Warning: graphic pictures
These are incredibly difficult to look at, but I feel like it’s important to post given the discourse here over the last few weeks about proper care for goldfish.
I’m a mod on a goldfish forum, and yesterday these pictures were posted in our illness section by the owner who was concerned about the fish’s inability to swim. He explained that the fish was 10 years old and living in a 20 liter (about 5 gallon) tank. The fish was laying on its side, had a milky film on its face, and was refusing to eat.
It had been in this state, barely moving, not eating, for a week and a half.
The pictures posted were of one of the most stunted, sickly fish I’ve ever seen. I had to go put my laptop away and close my eyes for a while after seeing them the first time and even now they turn my stomach. I can’t imagine the amount of pain this poor thing has gone through.
Emaciated, crooked spine, bulging eyes, pale color, deformed mouth, shortened head, uneven scales, and horrifically small for its age.
And this guy had no idea that there was anything wrong. He waited a week and a half before seeking help for an animal in this condition. He seemed to honestly care about his fish, based on the way he spoke, but he still allowed it to get to this point because he thought this is just how people treat goldfish.
Unfortunately it’s all too common to keep fish in these conditions both due to lack of information and societal acceptance of their neglect. Could you imagine what it would have been like if it were a dog or a cat in this condition?
5 gallons isn’t even the worst size really, most fish bowls are more like 1 gallon, and goldfish are often kept in those for years at a time. Just because not every fish in a bowl stunts this dramatically doesn’t mean that they don’t have the potential to suffer just as badly.
We recommended euthanasia with clove oil. We had to. It would be unspeakably cruel to even try to treat this fish and prolong its suffering. Thankfully the owner agreed to put it to sleep. I can only hope he’ll go through with it as soon as possible.
For comparison, here was one of my boys at 10 months. Fat and round, deep color, alert and active, and already larger than the fish above. He was living in a 50 gallon tank when this picture was taken.
This is what a goldfish looks like when kept in a proper sized tank, with regular water changes, and a healthy diet.
This is what all goldfish should look like. This is why goldfish need just as much space, work, and money put into them as any other pet.