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Don't Flush That Fish!

Why flushing fish is not an option


Don't Flush Don't Flush
Don't Flush That Fish!


Shirlie L Sharpe

Tank at School


Every fish owner is eventually faced with the dilemma of how to dispose of unwanted fish. All too often the desperate owner resorts to the age-old method of flushing. Oh the joy of the toilet - so simple, so quick, so effective. Or maybe not. Did pangs of guilt, or sobbing children keep you from whooshing Goldie down the porcelain throne?

Okay, so it's time for plan B. Drag out that dog-eared state park map and locate a river or lake so Goldie can have a nice new home. The kids can visit on weekends. Everyone is happy, right? Wrong. Unfortunately for both the fish and the environment neither option is an appropriate, way to dispose of fish. Here's why.

Plan A - Flushing
Isn't the septic system designed for disposing of.. well.. undesirable things? Yes it is, however diseased fish should not be on the list of flushable items. Consider the issue of cruelty to the fish.

The debate over how much pain a fish is able to feel will rage on long past our lifetimes. But there is little doubt that a live fish flushed into a system carrying all manner of noxious wastes will suffer in some way. Flushing a live fish is little more humane than dumping an unwanted kitten or puppy down an outhouse pit. Enough said.

If that doesn't bother you, here's a more selfish reason to think twice about flushing. The fish carries with it the diseases or parasites that infected it in the first place. No matter how remote, there is always the possibility of passing those diseases on. Would you feel comfortable using a toilet knowing that a diseased fish had just been swimming there?

Plan B - Dumping
There are so many ponds, rivers, and lakes. Why not put unwanted fish there? Seems kinda natural, doesn't it? And it would be - if the fish came there in the first place. However that is almost never the case. Thousands of non-indigenous species of fish are imported to the United States and other countries each year. Those fish do not belong in the local waterways.

Why? For starters the living conditions are usually less than ideal. Water temperature and other environmental factors may be too harsh for them to survive. Bacteria and parasites they aren't normally exposed to (and therefore are not resistant to) might infest them. There may be no suitable foods for them and they will starve. Or they may become lunch for the fish and other wildlife that are native to the area.

For most non-indigenous fish the odds are not favorable for a long and healthy life. Those that do survive pose an even worse problem. Non-native fish can play havoc with the habitat. They may kill other fish and wildlife, destroy vegetation, and pass on parasites and disease.

In some cases it is possible for them to breed with local fish and create destructive offspring that Mother Nature never intended to exist (and we all know the perils of fooling with Mother Nature). Considerable damage has been done to many local ecosystems by non-indigenous fish that were carelessly dumped.

The Options
Healthy fish should never be a problem to get rid of. Any of the following options is preferable to dumping or flushing:

  • Local Fish/Pet Shop - See if they will take your unwanted fish. Some will even pay you a small price for them.
  • Other fishowners - Advertise if you have to, you'll be surprised by how many fishowners are willing to adopt your fish.
  • Fish Clubs - Check to see if there is a fish club in your region. Odds are someone in the club will gladly take your fish.
  • School, nursing home, or office - Any place that has an aquarium may agree to take your fish. If they don't have an aquarium, consider donating yours. Nursing homes and schools often welcome such gifts, and it might even be tax deductible.

Diseased fish are a little more difficult to deal with. Obviously they cannot be given away. However, they should never be dumped into local waterways or flushed. Sick fish that cannot be cured should be quickly and mercifully euthanized before being disposed of in a sanitary landfill.
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