Please Do Not Flush Your Goldfish Down the Toilet

Please Do Not Flush Your Goldfish Down the Toilet

As far as pop culture tells us, dead fish should be disposed of one way: down the toilet. The picture of a kid flushing their late former pet is one we’ve all encountered a number of times. (At least I know I have.)

But I’m here to tell you today that it’s absolutely incorrect. According to The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment, “Like all animals, aquarium fish can carry and transmit diseases. This includes parasites, bacteria and viruses”. And flushing Goldie down the toilet exposes waterways to all kinds of nasty possibilities.

If you’d like to dispose of a dead goldfish, the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment recommends you to do so “by securing them in a plastic bag and placing them in your household waste bin”. Alternatively, as our readers have highlighted in the comments here, there is the option of burying your fish, too.

When it comes to living goldfish, the situation is even more extreme. These guys can also spread disease, but more than that, they can grow into giant monster versions of themselves and destroy the habitats of other fish.

Don’t believe me? Look at this:

As Joy Becker of the University Of Sydney writes for The Conversation, releasing foreign fish that are not native to our waterways into the wild cause a pretty substantial mess.

“These alien fish are pests and can outcompete native fish for shelter, food and other resources,” she shared.

“Australia has 34 alien freshwater fish species living in the wild, two-thirds of which are ornamental fish such as goldfish, cichlids, guppies and gourami. Once an alien fish species becomes established, it is impossible to get rid of it.”

Long story, short. Tossing a live or dead goldfish down the toilet – or into any waterway – can have pretty major consequences. The same goes for aquarium plants or tank water.

As The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment states, “Such actions can spread disease into our aquatic environment”. So please dispose of your dead goldfish correctly or simply “return unwanted live fish to your retailer”.

This article has been updated since its original publish date. 


  • As with any pet, if you are not going to commit to look after it for its entire life, then don’t get it in the first place. Pets are not toys for kids or novelties to be discarded. If a change of circumstances means you can’t look after them, then find good homes for them, there are plenty of animal shelters and online networks that will help you rehome them (we got our two goldfish through a facebook post) . It’s called doing the responsible thing, a concept that seems to be sorely lacking in many people unfortunately.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!