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

Moving a goldfish from a tank to a pond

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.

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