Never set your goldfish free. Here’s what to do instead…

If you have ever seen a beautiful fountain full of brightly coloured fish, there is a high chance these were unwanted pets. Perhaps you’ve seen them, thought of your fish, and also wondered whether you can set your goldfish free.

There has been a sharp rise around the world in people leaving unwanted fish in public ponds, fountains and rivers.

For many people, goldfish are seen as some of the easiest pets to keep, as proper food and a clean tank is usually all they need to thrive. However, they can live a long time and, eventually, some people may decide they can no longer look after them.

So what do you do when you no longer want your goldfish?

Can I set my goldfish free?

If you can no longer care for your goldfish, it is important that you do NOT set them free into a public waterway. These places are not a natural home for them and you could harm the delicate ecosystem.

For example, in UK waterways, a goldfish is an alien species, and it could lead to them out-competing the native fish for food, shelter and much-needed resources.

The goldfish could also bring diseases to the water. Even if your fish seems healthy, there could be many bacteria and viruses present which you are not aware of. If your fish is set free, these exotic pathogens could lead to the death of whole populations of native fish.

Can I flush my goldfish down the toilet?

It isn’t just bringing goldfish to public ponds and watercourses which is creating an issue. Shockingly, many people are flushing live goldfish down the toilet! 

Though you may not realise it – and may be surprised to learn that some goldfish survive being flushed – this can lead to goldfish in waterways, with all the problems described above.

(And if you’re wondering whether it’s ok to flush dead goldfish down the toilet – the answer is no. Dead goldfish can still carry disease, which you shouldn’t introduce to the water system.)

So what should you do?

Like any pet, such as a dog or cat, the decision to bring a goldfish home should be made carefully. If you can no longer care for the fish, the best thing to do is to find a friend or relative who will be happy to provide a home.

Failing that, why not ask a local pet store, school or advertise your fish for free on local forums?

Although setting your goldfish free may seem like a humanitarian thing to do, it could seriously harm the wider ecosystem.

7 thoughts on “Never set your goldfish free. Here’s what to do instead…”

  1. So I have a fish and I got it from a friend and it was adorable sadly I can not take care of the poor fish, so I wanted to see if I could release it in the wild when I saw the beginning and I got happy but it doesn’t tell me where and how. So I give it a 3/10 Sorry

    • Hi, our page says at the very top “Never set your goldfish free, here’s what to do instead”
      throughout the page we mention to not do this and why it is bad.

      And at the bottom under the heading “so what should I do?” we give alternatives on what to do when you cant take care of your pet anymore.

      To repeat, NEVER release any pet into the wild. it is destructive to the environment, can create health hazards for local people and animals, can be illegal in some areas and is cruel.

      Instead ask friends and family if they could take them off your hands, ask any and all local pet stores you know of if they can take them.
      or even try facebook groups to see if anyone wants the fish.

      we hope you can find a new home for your fish.

    • I am the same. I was waiting for a legit answer. I am moving countries and there is no-one to take the fish. My son wanted to flush him down the toilet and I wanted to release him into the river in my city and both those are wrong so what should I do? I feel really bad about it too.

      • And we don’t know anyone here or have time to see if the local pet store can rehouse. I genuinely thought I could put him in the river on my last night here.

  2. So I have three gold fishes and I got them from a fair but my grandpa has a pound of goldfish and I think I can put them in there but he’s so far away and it will take at least to weeks to see him plus my mum says we can’t buy them a tank because it’s too expensive

    • Hi Lilly,

      If a tank is too expensive for you, or you cant afford to keep the fish, then we recommend trying to rehome them, either ask friends and family who would be willing to give them good care, or surrender them to a pet store, fish are not cheap pets to keep, hope this helps and good luck

  3. My concern is for the fish. I have two goldfish in a large tank with various plants, a castle, large pebbles etc. They are no trouble to look after but I worry they are confined in the same way a caged animal might feel trapped. They seem okay, swimming around and always keen to eat their flakes but are they bored to pieces? Who can tell? I suppose at least they are safe.


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