Why Do People Flush Fish Down the Toilet?

Dead, sick, or unwanted fish shouldn’t end up in sewers for many reasons. Responsible fish owners should explore more sanitary and humane disposal alternatives.

Apr 25, 2024By Monika Dimitrovska
why do people flush fish down the toilet

Why do people flush fish down the toilet?

Well, since many people choose a fish as a starter pet and most fish don’t live long, there always comes a time when they have to say goodbye to their fish. And because most aren’t large, fish owners dispose of them in the toilet.

Sick or unwanted fish end up in our sewage system as well. However, flushing fish down the toilet isn’t a good idea, and here’s why!

Why Do People Flush Fish Down the Toilet?

black blue fish in fish tank
Image credit: Niranjan_Photographs from Unsplash

Flushing fish down the toilet isn’t anything new, but it’s something that people should stop doing for obvious reasons.

Some might think doing this isn’t bad because, well, fish live in water, right? They might feel like it’s a peaceful way for their fish to rest in a familiar environment.

Others see flushing things, including fish, down the toilet as a simple way of disposal. Sometimes, when fish owners don’t know what else to do with their unwanted or dead fish, they might turn to the toilet as a quick solution.

At first, it seems simple and effective, but actually, it’s not a good idea.

First off, flushing live or sick fish down the toilet can be cruel. Your fish can suffer in the pipes, surrounded by all kinds of nastiness.

Plus, the diseases or parasites that made the fish sick in the first place could end up in the water system, which isn’t good for anyone.

goldfish blue water
Image credit: Jeremy C from Unsplash

Then there’s the other option: dumping the fish in a river, lake, stream, pond, etc. It sounds like setting them free, but it’s not that simple. Most pet fish aren’t native to local waterways.

That being said, most fish can’t survive in ponds or streams. They might get sick or eaten by other animals, or they could mess up the ecosystem by competing with native species.

So, flushing and dumping fish aren’t good for both fish and the environment.

If you can no longer live in harmony with your fish, you should explore alternatives like finding a new home for your pet fish or donating them to someone who can take care of them properly.

If it’s a dead fish, we suggest burying them over flushing them down the toilet.

How Long Do Fish Survive in the Toilet?

person holding fish bowl
Image credit: Hale Tat from Unsplash

Expectedly, flushed fish don’t survive long. Remember the movie Finding Nemo? This movie made people think that flushing fish down the toilet would actually set them free. In reality, that’s not how it works. Most flushed fish, especially freshwater tank cleaners, don’t survive for long.

They quickly die because of the shock from the cold water or harmful chemicals in the sewage system. And even if they manage to survive these initial challenges, they might not make it through the sewage treatment process.

Surprisingly, some fish, including fish species for first-time owners, survive this journey and make it into rivers or lakes. However, this isn’t a good outcome either because they can cause problems.

To be more specific, they may grow big without any predators to stop them and end up taking food and space from the local fish.

For instance, giant goldfish can mess up the water, spread diseases, etc. They’ve even been found in places they shouldn’t be, causing trouble for wildlife.

Is it Unethical to Flush Fish?

water pollution fish
Image credit: Naja Bertolt Jensen from Unsplash

Yes! It’s definitely unethical and even dangerous to flush fish, whether they’re dead or alive. Here’s why you should never flush your unwanted or dead fish down the toilet:

  • Health hazard: Sick or dead fish may carry diseases or parasites, and flushing them can spread these germs and bacteria in your bathroom.
  • Blockage or damage: Your septic system and plumbing aren’t designed with dead fish in mind. So, flushing a dead fish down the toilet can cause blockage or damage, which can result in costly repairs. You could be held responsible for any damage caused by flushing fish.
  • Unethical and inhumane: Even if your fish looks dead, they might still be alive. Flushing a live fish isn’t humane because of the harmful conditions in the sewage system, as your fish will likely suffer before they die.
  • Diseases and parasites: As we already established, flushing fish can spread diseases or parasites to local wildlife if they survive the journey. This can harm the ecosystem and other animals.
  • Disruption of local habitat: Live fish in waterways can disrupt the local habitat. They may take out native species by stealing their food and resources, damage vegetation, and harm local wildlife.

Should I Bury or Flush My Fish?

goldfish fish bowl
Image credit: Siva prasad from Pixabay

Flushing is definitely not a good option because it can harm your plumbing system and the environment. We suggest burying your pet fish; it’s more respectful and won’t cause any damage. Just make sure you wrap it up securely before burying it.

If you’re still not sure what to do, call local pet stores or veterinarians. They might offer professional advice and even help you dispose of your fish properly.

What To Do With Fish I Don’t Want Anymore?

small fish aquarium
Image credit: StockSnap from Pixabay

Fish make fantastic pets and can actually form bonds with humans. But if, for whatever reason, you can’t take care of your fish anymore, here’s what you can do:

  • Ask local pet shops if they’ll take your fish. Some might even pay for them.
  • See if other fish owners want your fish. You can ask around or advertise.
  • Look for local fish clubs. Members might be interested in taking your fish.
  • Consider giving your fish to schools or nursing homes with aquariums.
  • If your fish suffers from common fish diseases and can’t be cured, ask a vet for help. They can euthanize your fish humanely if necessary.


kitten aquarium
Image credit: Irina from Pixabay

In summary, some people flush fish down the toilet for various reasons.

However, flushing fish—whether they’re alive or dead—isn’t a good idea, and it’s not ethical. Moreover, it hurts the environment and can mess up your pipes.

Instead, responsible fish owners could give their live fish to local pet shops, other fish owners, fish clubs, or establishments with aquariums. As for dead fish, burying them is a far better and more respectful option than flushing them down the toilet.

Final note: If you’re thinking about giving up your fish, think again. Having fish can be good for your mental health.

Monika Dimitrovska
By Monika Dimitrovska

Monika is a pet enthusiast and seasoned copywriter with a tech degree. She loves writing, but her heart belongs to her two mixed dogs, Buba and Bono, a mother-son duo. Bono’s siblings found loving homes, sparking Monika’s advocacy for neutering and deepening her curiosity about animal care.

But Monika’s pet family doesn’t end there. She also has two cockatiels and two rescue cats, proving her home is a haven for creatures big and small.