Goldfish Advocacy-Have I Lost My Mind?

Okay, would like some input here.

An organization of which I am a member is preparing a fun evening event at the annual garden show. This weekend they were reviewing their planned activities for kids and mentioned a “goldfish toss.” This involves having several bowls of water and the kid tosses a pingpong ball towards them. If the ball lands in the right bowl, he gets to take home a goldfish.

When I heard this, I immediately thought this was a bad idea. I myself have won two goldfish this way (as an adult), and by the time I got the goldfish home (including a stop to a discount store to buy the complete goldfish setup) they were much the worse for the wear. One of them, in fact, died within hours. I think that being transported to the event from the supplier, and then shoved into bags, and then jostled home with a kid who may or may not have knowledge of fish care, much less the right equipment to house one, is a recipe for fish expiration. This could be a bummer for the kids, make us look bad for giving out “bum fish”, and it’s also not such a keen outcome for the fish themselves.

When I tried to make this point, 9 pairs of eyes turned on me like I was some kind of fruitcake. I got
“They’re just FISH.”
“This is done all the time, at schools and fairs.”
“So what if they die, kids have to learn about death, and replacement fish are cheap!”

In other words, lighten the hell UP Cranky! Sheesh!

So am I being a big naysaying crybaby?

What are the chances that someone might feel the same way (but even more strongly) and make a fuss on the site? I wonder about this I can recall some pretty rigorous objections fro a surprising number of people on a wedding newsgroup I used to be on, whenever brides suggested using goldfish in little bowls as centerpieces at weddings. Same objections (bad for the fish), along with added concern that drunken friends might re-enact college fish-eating pranks.

Believe it or not, it’s not like I’m someone who refuses to ever harm living creatures. I even enjoy fishing! Should I just shrug and wish 'em the best?

I thought at the very least, maybe I could talk them into handing out a one-page sheet of information on the best way to get a goldfish home and healthy. That would improve the odds, and make us look more responsible. Thoughts? Have I gone off my rocker?

Could you maybe give out gift certificates from a local pet store for 1 free goldfish instead of handing out the real things on site?

I think you’re being perfectly reasonable, by the way. There are alternatives to killing fish.

I don’t think you’ve lost your mind, Cranky. The problem is that the cheap fish that they give out are known as “feeder goldfish” in the trade. These fish are meant to be fed to pirhana and other big carnivorous fish. They are not really meant to be pets, and, from what I’ve heard, they often carry diseases, which means that they are more likely to die very prematurely. This is true whether you win them at a carnival or buy them directly from the pet store (although the added stress from travelling from the fish store to the carnival can’t help much.)

Also, goldfish care is not really as easy as “put fish into one-gallon bowl of water”. Goldfish need a lot more water than that to thrive–at least a whole filtered 10-gallon aquarium for one small goldfish. (You can keep about 10 small tropical fish in the same size tank–goldfish are much more “messy”.) A pond would be even better. That’s a lot of outlay for an animal that might already be sick and is likely to die soon anyway.

If you do the goldfish thing right, they can grow to over a foot in length and live over 20 years! I was pretty amazed when I heard that. I’ve never had one that I won at a fair or carnival live longer than a week.

Yes, fish are cheap (especially feeder goldfish), but it is a life you are talking about. I don’t think PETA is going to picket your activity or anything like that, because you aren’t doing anything obviously cruel to the fish (you’re giving them good homes, supposedly), but you are not the only one out there who isn’t really comfortable about this.

Cranky, you aren’t crazy. But don’t be surprised if people look at you like you are. I can understand both points of view. On one hand they are “just fish.” Cheap and disposable. On the other hand, just because they can easily be replaced it does not mean we should subject them to the horrors of the ping-ping toss not to mention the ride home. I’m serious.

I’m not a good person to share an opinion because I have such a wacked out opinion, I’ve never heard anyone agree with it. Usually every one gets defensive and attacks me.

Maybe you can have the kids/people still try to throw the ping pongs into empty fish bowls and have them pick up the fish as they exit the event.

Tamex, you are right on. It is sad that America’s biggest contribution to fishkeeping was the introduction of the feeder goldfish strain. Kept correctly, goldfish can live a long time. Just an aside: The oldest captive goldfish on record was Tish who is in the Guiness Book of World Records. His owner, Peter Hand of England, won him at the fair in 1956. Tish died the first week of August, 1999 so he was at least 43 years old (probably 44 since most carnival goldfish are about 4 months to a year old). (from: So even the ones from a fair can live quite a long time.

I won one when I was a kid that lived a couple of years. It threw him in the aquarium when I got home. He finally died when I accidentally turned the heater up too much.

How about if the kid throws a goldfish into the right bowl, he/she wins a ping-pong ball?

Just kidding, I think the gift certificate idea is a good one. Or how about those little mechanical fish? They would probably cost more, but it would be guilt free for everyone.

I’d object to any activity where people can win a pet. Pets are a serious responsibility–even fish. If you’re thinking of getting a pet, you should do a little minimal research and prepare and appropriate environment, not just bring one home at random. It’s just not a good mindset to teach children, I think.

Plus, giving out cheap, sickly fish that are likely to die isn’t fair to the kids. Yeah, kids need to learn about death, but they should have a fighting chance at keeping their pet alive long enough to enjoy it, too.

We had goldfish on the tables at our wedding reception, and after the event they went to live in my mom’s friend’s pond. Ironically, some ditzy teenager at the reception complained that it was cruel, and she was going around putting crumbled-up saltine crackers in each fishbowl because she thought they must be hungry. :rolleyes: Yeah, that’s good for 'em. Talk about misguided.

Well, yes, Cranky, you have gone off your rocker :slight_smile: , but not about this. I agree with you; giving away goldfish is a dumb idea, for all the reasons you mentioned and that were mentioned by others, along with one more: Do the kids really want a goldfish as a prize? Somehow I doubt that is on many kid’s top ten list of preferred prizes.

Another no-you’re-not-crazy here!

People are very weird about so-called “disposable pets” (or “flushables,” as we sometimes jokingly - but lovingly - refer to them). They deserve to be treated just as well as any other pet. It’s almost as if their low price tag prohibits them from being babied. I have gerbils and one of them had something wrong with his nose, it was bleeding. I took him to the vet and they thought I was a moron. They gave me the “It’s just a gerbil” line, but they helped anyway. They figured if it gets sick, just let it die and get another one. Not very nice. (Happily, the gerbs are all doing well)

I say good for you for sticking up for the little guys!

no, you haven’t lost your mind. perhaps instead of a live fish you could get those nifty glass floating fish? you put them into a little bowl of water and they float around. i’ve seen them in craft stores rather reasonable priced. that way they win a prize and it doesn’t need to be fed.