Can You Eat A Goldfish?

Ok. I have a question of my own. Are you ok?

I’m not sure what sad circumstances brought you to contemplate eating your goldfish. Maybe you’re just prepping for the apocalypse, maybe you forgot to go grocery shopping. 

Whatever, I’m not judging...much.

If you really want to know, yes, you can eat a goldfish. It’s not quite as simple as all that though.

can you eat a goldfish

Physical Considerations

A goldfish is a small freshwater fish. Like all other freshwater fish, they are not toxic and are edible. 

Their nutritional value is pretty limited considering their small size. You’d have to eat quite a lot of them to satiate your hunger. 

The problem with eating goldfish is that they tend to taste like whatever they eat. So perhaps you want to try some of the flakes or pellets you feed to your goldfish before sacrificing your pet.

Let me let you in on a little secret, fish food tastes rank. Your goldfish will also taste rank. 

Now the other thing you have to consider is *shudders* cooking your goldfish.

Eating raw fish can be dangerous.

Yes, I know sushi exists but even professionally prepared sushi carries risk. 

Raw fish carries the risk of parasitic infections like tapeworms, bacterial infections like listeria and salmonella, viruses like norovirus, and chemical contaminants like mercury. 

Because sushi isn’t cooked, these germs and parasites aren’t killed off with the heat of cooking. 

So if you do insist on eating your goldfish you will need to cook it. 

This is even more important for goldfish because they tend to harbor more diseases than other fish. 

Some of these diseases can even survive the cooking process. Pet Store goldfish are likely to carry fish TB even if they are perfectly healthy. 

The TB bacteria aren’t killed by cooking and can infect humans if ingested. Fish TB is known informally as fish handler’s disease because it can be passed to humans through cuts and scrapes when handling fish. 

When passed to humans through skin contact, fish TB presents as rashes and lesions on the skin. If left untreated, these can go deeper and cause tendon damage and even bone inflammation. 

It is not a pleasant experience. If you are immunocompromised you are at greater risk of developing more serious symptoms. But, immunocompromised or not, it is an incredibly painful condition. 

Is one bite of your fishy friend worth it? 

can you eat a goldfish

Moral Considerations

If the health risks didn’t scare you enough, let me appeal to your conscience. 

Goldfish are living, breathing creatures. Ok, they don’t breathe, they absorb oxygen through their gills. But you get my point. They are alive and they deserve to stay that way.

I’m not suggesting that eating meat or fish is wrong. I’m staying out of that debate.

But your goldfish is your pet. A creature that you look after and care for. Your role as a pet owner is to provide food, shelter, and safety. Eating your pet crosses all manner of cultural and social taboos.

There’s also the fact that animals raised for consumption are still treated with compassion and respect. They die, yes but there are rules about how they are killed to make sure it’s as quick and painless as possible. 

Again, I know that there are many examples of companies that have broken these rules. But, using an example of malpractice to back up your argument doesn’t really give you a firm standing. 

Some will bring up the often reported fact that fish doesn’t feel pain. And yes, they are right technically. Fish don’t feel pain the way we do. 

However, they do feel fear and panic. Whether you’re planning to swallow Goldy live or cook them first, taking your fish out of the water will cause significant distress. They will literally be a fish out of water, and nobody appreciates that. 

The longer your goldfish is out of the water, the more extreme their distress will be. This is because they are going to start to suffocate. 

Interestingly, boiling your fish alive will also cause them to suffocate as hot water has less oxygen. Whether they die from the heat or the lack of oxygen first, I’m not sure. Neither is a good way to go. 

If you plan on swallowing your goldfish alive, the fish is going to experience a crushing sensation as they go down your gullet. 

Then they are going to have a moment of relief as they splash land in your stomach. For a second or two they’ll probably think they are back in a very dark tank. 

However, your stomach acid will kill the goldfish pretty quickly. There’s a reason bad guys in movies have acid pits, it’s an unpleasant way to go. 

The other option you have is to kill your goldfish before cooking it. I don’t know about you, but the thought of bashing a pet goldfish to death makes me feel more than a little queasy. 

Anglers may be ok with this, but I feel like most pet fish owners have at least a modicum of sympathy for their fish. 

Legal Considerations

Unfortunately, over the last few years, there have been quite a few high profile cases involving people swallowing goldfish. I should clarify, it’s unfortunate for the fish, not the swallowers.

In the UK in 2016, a 24-year-old man swallowed a live goldfish for a dare after a night of drinking. He was filmed by a friend who posted the video online. This video was spotted by an animal protection charity who reported the incident.

Both the man and his friend were tried on charges of animal cruelty and found guilty. They narrowly avoided prison.

In the end, they were ordered to do 200 hours of community service, pay thousands in court costs, and were banned from keeping fish for five years. 

Also in 2016, an 18-year-old Louisiana State University student swallowed a friend’s fish. He was arrested a year later after sending a text of his, uh feces with the caption ‘here’s your fish.’  

Again, he was charged with animal cruelty. He later pleaded guilty to eating the fish. His punishment isn’t known. 

If the health and moral consequences didn’t affect you, hopefully, the legal ramifications will illustrate the fact that eating your goldfish is not a good idea. 

Final Thoughts

Look, the fact is yes, you can physically ingest a goldfish. However, it is not a smart decision. If you really have a hankering for a goldfish buy a pack of goldfish crackers you monster!