Goldfish, like any other living thing, can get sick. There is a huge range of diseases and illnesses – some specific to goldfish and some just to fish in general. Everything from water maintenance to diet changes to antibiotics can help you cure your fish from what ails him. Occasionally, however, despite all the hard work you put in to saving your fish there may come a time when the kindest thing you can do is let him die with his dignity. There are a few effective methods of putting your goldfish to sleep without causing undue stress as he passes.
The first method is the clove oil method. Clove oil can be obtained at drug stores or health food stores. The trick with clove oil is that is does not mix well with water so you need to employ a few tricks to keep the oil circulating in the water. Use a small container that will not be used for live fish later – do not use your fish tank even if your sick fish is your only fish or you run the risk of accidentally killing every other healthy fish that ever enters that tank. Place an air stone and about a half gallon of your tank water into the new container, along with your sick fish. In a smaller container add some tank water and a teaspoon of clove oil and shake it thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the container with your fish – the air stone will help to keep the oil mixed. Your fish should very quickly turn on it’s side and stop breathing. Keep your fish in the mixture for at least 10 minutes after the last movement from his eyes and gills.
Another method is by using baking soda, as it increases the carbon dioxide level in the tank to toxic levels, but it’s method is to make the fish peacefully fall asleep quickly before it’s respiration fails. Remove your fish from his tank to a holding container with enough room to swim around. Mix 3 tablespoons of baking soda to a quart of water and pour into the holding container. Your fish should quickly turn to his side and shortly thereafter his breathing should stop. Allow him to remain in the solution at least 10 minutes after the last sign of breathing.
Alka Seltzer works in a similar way by producing carbon dioxide in the water. Get a container large enough for your fish to move around freely and drop in 1 tablet for up to 5 gallons of water or 2 tablets for up to 10 gallons. Place your fish in the solution. Once your fish has floated to his side and his breathing has stopped you should again wait at least 10 minutes before removing him.
Many people mistakenly believe that freezing a fish is a painless way to euthanize a fish while nothing could be further from the truth. Even if you place your fish in it’s own tank water and put him in the freezer this is a painful way to die. Ice crystals form in the bloodstream and body tissue causing great pain to the fish as he slowly freezes to death. There is also a way to mix vodka with the clove oil as a means of anesthetizing the fish, however it’s very difficult to get the right combination of the mixture and the vodka almost always burns the gills leading to a violent and painful death.
If you are faced with a sick fish that cannot be saved your best option may be to euthanize him. When it’s time to help your fish into the next life do him a favor and choose from one of these three painless methods.