As an avid fish lover and the “mom” of two precious goldfish myself, a recent trip to a local carnival left me shocked and heartbroken. I had heard stories about fish being given away as prizes for games to unprepared owners with no care instruction or supplies, but I had never witnessed it for myself. At this particular fair, there wasn’t just fish but small lizards and hermit crabs, both which require rigorous care and knowledge.
While the average lifespan for a well cared for goldfish can extend past forty years old, most carnival goldfish won’t make it past a week. This is often due to being subject to severe stress from being kept in small bags of water where toxic ammonia builds up lightning fast and oxygen is limited. Low water quality can also expose the fish to harmful bacteria and disease. Even if a fish is won and taken home, most inexperienced owners will purchase the cheapest option to house their fish, a goldfish bowl. These “tanks” are essentially a death sentence.
For one, goldfish require a minimum fifty gallons as adults to sustain proper water conditions, whereas most goldfish bowls can’t even hold a single gallon of water. Insufficient water allows ammonia, a harmful product of fish feces, to build up which is extremely deadly to fish. Without a filter, there is no way to safely remove ammonia from the water without stressing out the fish. Filters also create an essential bubble stream which breaks the surface tension of the water, allowing more oxygen to enter. Well, oxygenated water is critical to the health and well-being of fish.
In these conditions, it becomes inevitable that the fish will die or become critically ill in some manner, bringing owners to the decision of flushing them down the toilet. In the case that the fish is truly dead, a fish-borne disease can be introduced into the sewage system, leading to larger, human-threatening consequences. On the other hand, a live fish being introduced to a septic system will suffer immensely.
Until carnivals stop perpetuating the incorrect inference that goldfish are easy to care for, thousands of fish will be subject to abuse this summer as festivals and fairs spring up all around the country. Ultimately, fish keeping, particularly goldfish, needs to be left to individuals who understand the necessities and have a strong knowledge of how to care for their animal.