When A Fish Dies
Many animals come to Heavenly Paws for after-life care. We mostly see cats and dogs but a number of other animals come through our doors including monkeys, birds, and bunnies.
What about fish?
There are many beloved fish out there and an aquatic pet loss can be just as sad as any other. We generally do not cremate fish as they are just too small.
Here are some ideas for things you can do instead.
Photo: David Clode/Unsplash
After you’ve checked your pet fish over and made certain that they are no longer alive, remove the fish from the tank. You will then need to decide what to do next. Before we go any further, we must tell you…
Don’t Flush the Fish!
There is a common misconception that down the toilet is the best way to send a fish off. The truth is you should never, ever flush a fish – alive or dead. A live fish won’t survive. Any fish can introduce harmful bacteria or diseases into an ecosystem. In many regions, it is actually illegal to flush fish.
So, please, do not do it.
After you’ve removed the fish from the tank, place it into a plastic zip bag or paper bag and seal it securely to prevent any bad smells. If you need some time before disposing of the fish, you can put the plastic bag in an airtight container and put it in your freezer to slow down the decomposition process.
The most common options are to bury the fish, use waste disposal, or cremate it.
Most fish owners opt for a burial, but how you dispose of your dead fish is down to personal preference. Let’s look at each option.
In other words, you will put the fish in the trash. If you don’t have kids, or if your children are not very distraught at the death of the fish, this can be a simple and easy option for you.
Make sure that you put the fish into an airtight container. This will prevent any odor and will also help prevent a foraging animal to try to get into the outside trash. It is best to double-bag the fish in two sealable plastic baggies, then place it inside your regular garbage bag.
However, you’re probably reading this article because your family is very attached to the pet fish and you would like to pay proper respects.
Photo: Kyaw Tun/Unsplash
That leaves burial and cremation as the best options for your pet fish.
Burial is probably the most popular option. Cremation takes quite a bit of work, and throwing the fish into the trash might seem a little heartless, so many fish owners tend to decide on burial.
Let’s take a look at how to bury a fish.
First, you will prepare the fish’s body for burial. If the burial will take place more than a few minutes after the death, you will want to preserve the body. This will prevent an unpleasant odor.
The easiest way to preserve a fish is to double-bag the body inside two sealable plastic bags. Place it in the freezer, away from any food that might become contaminated. You may want to place the double-bagged fish into a plastic container as an extra precaution.
Next, you’ll want to find a suitable spot for burial. This might be a backyard or a garden. Some people decide to bury the fish in a potted plant which can be a nice option. If you are digging, make sure the hole is deep enough so that a dog or scavenging animal won’t smell and dig up the pet. Three feet is an ideal depth.
Last, consider a burial container for the fish. It is common to choose something simple like a cardboard box. Biodegradable is best, but other ideas include glass jars (canning jars or used jam jars), plastic containers, tins, or just about anything else of the appropriate size.
You could create homemade grave markers like a wooden sign or a painted rock to serve as a nice tribute to your fish.
Photo: Claudio Guglieri/Unsplash
Just because we don’t handle fish doesn’t mean cremation isn’t possible. You can’t actually do this yourself at home. It is not the easiest process, but it can be done.
If you think you can safely cremate your pet yourself, dry them out thoroughly first by putting them on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil in an oven heated between 392 to 482 degrees Fahrenheit.
Leave them in the oven for at least 15 minutes or however long it takes your fish to completely dry out. Let them cool for a few hours. You will then build a fire in a fire pit or other fireproof container. Wait for the embers to get hot.
Get an old ceramic plant pot and put your pet inside, then place it on top of the fire. Once the ashes are the right texture you desire, leave them to cool and collect them.
You can either scatter your fish’s ashes or put them inside a container or locket.
Remember, the worst way to dispose of a dead fish is by flushing it down the toilet as it can harm wildlife and the environment.
Whatever you choose, we know your sweet little fish will be appropriately honored.