How to Dispose of Fish?

What do you do when your kid’s pet fish dies? You might be tempted to flush it down the toilet, but refrain from it. It’s a bad idea. Or maybe you and your friends had gone fishing and now you’re left with fish guts, heads, and tails. The pile is significant and you’re not sure what you should do. So what is the right way to dispose of dead fish?

In this article, I will go over the ways by which you can dispose of it properly, and I will explain why you should never flush a fish down the toilet. 

How to Dispose of Fish?

When your pet fish dies, you want to take care of its body with respect. But if it’s just fish guts, then you may just want to get rid of it most efficiently. I listed out several ways by which you can dispose of dead fish:

  • Bury it in the ground
  • Cremate it
  • Throw it in the garbage
  • Compost it

How to tell if a fish is dead

Some fish can just stay belly up for fun, it’s important to keep an eye on its gills and stomach for a minute or so. If its gills move even a little, it’s alive. If you don’t notice any movement in over a minute, consider it dead. 

Also, take a look at its eyes, when you move it out of the water if it stays still for a long time, consider it dead. 

Your first course of action

If the fish is in an aquarium with other fish you need to move it as soon as possible. Fish it out with a strainer and place it in an airtight ziplock bag, place the bag in another ziplock bag. Double-bagging is a way to make sure there is no contamination.  Then place the bag in the freezer. 

Keeping the fish in the freezer also gives you time to decide what to do next. 

If the fish died of an infection you need to make sure it doesn’t come in contact with other fish in the aquarium, also, fish release toxic ammonia after death. Ammonia will make the water toxic for other fish. 

You need to change the water right after you remove the fish to make sure the contaminated water does not kill any other fish in the aquarium. 

Give your fish a burial

If it was a pet, then the best thing to do is to give it a respectful, and meaningful farewell. If you have a yard or a backyard, then you can bury your fish. Just take a spatula and dig a hole in the ground, make sure your hole is deep enough to keep neighborhood cats from digging out the carcass. Bury your fish in its grave and fill out the hole. 

Cremate it

An alternative to burial, if you live in an apartment, might appeal to you. Just make sure you have an open space to burn the fish without setting off the fire alarms. 

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to cremate a fish:

  • Put the fish in some aluminum foil, 
  • Preheat the oven at 200-250 °C. 
  • Place the fish in the oven for around 15 minutes.  
  • Check the fish to make sure it doesn’t start to burn. The goal is to dry it out. 
  • Flip the fish on the other side and dry for around 5 more minutes.
  • Take the foil with the fish out and leave it outside to let it cool completely
  • If the fish doesn’t seem dried out, you need to place it back in the oven. 
  • Let the fish air dry for about 3 hours. 
  • Take a pot, preferably a clay pot, place the fish inside. 
  • Pour some kerosene on it and torch it. (Do this outdoors and away from anything flammable.)
  • Once the fish turns to ashes you need to let it cool completely before storage. 
  • Store the cooled ashes in a pot as a keepsake or make jewelry out of it. 

Compost it

Now if you want you can compost your pet fish as well, but this section is primarily targeted toward fish guts and other fish waste. Unlike animal products, you can compost fish. 

Fish is an excellent source of nitrogen and it enriches your compost’s nutrient content. Click here if you wanna learn more about composting fish. 

Call any local composting facility if they are accepting fish. Make sure you place the fish or fish remains in an airlocked bag, which you should place in another bag. Fish decomposes very fast and you need to make sure you double bag it to prevent odor. 

Waste Disposal

If none of the options are possible, you can dispose of the fish in the garbage. You need to make sure you place it in a biodegradable packet so it decomposes properly. Plastic is not good for the environment and you should minimize its use as much as possible. 

Wrap the fish in biodegradable packaging and throw them in the trash. The fish will stink up the place so make sure you dispose of fish on garbage collection days. 

Now that we’ve gone over how we can dispose of fish, let me explain how you should not dispose of a fish. 

Do not flush a fish down the toilet

Perhaps it was pop culture, all those cartoons we watched growing up that made us believe that flushing a fish down the toilet is okay. But it’s an awful idea. The fish can get lodged in the pipes and restrict flow. The septic system is not built to handle fish, it can damage the system and you may be charged by the municipality for the damages. 

If the fish was diseased then there is a chance that it will pass that infection down to local habitats. It is just not a good idea to flush it down the toilet, so it’s best to stick to one of the options I posed in this article. 

In this article, I went over the ways by which you can dispose of it properly, and I explained why you should never flush a fish down the toilet. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How to Dispose of Fish

Can you flush a fish down a toilet? 

No, it can clog the pipes and damage the septic system. It can pass diseases to local habitats if it was sick when it died. 

How to dispose of fish properly? 

You can cremate it or bury it if it was a pet. If it’s just fish remains or you’re not particularly sentimental, you can dispose of it in the trash or compost it. 

Can you throw fish in the garbage? 

Yes, but it will smell so it’s best to seal it in a bag and give it away for collection as soon as possible. 

Is dead fish a hazardous material? 

No, dead fish is not a hazard. But it should be removed from the tank as soon as possible. It may have died from an infection, this will infect other fish with time if you do not act fast. 

Fish decompose very quickly and release ammonia when it does, this is toxic to other fish. To remove the dead fish as soon as possible, 

Can fish be composted? 

Yes, it can be composted. 

What can I do with a sick fish? 

Contact the pet store. If it’s beyond help, then respectfully euthanize it.


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