too big to flush down the toilet?

Size can also be an issue. Many aquatic fish, both saltwater and freshwater, can grow to become quite large. Pufferfish, goldfish, triggerfish, and Parrotfish to name just a few, can grow to be incredibly large.

You may not have anticipated this and realized too late that they’re big enough to cause plumbing problems such as a clogged pipe if they are flushed down the toilet.

Can I take my dead fish to a vet?

There are many crematory’s for companion animals that will cremate your fish and return them to you in a nice urn or give the ashes back to you so that you can spread them at a location of your choice.

Again, you should check with your city’s local ordinance if you do plan on spreading the ashes, so you don’t risk getting in trouble, and add more grief to an already unfortunate situation.

Contacting your local veterinarian is usually a good option, as they usually deal with pet crematories often, and can help you through the process.

Some veterinary clinics will even handle the entire process from pickup of the remains to the delivery of the ashes, so you don’t have to worry about it.

They can dispose of the remains for you as well if you just can’t bare the thought of doing it yourself.

Can I throw my dead fish in the trash?

If you are looking for a more economical way to dispose of your fish, placing your fish in the trash can to be picked up and disposed of by your city is another method.

It is recommended to place your fish in at least two sealed plastic bags or containers as the smell of a dead fish especially in the hot summer is not pleasant and can be most disagreeable for your neighbour or garbage collection company.

We use these Zip Bags which we purchase from Amazon. They are strong and inexpensive.

Conclusion: How to Dispose of Dead Fish in a Respectful Way

These are only a few of the ways which address how to dispose of dead fish in a respectful and environmentally friendly manner.

Whichever method you choose, keep in mind that your pet brought you months or even years of joy and happiness, so, when that unfortunate time arises and you are faced with their death, be sure to dispose of their remains in a way that maintains a certain dignity, and doesn’t compromise another delicate ecosystem.